December 30, 2003 - The Oregonian: Morocco RPCV Kate Jeans Gail dies in tragic accident in Portland

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Morocco: Peace Corps Morocco : The Peace Corps in Morocco: December 30, 2003 - The Oregonian: Morocco RPCV Kate Jeans Gail dies in tragic accident in Portland

By Admin1 (admin) ( - on Tuesday, December 30, 2003 - 10:54 am: Edit Post

Morocco RPCV Kate Jeans Gail dies in tragic accident in Portland

Morocco RPCV Kate Jeans Gail dies in tragic accident in Portland

For mother and daughter, life meant community service

Victoria Jeans Gail and her daughter, Katharine, put their beliefs in action by aiding others, whether at home or abroad



For Victoria Jeans Gail and her 24-year-old daughter, Katharine, community service was a way of life.

Victoria, 51, worked with nonprofits in California and Oregon for three decades, most recently as the chief financial officer for the Portland Schools Foundation. And, one day a week, she served as a spiritual director, advising people on their religious explorations.

Katharine, a Smith College graduate, wanted to change the world. For her, that meant working in the slums of Calcutta, serving in the Peace Corps in Morocco and persuading high school students at her alma mater to volunteer.

They died Sunday morning when their car hit ice, spun out of control on U.S. 26 near Warm Springs and collided with a sport utility vehicle. The SUV's driver, Daniel Trumps, and his wife suffered minor injuries, Warm Springs police said.

Victoria and Katharine, known as Kate, were on their way to Victoria's sister's 50th birthday celebration in Bend.

The crash, still under investigation by Warm Springs police, tore into one of Portland's most activist families, and punched a hole in hundreds of lives the pair touched.

Kevin Jeans Gail, Victoria's husband, is chief of staff to Portland Commissioner Jim Francesconi. They had been married for 25 years and worked on a series of community projects, including helping form and lead the former Portland Organizing Project, a coalition of churches formed to push for social change.

Kevin Jeans Gail and the couple's two sons -- Conor, 16, and Sean, 21 -- were at home at the time of the crash.

Speaking at his Northeast Portland home on Monday, Kevin Jeans Gail said his wife was the family's spiritual center and his daughter was the fiery go-getter.

"Kate had great drive and great energy," he said. "Victoria walked with people on their spiritual journey. The world would always come away from an experience with them feeling enriched."

Kevin Gail met Victoria Jeans in 1977, while she was working with the Citizen Action League in San Francisco. The first night they went out, Kevin recalls, Victoria told him that she loved him. "But if you knew her, you'd know she loved everybody," he said. "She was all about love."

Less than a year later, they married and she moved to Portland where they both worked with Oregon Fair Share, a grass-roots organizing group. They lived in the Albina area of North Portland and Kate -- their oldest child -- attended Boise Eliot Elementary School.

They moved to the Hollywood neighborhood and Kate attended St. Mary's Academy in downtown Portland, taking the school's focus on community service to heart and developing a travel bug that saw her visit five continents by age 22.

A few nights before the accident, Kori Pienovi and three other friends from Kate's high school days dined out with Victoria and Kate, a bit of mother-daughter togetherness that struck none of the friends as unusual.

The pair were generous with their love and their time, Pienovi and others said.

"When you talk about living life to the fullest, they actually did it," said Pienovi, who traveled to Calcutta with Kate three years ago to work alongside Mother Teresa's Missionary Sisters of Charity in an orphanage and a home for the dying. "They actually lived every day as if something like this could happen."

Pienovi and her friends spent Monday reading through the scores of narrative e-mails that Kate had sent over the years, from Moroccan villages to New York City, where she started her latest job at Teach For America in October.

At Smith College in Massachusetts, Kate taught reading for eight hours a week at Jessie's House, a homeless shelter that primarily served women and children. She told the campus newsletter in 1999 that she saw the people there as "not so far from where I am."

"Even at Smith, we sometimes let people slip through the cracks," she said, "when overwork keeps us from taking care of a friend in need or even from taking care of ourselves. It's not all that different."

After graduation, Kate began serving with the Peace Corps in Morocco in 2001, learning Arabic in a six-week crash course. The war in Iraq cut short her stint in spring 2003. While in Morocco, she won a grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development to build a health clinic and birthing center in a remote village.

Madeleine Mader, a friend of the Jeans Gails and a Peace Corps worker in Africa for 10 years, called it highly unusual for one of the organization's 7,000 volunteers to accomplish so much.

"I've known hundreds of young people and I used to supervise hundreds of Peace Corps volunteers, and it's not an exaggeration to say that she was the brightest star," said Mader, 41, who also hired Kate briefly to work at Kelly Community House in outer Southeast Portland. "I have never met another person like her."

Victoria Jeans grew up the third of seven children in rural Patterson, Calif., known as apricot country because of its sprawling orchards. Her parents sent her to an accelerated school program after she scored well on a series of tests.

Her brother, John Jeans, said she learned Russian at a young age and impressed the family with her knowledge. "She knew an awful lot so we always just nodded whenever she said something," he said.

She attended UCLA, but left the school at age 19 after her father died. She moved to Corvallis and attended Oregon State University but didn't finish, instead opting for the job with the alliance in San Francisco.

Today, her desk at the Portland Schools Foundation is crowded with inspirational sayings and pictures of her family.

Leslie Rennie-Hill, a senior program officer, said the foundation's 10 employees always start meetings with a "check-in" on each person's personal life. "Her stories at check-in were always something related to her children or her husband," Rennie-Hill said. "That's who she would talk about. They were a team."

David Austin: 503-294-5910; Scott Learn: 503-294-7657;

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Story Source: The Oregonian

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Morocco; Obituaries



By Ghizlane ( - on Tuesday, January 13, 2004 - 11:35 am: Edit Post

How about opening an a book of condolences Kate's friends can sign and which we will share with Kate's family?

By kathy ( on Sunday, November 05, 2006 - 6:00 pm: Edit Post

I am trying to help a friend in Morocco to buy a work contract so that he can support his Mom and siblings. They are close to being on the streets. Any ideas?

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