Matthew Gayle and Sarah Leonard, the children of Mary Lou Crutsinger Gayle, a longtime VB Public Works Department employee who was lost in the tragedy, have asked the local media to share this public statement:
“Fiercely protective mother. Proud Grammy. Loving sister and aunt. Everyone’s best friend. These are but a few fitting descriptions of Mary Lou Gayle.
"Her nurturing spirit and protective nature extended beyond her own children. She loved people and they loved her back. It’s no surprise, as our Mom consistently sacrificed her own needs and desires to help others. She was a strong person with even stronger opinions. About everything. You might say she nagged us. It took many years, but we finally realized she was usually right, and we learned to lean on her wisdom.
"The pain we have felt these last few days would have been much harder to bear if we had not been surrounded by the love and care of so many of Mom’s colleagues and friends, at least a dozen of whom introduced themselves to us by saying, “I’m your mom’s best friend.” We get it. Somehow, she always found time for others while holding down a full-time job, going to school, raising two children on her own, volunteering at her church, and doing all sorts of DIY projects around her home. Mom would do anything she could to help others but was stubborn about being completely self-reliant. Even in her sixties, she refused to allow us to hire someone to replace the deck in her back yard. Instead, she learned to use a power saw and a nail gun so she and Matthew could do it themselves.
"Our Mom was a single mother with an Associate’s degree when she began her 24-year career at the City of Virginia Beach as a Legal Secretary in the City Attorney’s Office. Through hard work and perseverance, she earned Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees and completed a rigorous certification process to become a Right of Way Agent. She thrived in her role with the City, through which she facilitated the purchase of land for development by the City. She worked hard to get where she did but despite her many accomplishments she remained humble and reserved her pride for her children and grandchildren.
"Her grandchildren, Jeffrey and Genevieve, were the “lights of her life” and she would report to friends that she was “in Grammy heaven” whenever she was able to spend time with them. Just two weeks prior to her death, she spent a week caring for them while Sarah and her husband traveled for business. Typical for her, she took the children to numerous activities and events while also finding time to “clean” Sarah’s (already clean) house, stock the refrigerator, replant the garden, outfit the kids with new wardrobes, and iron all of Sarah’s husband’s dress shirts.
"When our lives carried us away from Virginia Beach, Mom waged a decade-long campaign to get us to move home. She sent job postings and listings of homes for sale in the neighborhood that were conveniently right up the street or around the block from her house.
"Mary Lou Gayle was a kind, warm, funny, giving, and loving woman who made this world a far better place just by being here. Our hearts go out to the other families who lost loved ones on Friday and we remain beyond grateful for the support and kindness we have received.”
Memorial image courtesy of Rose and Womble Realty.