Wessel Gay, Fern

Fern Wessel Gay January 25, 1920 - December 1, 2019 Fern Wessel Gay, born to farming parents at their home outside Charter Oak a century ago, died December 1 in Shelton, Washington, where she had lived for the past 53 years. She was born January 25, 1920, to August and Alma (Westaby) Wessel, followed a few moments later by her twin brother Fernon. After leaving Iowa in 1945 for the West Coast, she married into a newspaper family and eventually ended up in Shelton, where the family owned and operated the weekly Shelton-Mason County Journal for 42 years. This woman who lived through 18 U.S. presidents came from a different world than the three generations of family who have followed her. Her family had no indoor toilet on the farm, no electricity nor icebox and took sponge baths once a week. When she was born her father was using a horse to plow 80 acres of corn and oats. She left the farming life in 1942 for various jobs in manufacturing and retail - testing military motor parts for Russell Electric Company in Chicago, then checking groceries at the Council Oak store in Denison, then heading the wallpaper and paint department at the Denison Montgomery Ward. In 1945 she followed her mother to Monterey, California, where she landed a job as a bookkeeper at Bank of America. In 1949 she met Henry Gay, a printer who was working with his parents at the family's weekly newspaper in Monterey. They married that year. They stayed in Monterey until 1954 when the two generations sold the newspaper and bought the Buckley News Banner in Washington State. The Gays had two boys born in California and then a girl born in Washington. Fern served as bookkeeper of the News Banner at home while raising the children. The News Banner was sold in 1964 when Henry's parents retired. Henry and Fern moved to Shelton in 1966 when Henry bought The Journal, where he was editor and publisher and Fern worked in print shop and clerical jobs. When Mr. Gay died in 1999, their children took over the operation and ran the paper until 2008. Fern was a 53-year member of the Missouri Synod Mount Olive Lutheran Church in Shelton where she participated in the women's Lydia-Ruth Circle and its fund-raisers. She also painted for several years and was a talented seamstress making clothes and other items on her old Singer. She loved gardening, crocheting and cross-stitch embroidery. She filled books with her genealogical research. She enjoyed trips to Italy, Hawai'i and Iowa as well as seeing Washington, D.C., the Canadian Rockies and much of the American West. Mrs. Gay is survived by sons Stephen Gay of Shelton and Charles Gay (Mary) of Paris, France, and daughter Julie Orme (Brandt) of Shelton; four grandchildren, five great-grandchildren and numerous nieces and nephews. Her older sister Alice Nobach and brother preceded her in death, as did sister Alta who died in the 1918 flu epidemic. A celebration of life service will be held at Mount Olive Lutheran Church at 11 a.m. Saturday, January 25. Her ashes will be placed at Shelton Memorial Park.

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