Goodbye, Dear Gretchen

February 18, 2010


Gretchen with her husband Phil

Three weeks ago, I asked you to pray for my friend Gretchen Skeldon, a 4-time cancer survivor who was hospitalized with some serious health problems.   I received so many emails and comments about Gretchen that I wanted to let you know our prayers have been answered, although not the way we hoped they would be.

Gretchen died peacefully at Hospice Wednesday morning.  The fact that this was Ash Wednesday was not lost on the people who knew Gretchen as a devout and faithful Catholic.   Gretchen’s belief in God, and her unwavering faith that He has a plan for all of us helped her get through some very trying times and I hope it helped take some of the fear away in these final days.  But the selfless way Gretchen lived her life every day has always inspired me and so many others.  

She sang the national anthem at the 2009 Rockets for the Cure game

Because she was so young when she was diagnosed with breast cancer, and because she battled it with such grace, I asked her many times to talk to other young women who were newly diagnosed.  She always made the time to offer her support and share her experiences with them.  She also volunteered countless hours to raise money and awareness for breast cancer through NW Ohio Komen.    She never shied away from an opportunity to help and truly believed a cure would be found in her lifetime. 

Something I find so amazing about my friend Gretchen is her ability to reach and teach people even in her last vulnerable days.  

This is the picture Gretchen wanted the doctors and nurses to see

As her health started to deteriorate, Gretchen shared with me that she was concerned her nurses and doctors would not know “the real me.  They only see a bald, sick-looking invalid lying in this bed.  They don’t know that two months ago I was a normal person!”     I promised her they would know the real Gretchen and in her last few days when groups of doctors and nurses would come into her room at UTMC and she couldn’t talk for herself, I would point to a beautiful picture of Gretchen on the wall and say “Before you start your exam, let me properly introduce you to my friend, Gretchen.  She is a vivacious, incredible person–beautiful inside and out.  She is a mom, and a wife and a friend and she wanted to make sure you knew she was a normal person before she ended up in that hospital bed.”   

They would all take a good long look at Gretchen’s beautiful face and and nearly every one of them thanked me for reminding them of that important lesson.  I kept thinking to myself “Gretchen can’t even talk and she’s still teaching people and inspiring people to be better.” 

Her last selfless act: to donate her body to the scientists at UTMC.   It was her hope that by studying her body, doctors will discover something that will help the next woman with breast cancer survive.   

Breast cancer brought Gretchen to me in 2003, the year the NW Ohio/Komen Race for the Cure was run “In Celebration of Gretchen Skeldon.”    Today, breast cancer took my dear friend away.   But Gretchen leaves behind a legacy of giving and love that most of us can only aspire to. Our world will forever be a better place because she was here.   Goodbye, dear Gretchen.



  1. Chrys–This is a beautiful. Thank you for sharing the tender, loving side of death…and sharing with us the story of a strong, brave women. Please extend my sympathies to Gretchen’s family.

  2. I now you went through a ton of tears preparing this post. I thank you for sharing your story and hers. My heart and prayers go out to you, Mrs. Skeldon and her family. My Aunt-in-Law is a breast cancer survivor and I am praying that, one day, there will be a cure.

  3. I’m sorry you lost a good friend here, and you know she will be with you forever! I hope your heart mends quickly with the wonderful memories that you are sharing with us and others about Gretchen! To beat cancer 4 times, is amazing in its own right, extraordinary woman you’ve shared with us!!

  4. I met Gretchen when I lived in Toledo, some 11 years ago and I was blessed to know her and Phil via mutual friends.

    My thoughts and prayers go out to her family and friends as they grieve the passing of such a smart, brave, fun, wise, and spirited woman.

    As anyone who knew her would tell you, she will NOT be forgotten, because of her faith, grace, kindness, courage and strength.

    Chicago, IL

  5. Chris,
    You write so beautifully. Saddly we moved off of Pemberton, next to Gretchen and Phil to Ottawa Hills. We were lucky enough to have had 4 or 5 years living next door to an angel. On summer nights we would lay in bed and listen to Phil & Gretch singing, it was “heavenly”. Thank you so much for airing Gretchen’s life story to all last night. I can just see her now with her big smile, seeing first hand all the glories of heaven. Hugs to you.

  6. Chrys,
    I have been trying to find the words to express my gratitude to you and all of Gretchen’s friends for the support Phil,my family and I have received during Gretchen’s Illness. There are no words, your story broadcast last night came from the heart as did this post and the previous one. We lost our angel here but she has been called home to watch over us and help countless others through her spirit. Thank You for all you have done. As Gretchen’s little brother I wish there were more to say than Thank You.

  7. Bill, how lucky I was to be one of Gretchen’s friends. She has touched my life and so many others in profound ways. Thank you for your kind words. God bless.

  8. Chrys. Thank you for your word perfect description of Gretchen and view into her life and death. She encompassed total beauty and was a shining example of what a great mother, wife, sister, friend, and citizen should be. I worked for Gretchen for a brief time many years ago and during that short time, I learned so much from her. Never again have I seen a person more loved and respected by her customers and colleagues. Her dedication to every endeavor never wavered even in times when I know she was struggling. Two years ago she saw me through an almost identical diagnosis and we traveled that path together. I will miss my dear friend more than words can express. God Bless her family.

