Obituary Note: Gail See

Gail See
(via Minnesota Center for Book Arts)

Gail See, "a strong influencer in the Twin Cities and national literary communities in the 1980s and '90s," died July 15, the Pioneer Press reported. She was 94. A former owner of the Bookcase in Wayzata, See was also past president of the American Booksellers Association. After selling the bookstore, she had been one of the founding publishers, with David Unowsky, of Ruminator Books, an independent press that launched in 1994 and continued for 10 years. A founding member of the Minnesota Center for Book Arts and the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis, See also became involved with Graywolf Press after it moved to the Twin Cities from Washington State in 1984.

"Gail's bookstore was amazing," said Unowsky, former owner of St. Paul's Hungry Mind (later Ruminator Books) bookstore and a longtime friend. "She could have taken the easy route and carried nice picture books. But she had serious books. She wanted her store to represent every political aspect, to get all ideas out to the public."

Former ABA CEO Oren Teicher observed: "Gail was a force to be reckoned with and was responsible for laying the groundwork for much of what we did at ABA. She ran a great community bookstore and was instrumental in making books an integral part of the culture of the Twin Cities. She was a mentor to hundreds and hundreds of booksellers. I often turned to her for advice and guidance which was always insightful and spot-on. One of the highlights of my ABA career was to stand on the 'Gail See Staircase' at Minneapolis's Open Book as we welcomed attendees to the 2017 Winter Institute and to be able to express our thanks and appreciation for all Gail had done for the bookselling community."

Created by artist Karen Wirth to look like pages of an open book, the Gail See Staircase honors her involvement "in implementing the unique partnership between the Minnesota Center for Book Arts, Milkweed Editions and the Loft, which together own and share space in the Open Book building. They are the only literature-based organizations in the country that share such an arrangement," the Pioneer Press wrote.

In a tribute, Fiona McCrae, former director and publisher of Graywolf Press, observed: "All of us who worked with Gail See over the years loved her natural radiance coupled with a fierce loyalty and commitment to books, ideas, and the extended literary community. She was a forceful, effective board member and supporter to many local organizations, from the Loft to MCBA. She joined Graywolf's board in the 1980s and returned for a second stint in the 2000s. During her tenure at Graywolf she headed many committees, as well as served as chair of the board and national council. She remained enthusiastically involved as a national council member until her last days.... Gail counted her blessings vociferously, often expressing her gratitude for her friendships. But the generous spirit that she showered on us all was a gift that she could never measure." 

See was also passionate about libraries and helped create the annual Pen Pals Lecture Series as a board member of the Library Foundation of Hennepin County, and was a board member of the Friends of the University of Minnesota Libraries, the Pioneer Press noted. In 1999, she received the Minnesota Book Awards' highest honor, the Kay Sexton award for outstanding service to the literary community.

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