Jan. 13, 1926 – Feb. 26, 2018
Gail Sorensen, 92, died from complications due to stroke on Feb. 26, 2018.
Gail Marlis Churchill was born Jan. 13, 1926, and was part of a proud group of “26ers” here in Homer, Alaska, where she and her husband Al had made their home since 1972. She was born in Isanti County, Minnesota. She met Al Sorensen through her best friend, Doris, who was Al’s half-sister, and they married in 1947. They enjoyed their lives together in Milaca, and later Lakefield, Minnesota, eventually having three boys, Albert (Chip), Kent and Russ.
Gail, along with her sister Jinx, received her Cadet Nurses Certificate, during World War II, in 1944 in Milaca. The cadet nurses were instrumental in keeping local hospitals and clinics running efficiently while so many medical professionals were called overseas. One of her first jobs was in Minnesota in 1950, and she continued to work in health care throughout her life.
Gail and her husband Al moved to Homer in 1972 with the youngest boy (Russ), and she began work at South Peninsula Hospital that year. Al eventually took a job as harbormaster. The older boys (Kent and Chip) soon followed, and the family enjoyed fishing, hunting and camping.
As the boys began to make lives of their own, Gail’s husband Al decided to volunteer at the Homer Volunteer Fire Department. One day he asked her to accompany the EMTs on ambulance runs and fire calls when she had time off because “we don’t know how to take care of the people that are hurt.”
Gail quickly joined the Alaska Paramedical Association in 1981 and became an EMT. She was one of the first women members of the Homer Volunteer Fire Department.
Not one to waste her free time, Gail (and later Al) was invited to teach emergency skills for the Alaska Southern Region Emergency Medical Services. They subsequently traveled all over the state, rewriting the medical manuals for many Bush communities. In the 1980s she co-authored a “Bush EMT” book to help the villagers better communicate with the EMS network. Gail enjoyed staging many different scenarios during her tenure with EMS, and was well-known for her “hands-on” methods. She truly was the “Grandmother” of EMS in Alaska.
Gail has several short stories and books, the most recent of which was “Ah Lee,” about her adventures teaching in bush Alaska. She also wrote and published “Cadet Nurses, Stand By,” a short story, and many other short stories and poems. She won the Anchorage Daily News writing contest in the early 2000s with a poem, and she was once featured in a cookbook about grandmothers around the world. Her featured recipe was moose steak.
Throughout her life in Homer, Gail was a tireless farmer, hunter, fisherman, hiker, camper, adventurer, gardener, canner and baker, receiving lots of ribbons from Ninilchik State Fair. Her family and friends knew the cookie jar would always be full. She rode her bicycle or walked most places, and among her many camping adventures, she once tented on Denali with her friend, Charlotte Rogers.
After her husband, Al, passed away in 2002, Gail continued to stay active through her memberships in the Pratt Museum, Alaska Islands and Ocean Visitor Center, and the American Legion. One of her most beloved adventures was a trip to Washington, D.C., to attend the Honor Flight for US veterans. Sheryl Sotelo accompanied her, and Gail was duly honored for her service as a cadet nurse in WW II.
Gail will be remembered for her positive attitude and true concern for others. Her family liked to say that she didn’t have “old lady” hobbies like knitting or cross-stitch. Her hobby was getting to know other people. As her stroke had disabled her speaking, she was still able to ask others how they were doing while visiting in the hospital. Even toward the end of her life, longtime friend Cathy Stingley noted that Gail had three signs for “yes” and only one for “no.”
Gail leaves behind her sons, Chip (Cathy Stingley), Kent (Jenny) and Russ (June); and grandchildren, Kristel Stewart (Nathan), Justin, Sarah, Maria, Ithaca Janzen (Tyler) and Parker. She was loved by everyone who knew her, and she will be deeply missed by friends and family around the globe