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Claremont Courier - A Local Nonprofit Newsroom

Phyllis Gambill

Wife, mother, grandmother, volunteer, friend

Phyllis Burnette Gambill, a longtime Claremonter, died peacefully in her sleep on September 9, 2012 after a long battle with Alzheimer’s disease. She was 75 and lived the last 2 years and 9 months of her life in the health center at Mt. San Antonio Gardens.

A native Californian, Mrs. Gambill was born on April 4, 1937 in Carmel to Mary and Gabriel Burnette and attended local schools there, graduating from Santa Catalina High School. She then entered Scripps College and, 56 years ago in her sophomore year, met her future husband, Denny Gambill, at Scripps College. After she graduated from Scripps, they were married in Carmel.

With 2 daughters, the family moved to Claremont in 1966 and built a home on a lot purchased from Mary and Roger Wheeler. Mrs. Gambill began volunteering in her daughters’ activities such as Brownies and at Foothill Country Day School, where she became president of the Mothers’ Club and a board member. She also was a member of the Curtain Raisers of the Claremont Colleges and a life member of the Scripps College Fine Arts Foundation.

Along with keeping busy, Mrs. Gambill kept fit, playing tennis twice a week at the Claremont Club with Molly Cheverton, her tennis partner for 18 years.

With their daughters married and raising their own children, Mr. and Mrs. Gambill moved to Carmel-by-the-Sea in 1995, where she became involved in local politics. She was on the mayor’s advisory committee and chaired 2 active city commissions. She also became involved in a knitting group that made soft caps for chemo patients in a cancer center, and some years she knitted over 100 caps. Each year, she gathered her family together for Thanksgiving and the taking of a family picture for a Christmas card. No one ate until Grammy had a picture she liked. 

In 2006, the Gambills moved back to Claremont to Mt. San Antonio Gardens, where Mrs. Gambill co-chaired the Hospitality Committee, wrote for the monthly newsletter, swam with the Aqua Fits and continued the Thanksgiving tradition.

In 1982, Mrs. Gambill began her involvement in Alcoholics Anonymous and was presented with her 30-year chip this past March. Until the Alzheimer’s ended her involvement in the program, she sponsored many women in this area and on the Monterey Peninsula, where she helped expand an AA weekly meeting to a daily meeting. She worked on AA conferences and spoke at them.

AA is an anonymous program, but Mrs. Gambill’s friends knew of her involvement, and she became increasingly active in showing how an involved and well-liked Claremont resident could be a sober alcoholic by working the AA program on a daily basis.

Mrs. Gambill was preceded in death by her daughter Peggy Sturgis in 2010. She is survived by her husband of 53 years, Denny Gambill; by her daughter and son-in-law, Patty and Robert Fakinos, and their daughters, Alex and Anna; and by her son-in-law, Steve Sturgis, and his children, Sarah, Matt and Michael Sturgis and Brittany Vojak.

Mrs. Gambill did not want a memorial service, but she did love a party. Therefore, her family is hosting a party for her friends and for friends of the family on Sunday, November 25 between 2 and 5 p.m. in the Hampton Room on the second floor of Malott Commons on the Scripps College campus. Guests may enter on the Northeast corner of 9th Street and Columbia Avenue.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that contributions be made in Mrs. Gambill’s memory to the Scripps College Alumnae Office, 1030 Columbia Ave., Claremont CA 91711, or to the charity of the donor’s choice.

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