By Andrew Wroblewski
Whether she was welcoming her children or grandchildren into her home with open arms for late-night conversations, typically at 3 a.m., or gently nudging workers at the Daniel Gale real estate agency in her 56-year stint there to take a few extra days of vacation to rest and relax, Jean Gale “loved to love,” granddaughter Jaclyn Gale said.
“And it was so easy to love her back.”
With her family by her side, as she overlooked the sprawling backyard of her nearly 150-year-old Lloyd Harbor home where she once watched her children and grandchildren grow up, Gale died Oct. 13 of natural causes. She was 93.
Gale’s caring traits emerged at an early age. She was born Feb. 9, 1922 in Brooklyn, the first of William and Katherine Wallice’s five children.
In Huntington, where Gale grew up and attended South Huntington schools, she learned to be responsible and care for the group.
For example, a typical Sunday morning consisted of Gale walking hand-in-hand with her siblings across New York Avenue to St. Hugh of Lincoln Roman Catholic Church for Mass and then back home for a freshly cooked breakfast prepared by dad, said Gale’s middle child, Stanley Gale, 65, of Lloyd Harbor.
In the midst of the Great Depression, Gale graduated from what was then Central High School. In 1939, she was approached with a job opportunity at the Daniel Gale agency. She accepted and began working as a secretary and became the agency’s first female real estate agent. It’s also where she met the love of her life, D. Kent Gale, who worked for his father, Daniel Gale, the agency’s founder.
But the couple had a few hurdles to navigate.
Kent, who predeceased Jean in 2014, enlisted in the United States Army in 1941, serving in World War II. Keeping in contact through written love letters, Jean and Kent, “the perfect match,” as Jaclyn Gale described them, married on July 27, 1943.
Two years later, the couple settled in Lloyd Harbor, where they’d soon raise their children, Daniel K. Gale Jr., Stanley Gale and Mary Stokkers, 63, of Lloyd Harbor.
“They did everything together,” Daniel Jr. said of his parents, who were 50-year members of the Huntington Country Club. “You didn’t get one without the other.”
With her soulmate by her side, Gale continued with the Daniel Gale agency, serving as the “glue that held things together,” Stanley Gale said. Jean Gale was the manager of the Cold Spring Harbor office and, just to list a few of her responsibilities, she worked in human resources, public relations, sold homes and answered phones. She served as a role model to some of the agency’s young workers up until retirement in 1995.
“She was the first person I met from Daniel Gale in 1974 when I joined the company,” Patricia Petersen, the current president and CEO of Daniel Gale Sotheby's International Realty, said. “Jean was just wonderful. She was a mentor, savvy and discrete. A woman of quiet strengths.
“One of the main things I try to emulate is Jean’s telephone manner. If you called, and got Jean on the phone, it always seemed as though she was just sitting there waiting for you. Of all the people she knew in the world, she was waiting for you to call. You just had a smile on your face when you called her.”
Speaking with her friends and family, it appeared this “warmth,” as Petersen described it, was present throughout Gale’s life.
Stanley Gale said his mother was loving, sensitive, thoughtful and possessed the uncanny ability to make whomever she was speaking with feel as if they were the most important person in the world.
“Whenever she would meet you, she would always ask, ‘How is your life going? How is your family? Is everybody happy? Is everybody doing well?’ said Daniel Gale Jr., 66, of Newark, New Jersey. “That’s the way she was. She was always concerned about the other person, no matter who they were.”
Jean Gale also gave the Daniel Gale agency’s logo its iconic smile. The whale depicted on the logo, which Gale created in 1951, was once without its smiling face. Gale, however, made the pivotal suggestion to add a smile and “the whale became a symbol,” Stanley Gale said.
Before she died, Gale used another whale to put a final smile on her family’s face.
Prior to her death, Gale’s daughter Mary asked her mother to send her family a sign once she was reunited with her husband in the afterlife.
“I’ll try,” she replied.
Sure enough, as the family prepared for Jean’s funeral Oct. 17, her grandson Kyle Stokkers looked out onto Lloyd Harbor and exclaimed, “There’s a whale outside of the house!”
Along with her children and grandchildren named above, Gale is also survived by grandchildren Stanley Gale Jr., Katherine Gale, Kelly Stokkers, and Alyson Stokkers McKee; great-grandchildren Brinley McKee and Hudson Powell; and brother Jack Wallice, 90, of Huntington.
Memorial contributions can be made to Visiting Nurse Hospice at 505 Main St. in Northport, New York 11768.