Gale Catherine Garner

by | Apr 8, 2021 | Obituaries

Norfolk—Gale Catherine Garner was born during a wind storm in Elkton, Md. to Mable Catherine and William Joseph Garner on March 2, 1941. She was raised in Elkton and Southampton County, Va.

Gale left this world on February 11, 2021 after fighting a progressive illness for several years. As was her wish, she was cared for in her home and died peacefully, surrounded in love by her family, friends, and cats. Gale was a loving mother, sister, friend, nurse, women’s rights advocate, book club member, life-long learner, YMCA swimmer, mentor, published author, music-lover and cat-enthusiast. She was known for her uplifting, independent spirit, honest assessments and her bright smile.

Gale was preceded in death by the tragic loss of her beloved sons, Mark and Danny Durica; and her sister, Monica Fay Comegys. She is survived by her daughters, Amy (Dr. Jochen Gress) and Katie Durica; granddaughters, Amelia and Lily Griffin; sister, Janet Briggs (Jim); brother, William Garner (Pam), many cousins, nieces and nephews.
Gale was a dedicated and compassionate Registered Nurse, trained in the tradition of Florence Nightingale at the historic Philadelphia General Hospital School of Nursing. She attended the University of Pennsylvania and Loyola University (Chicago), completing a B.S. in Nursing. After living for several years in Puerto Rico, Gale settled and raised her family in Tidewater. She continued her nursing career, always striving for professional and personal growth, a passion she inspired in others. Later she earned her MFA in Women’s Studies at Old Dominion University.

Caring for others, and empowering women and families was the center of Gale’s professional and personal life. Early in her career she took part in medical relief operations abroad, and soon after she combined her personal, academic, and professional passions to continue helping others. She was a board member and enthusiastic volunteer for numerous local and national organizations, including the Friends of Women’s Studies Board at ODU, Portsmouth Area Resource Council (PARC), the H.E.R Shelter, The Virginia Nursing Association, National Women’s Health Network, and Young Audiences of Virginia, among others. Gale was an enthusiastic volunteer curator and board member of the Museum of Nursing History in Philadelphia.

Gale began her nursing career in 1962 as a Public Health Nurse in Philadelphia and was soon a nursing instructor at Northwestern University’s Wesley Memorial Hospital in Chicago. In the span of her long career, she specialized in home health, hospice, gerontology and psychiatric nursing. In 2016, 54 years after becoming a nurse, Gale retired from her last position as a psychiatric-mental health nurse at Jewish Family Service of Tidewater after 19 years, where she strove to provide patients the best possible holistic care.

Gale was a pioneering advocate for impaired nurses struggling with substance abuse. For over 30 years, she used her knowledge of mental health issues and chemical dependence to help others and raise awareness in the medical field. She created and led the Peer Assistance to Chemically Dependent Nurses (PACDN) program for the Virginia Nursing Association, and was a facilitator for the support group for Impaired Health Professionals. Her caring guidance, kind encouragement and loyal friendship are cherished in the local AA and NA community.

Gale was a lover of the arts, and music was a constant in her life. As a teenager, she was an accomplished oboe and clarinet player. She always sang in her church choir and delighted in attending choral concerts. From the time she was a student in Philadelphia, Gale eagerly attended all classical music concerts, theater performances and never left out a museum visit, where ever she lived or visited. She shared her passion with friends and passed this interest on to her children—becoming the proud mother of an opera singer and a fiber artist.
Gale was an active member of Saint Paul’s Episcopal Church of Norfolk and was the Parish Nurse.

The family expresses heartfelt gratitude for the professional and loving care given by JFS Home Healthcare. She was treated by her former colleague, with genuine compassion and the highest standard of care.

A memorial service is planned for the summer. Donations to the cat rescue organization, Feral Affairs Network (, or the Music Fund at Saint Paul’s Episcopal Church.