  9. Gretchen is an embodiemnt of love. An amazing mother, wife, friend and volunteer, Gretchen lived her faith. Faceted like a diamond – reflecting good and light to everyone;Gretchen’s actions and words here on earth showed the love of God to the world. This love was felt by everyone graced to have known her here. Being one of those touched by Gretchen’s beautiful spirit is a gift I will always cherish. I pray for those Gretchen is now seperated from. I know she is in the arms of God, a saint to us left here, looking forward to our meeting her again.

  10. Chrys, Thank you so much for your article. I count myself very lucky to have also known our wonderful Gretchen.

  11. Chrys—Your original post about asking for prayers for our friend Gretchen was so ‘right on’, and this tribute post to her is absolutely true too. You truly have a way with words. Gretchen was definitely an example to everyone around her, with her caring and truly loving personality. The choir in heaven definitely is hitting more clear high notes with her singing with them. Although we all were hoping for one more miracle for Gretchen, she’s finally ‘home’. Thank you for sharing such wonderful words with your readers! Gretchen will surely be missed by all who knew her!

  12. Chyrs, I love your blog about Gretchen. She was a part of my family through marriage, and ever since I met her, I share your sentiments on her unwavering faith and courage. She will be missed at our Easter gatherings.
    We will have a beautiful celebration of her life over the weekend at Coyle Funeral Home, and I am honored to help her sisters, Casey and Missy, and her husband Phil.
    Sincerely, Megan Coyle Stamos

  13. I was blessed to meet Gretchen when we were both a mere 18 years old. Life got in the way and I have not seen her in many years, but I have never forgotten the beautiful person that I have known for more than half of my life. To this day, I think that she is perhaps the kindest and most generous person I’ve ever met. When I heard of her passing yesterday, I was so sad. We here on Earth are losing a bit of beautiful light. My thoughts and prayers are with her family.

    Thank you Chrys for such a wonderful tribute.

  14. Dear Phil and beautiful daughter,

    Our hearts break for both of you. Please know you are in our prayers.


    Charlotte and Dave Mariasy
    Stephen, Kris and Ian – SJJ students

  15. Chrys,
    Your comments were right on. My wife Lori and I lived down the street from Phil and Gretchen and I have know Phil forever.The two of them were truly a match made in heaven. If all of us could live even a little bit like the two of them then the world would be a better place. They are the happiest couple I have ever seen. Thanks for keeping her spirit alive.

  16. Dear Chrys

    What a wonderful tribute penned by you, so exacting in describing the Gretchen we knew. We’ve been so fortunate to have been in the Blessed Sacrament Choir with Gretchen for the past 20 years. Her courage and faith have been an inspiration to all of us. We will take comfort, as we sing for her memorial service, in knowing that Gret will be watching and listening. Our hearts, like so many others, are aching for the Phil and her daughter. Rest well sweet Gretchen until we see you again.

    With Love
    Dave & Maggie

  17. I had the great pleasure of working with Gretch for several years … I would like to offer a way to keep her spirit alive. Since Wednesday, I have said to myself, “Be more like Gretchen.” By that I mean to be more upbeat, be more unselfish, be more giving. So I challenge all of the people who were lucky enough to know her, and want to keep her light burning, at least once a day think to yourself, “BMLG” – and then do it! I think that would make our angel very happy.

  18. Janet…The way Gretchen lived her life everyday was truly an example to all of us. Thanks for your idea!

  19. Dave and Maggie…I’m sure Gretchen has already auditioned and secured a part in a choir of angels! 🙂 What a beautiful voice she had. She loved her choir friends and being part of the group.

  20. What a lovely tribute to Gretchen. I knew her back in our days at UT. She was always smiling. I will remember her that way.

  21. Thank you Chrys for the beautiful words about a beautiful angel on earth. I haven’t seen Gretchen in years but I can just imagine her dying with the same grace that she lived. What a soul she was. I am truly saddened by the loss but relieved that her pain and suffering are over.

  22. Dear Chris, My condolences on the loss of your dear friend. I love the idea of putting a picture before sickness for doctors and nurse to see. While they do the best they can with what they see everyday it is so important for them to remember there is a person struggling to get back to something laying in that bed. I lost my Mom to breast cancer at the age of 54 and my son to Leukemia at the age of 12, I wish I could have done that for them while they were sick. Your words expressed here are beautiful and my heart breaks for Gretchen’s family left behind. I sincerely hope they find comfort in happy memories. It has helped me immensely in my heart break.

  23. Dear Chris, Sorry for the loss of your friend. I too have lost a close friend to cancer. The courage your friend showed throughout her illness shows what great strength she had. My wish is that soon there will be a cure for this devestating disease.

  24. What a beautiful and faithful friend you are. God bless you!

  25. OMG!! This made me cry so hard, as we lost our young son to Non Hodgekins 3 years ago…….such a wonderful full of life man of 37 years with his whole life ahead of him to go to be our own angel……

  26. So sorry for your loss, Pam. I still miss my dear friend every day as I’m sure you miss your son. God bless.

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