OBITUARY Eternal Austin,Texas political hopeful Jennifer Gale die Homeless woman found dead outside Central Austin church.
Thursday, December 18, 2008
For nearly two decades, Jennifer Gale was an Austin fixture — the eccentric, homeless, transgendered eternal political hopeful who ran for offices that ranged from mayor to school board member to U.S. representative.
Known for her knowledge of local politics, she often mixed songs with her messages to government leaders, singing anything from pop tunes to classics to, more recently, Christmas carols. In what would be her last public appearance, Gale serenaded the city's public health and human services subcommittee Tuesday with "Silent Night."
Early Wednesday, December 17, 2008 Gale, 48, was found dead outside the Central Austin church where she commonly slept. A worker called 911 after noticing that Gale showed signs of distress. Austin firefighters at a nearby station performed CPR for more than 30 minutes before declaring Gale dead.
Authorities said they do not suspect foul play and are investigating whether the night's cold weather — temperatures dropped to the mid-30s — contributed to Gale's death. An autopsy is pending.
"(Jennifer) had a true passion for Austin and worked, in her own unique way, to make the city she loved more vibrant, caring, and of course, weird," Mayor Will Wynn said. "She was an Austin original and she will be missed."
She was a current candidate in Austin's mayoral race next spring. ( 2009)
To many, Gale's position as one of Austin's most colorful people reflects what makes the city special: How it rolls out its welcome mat to the offbeat, often hoisting such personalities to local celebrity status.
But privately, Gale often dealt with harsh realities.
She frequently talked to longtime friend Mary Lu Walter about living without a home, particularly in hot or cold weather. For several years, Gale slept in a park behind Austin Fire Station 3 on 30th Street, or near the door of First English Lutheran Church at 3001 Whitis Avenue, where she was found Wednesday.
Former City Manager Toby Futrell recalled Wednesday how Gale took sponge baths in City Hall restrooms or in city-run recreation centers.
Friends and other acquaintances said she also struggled at times with others not identifying her as a woman, often leading to ridicule from strangers.
Futrell said that several years ago, a city worker insisted on calling Gale a "he" and that Gale reported it to city council members. The grievance landed on Futrell's desk, and she negotiated a deal between Gale and the staff member in which the two would call each other by their first names.
"She fought for her own dignity and her identity," Futrell said. "She stood up for herself."
Gale, a native of Madison, Wis., whose Web site said she served in the U.S. Marines, arrived in Austin in the early 1990s and quickly began running for public office.
Futrell said she watched for years as Gale sought numerous political positions and lost, and how those losses seemed to motivate Gale to seek a higher office. Gale, who lived in Dallas several years, also ran for political positions in that city, including mayor.
"When she ran, she truly ran because she believed that she could effect change," she said. "That there were things that could be better — better treatment for folks, better housing opportunities, better health care."
Walter said she met Gale several years ago and sometimes gave Gale money or invited her to spend the night at her house. Gale frequently declined and said she'd rather live independently, Walter said.
On Tuesday, Gale dropped by Walter's house and told her that she was planning to sing "I'll Be Home for Christmas" at this week's city council meeting during time set aside for residents to address the group. Then, she broke into the tune, Walter said.
"She always got such a kick out of preparing her songs," Walter said.
Council Member Mike Martinez, who was at Tuesday's meeting when Gale sang "Silent Night," said he was stunned to hear about her death.
By Wednesday afternoon, Martinez and other council members were planning a possible tribute. One possibility, he said, was dedicating a bench in her honor in the park where she slept. Martinez also noticed on the council's agenda that Gale had requested to address the group this week.
During that scheduled time, Martinez said he plans to play a video of Gale singing "Silent Night," followed by a moment of silence.
Note: Jennifer Lauren Gale was a Corporal in the US Marine Corps and honorably discharged after she completed her tour of duty.
Burial: Cremated, Location of ashes is unknown.
Created by: Angelita Record added: Jan 11, 2009
Find A Grave Memorial# 32820467
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