Cathy Gaskill, beloved SEYM Friend, Quaker storyteller, and member of Orlando Meeting, passed away July 27th. A Quaker Memorial will be held at 2 p.m. Sunday, August 13th, at the John Knox Village auditorium, 101 Northlake Dr., Orange City, FL 32763. Friends needing overnight hospitality can contact the SEYM Office, 407-739-4150.
Cathy was very active in SEYM since our beginnings in the 1950s and ‘60s. Cathy was a fountain of knowledge of all things Quaker. She came from a family with deep and extensive Quaker ancestry and connections; she graduated from Westtown and Swarthmore (as well as from Cornell with a nursing degree), and her father had been president of Earlham School of Religion. She served many years on the SEYM Faith & Practice committee, including working on our latest edition and, most recently, serving as a permanent member emeritus. She was instrumental in starting and supporting the Michener Lecture and Luncheon for many years— raising funds and serving on the Michener Lecture committee. She had a role in the beginnings of SEYM Publications. For many years, she worked with the youth at Yearly Meeting, leading workshops and telling stories.
Cathy was a member of Orlando Monthly Meeting for many years, during the time that the meetinghouse was being built, and through the 1960s. Then she became a member of Winter Park Meeting when they were established. Later in life, she transferred her membership back to Orlando. She had been very active in both Meetings; and over the decades carried concerns for peace, social justice, racial equality, and many other issues. Cathy also loved music, played various instruments, and sang in the Bach Festival Choir in Winter Park for many years.
Cathy is well-remembered by generations of SEYM Friends for her avocation as a Quaker Storyteller. Wearing a traditional Quaker dress and bonnet, Cathy would tell stories from Quaker history, of the underground railroad, and of Quaker heroines & heroes such as Sojourner Truth, Betsy Ross, Lucretia Mott, and many others. Later in life she became an author, writing Ruth’s Gift, a story about a Quaker ancestor. SEYM plans to publish Cathy’s new book, about her experiences as a young teacher in a one-room schoolhouse in Wyoming, in ebook formats later this year.
This brief autobiography Cathy wrote for her memorial tells more about her personal life:
Born within the walls of a Civil War fort, to Quaker parents, within an interracial faculty community, in “Jim Crow” Nashville, Tennessee – Cathy’s best friends were two “negro” girls slightly older, whose warm friendship counterbalanced the cold ostracism of all but one of her white school classmates. She was constantly sick as a child, painfully underweight, and was often teased by her two older brothers. Finally at age 13 she was sent away to Quaker high school and college, where she found herself. She taught in a one room school in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and then graduated from Cornell University New York Hospital School of Nursing where she stayed on for three years to teach nursing. She attended the university of Michigan intending to get a M.A. in Nursing, but instead got a ‘Mrs.’ From Roger A Gaskill. Their son David was born in Ann Arbor, and then the family of three settled in Windermere, Florida, where they welcomed another son, Benjamin, into their family, and lived for about 40 years. During this time she sang in the Bach Festival Choir and became a Quaker storyteller. The boys left home and Cathy and Roger moved to Orlando for nine years. In 2000 Roger died. In 2005, Cathy moved to John Knox Village.
Cathy will be deeply missed.