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January 19, 2012

Gayle M. Austin


— PITTSFIELD _ Gayle M. Austin, 61, died early Saturday morning, Jan. 14, 2012, in her home at the Hoboken Horticultural Preserve, Pittsfield. The seventh of nine children, she was born Aug. 9, 1950, to Gordon J. and Mary Rupar Powell on the Old Estate Dairy farm in Holton, Mich.

She was one of the last three students to graduate from sixth grade in McCallum School, a one-room country school, prior to school district consolidations. She graduated from Fremont High School in 1968.

She married James C. Austin on Sept. 16, 1968, in Ypsilanti, Mich. The two of them operated a certified organic homestead in the 1970s before moving to Bloomington, Ind.

They became self-employed craftspeople for the next 10 years creating a wide variety of leather goods they sold in craft shows and to galleries.

Gayle was also an accomplished fabric artist and had been sewing since her childhood days of 4-H. She exhibited her quilts and rag rugs in shows and galleries in the Midwest and New York.

In the mid-1980s she and husband purchased the New Berlin Gazette, which they published for 10 years. She was well-known in the communities served by the paper as an outspoken editorialist who pulled no punches and consistently stood for doing the right thing.

Following her tenure in the newspaper publishing world, she and her husband purchased what had been William  Bell’s East Side Leghorn Ranchin the area of Pittsfield known as Hoboken and established the Hoboken Horticultural Preserve. She worked tirelessly to restore the house and barns and create her perennial plant nursery and gardens. It was from there that she freely dispensed gardening information and advice to her many friends, neighbors and customers.

In addition to her husband  of 43 years, Gayle is survivedby her son, James C. Austin II of Pittsfield; daughter, Lisa R. Sheldon and her husband, Andrew of Williamstown, Mass.; two granddaughters, Zavi and Anya Sheldon; four sisters, Patricia and Richard Borjeson of Berwin, Pa., Diane and Edwardo Labocetta of Virginia Beach, Va., Bernice Powell of Washington, D.C., and Linda and Craig Pell of Grand Rapids, Mich.; one brother, George and Kathy Miner Powell of Holton, Mich.; sisters-in-law, Libby and David Cherin of Newaygo, Mich., and Kathy Austin of Holland, Mich.; brother-in-law, Joseph C. Austin and his partner, George Schaffer of Muskegon, Mich.; an extended family of uncles, aunts, cousins, nieces and nephews; and treasured friends.

In addition to her parents, she was predeceased by her three sisters, Donna Powell, Lottie Mae Powell and Lauretta B. Hazelrigg; and brother-in-law, Tom Austin. It was her wish to be cremated. There will be no funeral service.

Those who wish to do so may make memorial contributions to the Nature Conservancy or the Catskill Area Hospice and Palliative Care.