Gail Quick championed a lot of things in her 43 years on Hilton Head Island.
Town Council member David Ames called her “a quiet force,” “a steel magnolia,” and “a strong-willed person with the best intentions.”
She died Monday, Nov. 29, at age 83, and will be buried in Six Oaks Cemetery on the island that became her home in 1977.
She championed people, ideas, visions and key institutions throughout the Lowcountry.
She was dean at the Technical College of the Lowcountry, executive director of the Foundation of the Technical College of the Lowcountry, and vice chancellor at the University of South Carolina Beaufort in the areas of government relations and student development.
She was a public service district commissioner, and held a lot of different public service jobs at Town Hall.
She was on the town’s Planning Commission for six years, chairing it for two years. She was vice chair of the group that rewrote the town’s Land Management Ordinance. She worked on a couple of task forces to envision the island’s future. She worked on the “Circle to Circle” planning for the island’s main street.
As grand plans for a new public park in the Coligny Circle area were aired, she said, “Let’s get the common-sense things done now. Unless we solve traffic and parking, the rest of our ideas aren’t going to work.”
She was involved with public art on the island, and an adviser to the Heritage Library.
But Gail Quick was not limited to the inner circles of the in-crowd. She brought a voice of the people to Town Hall.
Her work with regional higher education put her in contact with people in an area starkly different from Hilton Head, Beaufort and Bluffton.
She was a bike rider and beach walker, always talking to people and gaining different perspectives.
“She saw potential in people and pushed them,” Ames said. “When she saw something that needed to be done, she had the strong backbone and persistence to deal with it.”
But all the things Gail Quick championed, two best tell her story.
When the good folks at St. Andrew By the Sea United Methodist Church saw the documentary “Corridor of Shame: The Neglect of South Carolina’s Rural Schools,” they wanted to do something to help the public schools in nearby counties.
Gail Quick knew what to do. She told them to go to Estill, a small town in Hampton County, where the islanders tutored students, donated “smart boards” and added books to the library at Estill Middle School.
And then there was the time a great idea emerged from Town Hall. It would add a grand public spectacle to the island: a giant treehouse designed by Wayne Edwards, a world-renowned treehouse genius and creator of the King Neptune statue and sundial at Shelter Cove.
It would border William Hilton Parkway and Broad Creek at mid-island, becoming an instant landmark, like the Harbour Town Lighthouse. It would be a place where generation after generation of islanders and visitors could act like children and get an osprey’s view of a magical place.
Gail Quick liked that idea.
Maybe, if we’re smart, that idea — like her example of bettering the community by talking to people outside of our little comfort zones — will live long after her.
David Lauderdale may be reached at LauderdaleColumn@gmail.com.