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Dodie Gann’s Gift to the Island

Red Mil Farm, San Juan Island Photo Courtesy of the Island Guardian

Red Mil Farm, San Juan Island Photo Courtesy of the Island Guardian

I am never amazed at the shear generosity of our island community. Some residents give tirelessly with their time, others with ample means help improve our quality of life by endowing public projects, while others give their soul.

San Juan Island said good bye to a remarkable legend this past December. Dodie Gann (1922-2012) a renaissance woman, adventurer, accomplished pilot, captain of the women’s Olympic ski team and inductee in the US Ski Team Hall of Fame and conservation pioneer, left a precious legacy to the community she loved.Photo Courtesy of San Juan Pilots Association

Dodie and her late husband, Ernest Gann, the renowned novelist, purchased their 800 acre Red Mill Farm in 1960. Their farm, the largest working farm in the San Juan archipelago, contains the most fertile agricultural land in the Islands. After a series of transactions, Dodie ensured that their farm would remain protected in perpetuity by the San Juan Preservation Trust and prior to her death the 687 acre Farm was acquired by the Trust. “If you have something like this, you don’t want to lose it” Dodie would say. “It’s the natural thing to want to save it forever.”

I first met Dodie at age 82 when at she attended my strength training class at Skagit College. After a few years, she decided to turn to swimming to put less stress on her body. Dave knew Dodie as an active member of the flying community. She was a member of the UFO, United Flying Octogenarians. Each summer, she hosted the annual San Juan Pilot’s association picnic at her hanger. She was also a regular patron at Coho. When she came into the restaurant, Dodie’s smile and laugh would light up the room. We will miss her unassuming manner and soaring spirit, but the gift she has given our community will always keep her in our hearts and mind.

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