Gail O'Donnell
Gail O'Donnell

Obituary of Gail Whisler O'Donnell

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BELFAST – Gail Whisler O’Donnell, 62, of Belfast, Maine, and formerly of Deerfield, Illinois, died on May 10, 2010, of brain cancer. Gail was born September 21, 1947 and grew up in Deerfield, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. She graduated from Deerfield High School in 1965 and received a bachelor’s degree in home economics and nutrition from the University of Illinois in 1969, where she met her first husband, Emmett O’Donnell. Gail and Emmett married in Deerfield on February 5, 1972 and had two children, Colin Burke O’Donnell and Anne Kathleen O’Donnell, whom they raised just blocks from Gail’s childhood home in Deerfield. Gail’s career as a food stylist began in the early 1970s at Quaker Oats and Kraft Foods in Chicago, where she developed the deep knowledge of the advertising industry, the art of food photography, and the properties of food that would make her so successful in her freelance career. Over the course of her thirty years in the profession, Gail became one of the most prominent stylists in Chicago, respected for the beauty of her work and her kind, graceful presence under pressure. Her clients included many of the largest food companies in the country, such as Toblerone, the American Beef Council, Arby’s, Burger King, Quaker Oats, and Kraft Foods. The best-known campaigns in which her food appeared were for McDonald’s and included print and film advertising that featured, among others, the Super-Bowl-winning 1985 Chicago Bears and the Chicago Bulls’ Michael Jordan. In 1993, Gail traveled to New Delhi to help launch the first branch of McDonald’s in India. Both before and after the death of her first husband (in 1992), Gail enveloped her children in love and provided them with a warm, stable home to grow up in, filled with beauty, laughter, and family. Gail raised her children with a spirit of exploration, an ethic of hard work, and a dedication to fun that they will cherish forever. Shortly after Anne left for college, Gail became reacquainted with Roger Lee, a friend from her childhood church youth group, with whom she shared many interests and values, including a love of the outdoors and a passion for architectural detail. Roger proposed to Gail on a backpacking trip along the Vermont Long Trail in October 1999, and they were married on July 2, 2000 over a perfect Maine weekend. After their marriage, Gail and Roger decided to find a Maine community in which to settle. They had a hunch that Belfast was the right choice, but what they found there far surpassed their expectations. They built a life that they both loved, particularly their roles as active members of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Belfast. Gail served on numerous committees, sang in the choir, and led the congregation as Church Council Chair for two years. Gail and Roger enjoyed various outdoor pursuits all across Maine, including backpacking the 250 mile long Maine Appalachian Trail in 2003. Gail directed the restoration of the 1879 Second Empire house that she and Roger purchased – doing much of the detail work herself. Gail delighted in the beauty of her garden and treasured the many friends she made around town, whose support sustained her through her life and in her illness. Gail is survived by her parents, Grace and Charles Whisler of Lincolnshire, Illinois; her beloved husband, Roger Lee, of Belfast; her loving children, Colin and his wife Rachel, Anne and fiancé Ben; her granddaughter Francesca; her stepdaughter, Carrie Lee and husband Rob; her stepson, George Lee; her younger brothers, Bill Whisler and Chuck Whisler, and his wife Karen; and her sister-in-law Sandy Blandford. She is pre-deceased by her older brother, Gary Whisler, and her first husband, Emmett O’Donnell. A memorial service for Gail will be held at the Unitarian Universalist Church at 38 Miller St., in Belfast, at 1 pm on Saturday, May 22, 2010, with a reception to follow. A second service will be held in Deerfield, Illinois. In lieu of flowers, donations may be offered in Gail’s memory to the Endowment Fund of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Belfast, PO Box 452, Belfast, ME 04915. On-line condolences may be offered to the family at
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Gail O'Donnell

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Gail O'Donnell

1947 - 2010

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