Gail and I became fast friends during our first year of UBC Medical School in 1966. We were both from small towns, from out of the province, she from Saskatchewan and I from New Brunswick. The UBC program at that time had a quota system for women, and we called ourselves “the token 10.” Gail’s ambition to become a doctor started at age 7 when she noticed that her local doctor had a house with a tennis court, which he used regularly. It was not wealth that got her attention, but the way her doctor was enjoying life to the fullest. That’s what she wanted.
Gail did a 2-year residency in New Zealand and loved the country so much she stayed another 3 years. She sailed the South Seas on her 38-foot sailboat, Coruba, and as captain, she had an all-woman crew. On returning to Canada, she bought a little cabin in Rossland to be close to the ski hills (she was a champion downhill racer) and worked as a GP in Trail.
Still, the world was calling her. She took a job in Saudi Arabia as an ER physician because it afforded her access to travel the globe. There she met her husband of 30 years, Naren Simone, and alongside work, they enjoyed skiing, snorkeling, diving, kayaking, and hiking. But their real love was international travel. In all, she visited 128 countries.
Gail had amazing resilience. She survived cancer four times. First it was breast cancer on one side, then the other. While in remission from that she was diagnosed with leukemia, which was successfully treated, but it reoccurred. I saw her in the oncology ward at Vancouver General Hospital. She told me there was a 15% chance of survival and that she would be part of that 15%. She was right. After recovering in India she went back to work in the Middle East.
When Gail retired in 2008, she and Naren moved to Sidney, BC, but they were continually on the move. Winters were spent oil painting in Indio, California, and skiing in Rossland, and summers in Sidney and Rossland. She loved her flower garden in Rossland and was a regular at Butchart Gardens. She was a very accomplished and prolific painter, a skill she learned in Abu Dhabi.
When she learned that she had lower motor neuron disease, she had already faced death many times. We spent the last year telling each other funny stories.
Gail was a brilliant doctor and a great friend, and she had an extraordinary zest for life. She always looked for the good in people, made friends easily, and was full of cheer and good spirit. She insisted on celebrating her life while she was still alive, and when the final moment came, she said adieu to this world while sipping Dom Pérignon. She died at home in Sidney on 13 January 2022. She is survived by her husband, Naren Simone; her sister, Marilyn; and two brothers, Gary and Barry.
—Mary Conley, MD
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