Gail Renee Porter
September 30, 1950 - April 4, 2019
Gail Renee Willis was born on September 30, 1950. She always jokingly said it was the most convenient Saturday for her father…it was one of the few times she ever did anything simply for someone else’s convenience. Now understand, she would help anyone, but everyone that knew Gail, knew she has always been a force. Gail grew up in Coal City, Illinois and was the daughter of Harry Glenn and Anna Vitko Willis. She belonged to the Girl Scouts of America for most of her childhood and eventually had her first job as a camp counselor. She eventually moved to Florida, was married and had two daughters Celia and Elise. After being a stay at home mom for many years she returned to school, graduating from University of South Florida with a bachelor’s degree in special education. She then dedicated her professional life to educating children with special needs and, more often than not, educating their families as well. Her master’s degree was obtained from National Lewis University in Education Leadership and she taught in the classroom for over 17 years, ending her career at Lost Lake Elementary in October of 2010 when she became too ill to work. After moving to Tampa and beginning treatment at Moffitt Cancer Center she quickly improved and over the course of the next 8 years she, once again, found a way to impact many lives. Gail became a huge advocate, a voice, for lung cancer awareness and education through the American Lung Association and Moffitt Cancer Center. She filmed commercials, gave speeches and participated in yearly events to support funding for lung cancer research. Gail made great strides towards ending the stigma related to lung cancer and smoking. After several years it would even be that going out into the public would elicit a response from strangers and they would acknowledge her from the commercials. She loved her new found purpose and all of the amazing people and relationships it forged for her and all of her girls. Lastly, and one of her biggest gifts, Gail became a grandmother in 2012. At that point it was clear she lived for 2 things, living life her way and loving her Rylee. Rylee and Gail formed a special bond, different from most relationships, and until her final days, Rylee could be found reading to her and caring for her much as Gail did when Rylee was younger. For almost 7 years Gail helped mold, guide, educate, and support her granddaughter in some of the most amazing ways. Daily she could be found making mud or teaching Rylee about art, learning about the world, and cherishing seeing things though a child’s eyes. In July 2018, Gail was able to take her “bucket list” trip through Europe going on a Gondola ride in Venice, Italy, seeing a medieval castle in England, and visiting where her family immigrated from in Slovakia. In her final days, she lived in New Port Richey, Florida with her daughters Celia and Elise and her granddaughter Rylee. Her life here on Earth ended on her terms, surrounded by peace, love and her girls. On April 4, 2019 she left for heaven, but will always be in our hearts, and has forever left her mark in all those she touched.