Two trumpets, a horn, a euphonium and a tuba, a brass quintet performing the music for Saturday’s memorial for the late Boston Globe food writer and editor Gail Perrin. The music was loud, bold, brassy and confident: how very Gail Perrin. Gail was remembered for her warmth, her whimsy, her hospitality, her lust for international travel, her love of culture, and, of course, her passion for food.
A newspaper woman through and through, she had started at the Washington Post. Worcester Telegram & Gazette food editor Barbara Houle praised her friend as an experienced and talented food journalist, and a lifelong source of fun and whimsy. Houle recalls Gail being invited to Julia Child’s birthday celebration in Vermont and Gail’s judging a tomato contest at an event where Gail’s funky tomato earrings drew as much attention as the tomatoes she was judging.
Wellesley College roommate Judy Lasca reminisced about convincing Gail one cold November night to go into Boston to view late Boston Mayor James Michael Curley lying in state at the State House. It would, promised Lasca, be an historic event. They had to wait two long hours to get in to view the body. They returned to their Tower Court dorm room only to discover that some “spirited classmates” had tied their clothes together and left them hanging in the frigid air outside their dorm window, frozen stiff. Lasca and Perrin laughed about that night for many years to come.
Lasca and her husband spent many vacations with Gail at the Cape and travelled together to Antarctica, among other places. At home, Gail’s house was always a mecca for entertaining, for feasting, for great conversation. She’d stage lobster races across her kitchen floor before the cooking started and always refused help in the preparation. Gail’s recipes are being gathered into a cookbook and made ready for what would have been her 55th Wellesley reunion next June. She leaves, said Lasca, a legacy of good times, good living and good recipes.
Gail had struggled with her health for the last couple of years, but she wasn’t diagnosed with ALS until last June. She died in September, a remarkably short time after the diagnosis. My husband and I had watched our dear friend, Providence Journal editorialist and columnist Brian Dickinson struggle with the disease for an unusual ten years, connected to the world through his eye-activated computerized writing system, still churning out columns long after every other part of his body was wasted.
Boston Globe copy editor Gerald D’Alfonso, a close friend of Gail’s, spoke with deep emotion about her last days and weeks. He also spoke feelingly of the Ice Bucket Challenge, started by former college athlete Pete Frates, diagnosed just two years ago. The Challenge has raised $140 million since its inception this past summer. Frates was honored Thursday night by The New England Council.
I had heard him there. Frates is a handsome young man, a 29-year-old former Division 1 college athlete, captain of the Boston College baseball team, already ravaged by the disease. This lovely individual had spoken from his wheelchair to the NEC audience of 1700 through a computer-generated voice message that left no dry eyes. Gail’s friend Gerry D’Alfonso spoke to those gathered in the Brooksby Village Chapel in Peabody on Saturday, reminding them about the challenges ahead for those dealing with ALS. At the end, he added, “and Peter Frates is my grandson.” There was an audible gasp among Gail’s friends and family.
Saturday’s memorial service ended as Gail would have wanted it. Trumpeter Thomas Palance played a slow moving rendition of Amazing Grace. The full brass quintet repeated it as a hymn, and the third time it erupted in full Dixieland throttle. Gail wanted a party, and she got it, a fitting tribute to her warmth, energy and exuberance.
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