I am saddened to learn of the passing of a member of the Ashé extended family a few weeks ago. Gail Gutradt devoted the past decade of her life working with the orphans at Wat Opot, a refuge for those infected with or orphaned by HIV/AIDS in Cambodia. She wrote of her experience working the children at Wot Opot in her well-received 2014 book A Rocket Made of Ice (Random House). Her simple obituary in her Maine hometown newspaper reads:
Gail Lynn Gutradt died at Mount Desert Island Hospital on February 22, 2016, with loved ones by her side. She was an artist, an entrepreneur, a photographer, an author, and a great lover of life. She will be well and truly missed. A celebration of her life will be held in the Spring. Arrangements by Direct Cremation of Maine.
I have known gail since I as nine when I walked into her bead shop in Bar Harbor, Maine, Boston Baked Beads, and she struck up a conversation. Her warmth came through immediately. At several points, Gail orchestrated intersections that led impacted my spiritual exploration. She recommended Chogyam Trungpa’s Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism when I was 16 and this was one of my earliest contacts with Buddhism. Years later she invited me to a beautiful Indian meal she cooked herself and introduced me to Syamasundara dasa one of of A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada’s early disciples. His story of Prabhupada’s acceptance of gay devotees soon made it into the pages of Ashé.
In 2001, Gail traveled to India for the Maha Kumbha Mela in Allahabad. One of her earliest published pieces was her recounting of this trip in the second issue of Ashé (Maha Kumbha Mela by Gail Gutradt).
WCSH has an archived interview with gail from 2014 discussing her recently released book. It’s worth a listen. “A day you hug a child is a good day.”
God/dess speed, my friend.