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So Long, Gail, We Will Miss You

So Long, Gail, We Will Miss You So Long, Gail, We Will Miss You

Gail Willett has been a familiar face at The Advance newspaper for the last 20 years. As customers came in to place ads for yard sales or take out subscriptions, it was Gail who cheerfully handled the transactions. Among her duties as office manager, Gail answered phones and helped process incoming obituaries—literally thousands over the past two decades—as well as legal notices and various messages and information bound for the advertising and news departments.

On the job, Gail has met scores of people, many of whom have be­continued from page

come good friends. Among them is Ronald Hall, local funeral director. “She was always kind, sincere and helpful,” he said of his weekly phone conversations with Gail as they worked together to publish obituaries. “I looked forward to hearing her voice on the phone.”

Gail was born in Cherry Point, North Carolina, when her father was in the U.S. Army. The family moved to South Georgia after Gail’s father assumed a position at Plant Hatch in Baxley. She graduated from Toombs Central High School and went to work for the nuclear plant in the clerical department after graduation. Later on, she was hired as office manager at The Advance, and that is where she has been ever since.

Gail’s parents, William and Mary Ann Willett, have passed away, but Gail’s sister Diana lives in Lumber City and her brother Billy lives close to Gail on the Ohoopee River outside of Lyons. Gail and Billy enjoy kayaking together on the beautiful black water river whenever they can find the time.

In her retirement, Gail hopes to do even more kayaking. She also plans to spend more time with her children, Jamie Cauley and Kelly Hinson, and her three grandchildren.

As a member of Ohoopee Baptist Church, Gail teaches Bible classes to young people at Wednesday night gatherings. “I don’t know what I want to do yet,” Gail said of hobbies she may take up during retirement. She loves to read and she may try gardening. Of course, there will be more kayaking.

“I have loved my job,” Gail said of her two decades at The Advance. Monday deadlines at the weekly newspaper were not something anyone enjoyed. “But it was usually downhill for the rest of the week after Tuesday,” Gail said. Gail shared what she will miss most is the people. She made friends across the counter easily and often found herself deep in conversation with customers who had been strangers a few minutes before.

One character Gail may not miss so much is a big, carved bear which has looked out at First Street from the front window of The Advance ever since William Ledford, Jr., brought it back from a trip to Colorado. For some reason, the bear ended up as Gail’s responsibility. She often outfitted the bear in costumes to mark holidays. “It has been dressed up like the Easter Bunny, Abraham Lincoln, Santa Claus and a Wise Man,” Gail said with a chuckle. With Gail not being around to look after him anymore, the bear may also be retiring soon and going to a new perch at William’s home. After 20 years of faithful service, Gail will be missed by a lot of people. William, who hired Gail all of those years ago summed it up nicely. “We thank Gail for everything she has done for this newspaper and the community. We wish her a happy retirement.”

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