On a sparkling late August morning, in a room at her home filled with sunlight, cool breezes, the sounds of birds singing and much love, a most beautiful, strong willed, resilient daughter of the “X” section of Springfield, passed from this life. Gail Johnson Jennings did so with the dignity, quiet strength and great spirit that had been defining characteristics of her well-lived life. Gail was born to Swedish immigrant Ernest Johnson and first generation Austrian/Polish American Wladyslawa Gierlasinski (later known as Leda Johnson) on September 10, 1948. Her father died when Gail was three years old and until she married, she continued to live in a quiet and loving home on Kenwood Park with her mother and older sister Carol upstairs from their dear friends, Mary and Grace Cullen. She attended Kensington Avenue School, Forest Park Junior High School and Classical High School where she was a proud and ever active member of the class of 1966. It was there at the age of 15 she met the love of her life, her husband of 49 years, Michael and it was there at that young age that she resolved to forge their very different personalities into what was to become an enduring love affair and a rewarding, interesting, fun filled lifetime together. Gail attended Merrimack College in North Andover and graduated in 1970 with degrees in mathematics and education. Within a month of graduation, she and Michael were married and for two years lived in a double decker in the Whisky Point section of Brookline while Michael finished school. During that time, she taught mathematics in the Chelmsford school system. On a hot day in August, 1972 she gave birth to their first son, Kevin. The three of them soon returned to Springfield and Gail began what was to become several satisfying years of teaching and nurturing a young Kevin and his brother Brian who was born on a frigid day in February, 1977. After both boys were in school, Gail decided to return to her love of teaching math. She taught for two years at Chestnut Junior High School in Springfield before taking a position in the math department at West Springfield High School where she thereafter took great pleasure in teaching geometry and algebra for 25 years to thousands of lucky students. She developed valued friendships with several teaching peers over those years which lasted until her death. She continued to regularly meet and break bread with her book group and “lunch bunch” to the end. She treasured her time with these women both before and after retirement. Upon retirement, Gail entered upon one of the happiest chapters of her life—that of being a full time “Grammy” to her three grandsons and one step grandson who had moved to a home just down the same quiet road in Monson where she and Michael lived after moving from Springfield. For years thereafter when their mom and dad were at their work, she spent her days with them; got them off the school bus; took leisurely walks with them on that country road teaching them about plants, flowers, trees and birds; made cookies with them; read to them; did arts and crafts with them; laughed with them; played games with them; comforted them when they needed it; scolded them when they needed it; refereed the fights when necessary and yes, helped them with their math when needed. She so loved reliving all of those same special moments she had experienced decades earlier with their dad and uncle. With a husband, two sons, three grandsons and a step-grandson Gail had little choice but to get used to watching sports on TV. A very strong and coordinated woman herself, Gail appreciated the skill and endurance of good athletes and eventually surrendered to watching, and sometimes enjoying, the endless number of games all of her boys were watching, all of the time. Her favorite? The Celtics. Red Sox next and then BC football. Not crazy about NFL. She loved to walk, endlessly work in the yard and her gardens including building stone walls and creating stone stairways. She loved to fix anything that needed fixing; to paint, paper, decorate, cook and entertain; to spend time on Block Island with her family every summer and to boat with Michael in the waters of Long Island, Block Island and Florida Bay including navigating while Michael fished. She loved to travel within the states and to Europe; to dine out, play tennis and pickle-ball; to identify birds, read, do math puzzles; to freely share her sharp opinions about some things and some people and to every day make productive use of her time. More than anything though she loved her big boys and her little boys and all of her extended family. Besides her parents, Gail was predeceased by her fun loving sister Carol, Carol’s husband Edward Irwin, who escorted Gail down the aisle at her wedding, their son Edward who died in infancy, her grandparents, aunts and uncles from Sweden and Austria/Poland who she never got to know, her aunt, Genevieve Dymski and her cousin Frances Pawlishen. She is survived by her husband of 49 years Michael O. of Monson, her sons Kevin M. (Kristin) of Monson and Brian M. (Mackenzie) of Springfield, her grandsons Aiden, Jack and Drew of Monson and her step-grandson Alexander Phaneuf of Springfield, her dear niece Debra Lampson and her children Rachel of Fall River and Nicholas of Chicago, her very close cousins with whom she spent endless fun filled days Br. Hugh Dymski of Chicopee, Geraldine Moodie (late husband Donnie) of Suffield, Michael Pawlishen (Jane) of South Hadley and David Pawlishen (Joanne) of Westfield. She also leaves many friends locally as well as from the Boston area, New Hampshire, Maine and New York with whom she and Michael spent years enjoying good times and who were all very supportive of her during her illness. She was very thankful for those friendships. Finally, Gail and her family wish to thank the many caregivers who treated her and assisted her in her fight against the terrible disease of pancreatic cancer including during her surgery and recovery at Lahey Clinic and her follow up oncological care at Dana Farber. But most of all she and her family were thankful for the competent and compassionate care she received for well over a year from the oncology staff at Sister Caritas Cancer Center including Dr. Philip Glynn and the ever caring, attentive, well trained and encouraging oncology nurses and support staff at the infusion center. You filled her with hope when she needed it and great support when it was time to summon the courage to face the inevitable. We shall forever be grateful as was Gail. A Memorial Mass will be held on Friday, August 30, 2019 at 10:00 a.m. Meet directly at Holy Name Church, 323 Dickinson St. Springfield. Burial will follow at St Michael Cemetery in the Archangel Mausoleum. Visiting Hours will be held on Thursday, August 29, 2019 from 4 to 7 p.m. at Sampson Chapel of the Acres 21 Tinkham Rd. Springfield. In lieu of flowers memorial contributions may be made in Gail’s memory to the Sister Caritas Cancer Center at Mercy Medical Center 271 Carew St. Springfield, MA 01104 or to the Lustgarten Foundation in support of pancreatic cancer research 415 Crossways Park Drive, Suite D Woodbury, NY 11797.
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