Friday, February 26, 2010

In Memoriam

Wednesday afternoon a consummate church lady, Gail Walton, beloved director of the University of Notre Dame Liturgical Choir, wife and mother passed from this vale of tears after a battle with leukemia at the age of 55.

It's difficult to begin to write about Gail. She was an amazing and wonderful woman, so selfless and tireless.

As Director of Music at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart at the University of Notre Dame, a position she held since 1988, Gail was extremely influential in liturgical music. She was an excellent musician, married to another wonderful musician, ND organ professor Craig Cramer. They were "the cutest couple" in everyone's eyes - especially when they played dual organ recitals.

Gail was everyone's second mom. She was always looking out for you, but she never looked out for her self. Last year she hurt her foot - falling off a stool if I remember correctly. The doctors told her the foot had to rest and be in its boot until it healed. But how do you play organ with a boot on your foot? So she took it off. I scolded her after one of our rehearsals (she was not only director of the Liturgical Choir, but assistant director of the Women's Liturgical Choir to which I belong) and told her she had to take care herself. She laughed and said she'd be ok. That was Gail. Our head director visited her just before Christmas. The doctors had allowed her to return home for a period, so long as she was strictly on bedrest. Was Gail following the doctors' orders? Of course not. She was baking, trimming the tree and doing all manner of things around the house. That was Gail. She was a such a wonderful woman...Absolutely unstoppable.

She was a perfectionist, too, and always drove us to be the best we could be. Everyone loved Gail. She will be missed so much - she already is. It's hard to believe she's gone.

Lastly but most importantly, Gail's faith was always inspiring. Today, the Notre Dame Observer published the following letter from an alumna, Laura Hoffman:
"I came to Notre Dame raised on Christian values but as a non-Catholic. When I auditioned for choir my freshman year in 2000, I wasn’t sure I would feel comfortable in a choir that sang at masses weekly. Gail Walton and Andrew McShane selected me to sing for the Notre Dame Liturgical Choir and I did so for four years.

Gail had a profound influence on my life beyond music. Singing at the mass at the Basilica weekly, I was exposed to the Catholic faith. Gail provided an extraordinary example to me of what it meant to be a faithful Catholic through the respect she trained us to have for our service in the liturgy and the way she personally conducted herself with class. I was baptized after graduating from Notre Dame during my first year of law school. I was touched by a stunning bouquet of flowers sent to me by Gail Walton and Andrew McShane on that special day of my entrance into the Catholic Church.

Gail Walton gave so much more to us students at Notre Dame than training and excellence in music. She brought us closer to God and made us better people. The Notre Dame family matters because of people like Dr. Gail Walton who helped us grow beyond our years at Notre Dame.

Thank you Gail, we love you and will miss your presence terribly in the Notre Dame community."
Gail herself was a convert and I can think of few others who embraced the service of the Church as she did. Gail shines as a model for all of us - a true church lady in every way.

Please take a moment to pray for Gail and her family, especially her husband. This has been so difficult for him.

Requiescat in pace.
In Paradisum deducant angeli...Chorus angelorum te suscipiat...Aeternam habeas requiem.

Gail conducts the Liturgical Choir in a 2008 concert:

(The Mawby Ave Verum (at the 5:20 mark) is one of my favorites)

Adapted from my original post at The Sober Sophomore. Funeral details can be found there.

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