A former Indian Country Today staff member says of Toensing’s passing: There is ‘a hole on the earth where she used to stand.’
A well-regarded and longtime award-winning journalist for Indian Country Today, Gale Courey Toensing walked on earlier this month, on February 5, 2018 after a tough battle with Parkinson’s disease.
In addition to her reporting for Indian Country Today since May of 2005, Toensing was also an accomplished poet, having earned an MFA in poetry from Norwich University in Vermont.
Due to her accomplishments in reporting for the service of Indian country, former Indian Country Today Creative Director Christopher Napolitano wrote a eulogy on LinkedIn expressing his appreciation for her efforts over the many years.
“Toensing was nothing short of a powerhouse,” writes Napolitano. “She regularly published more than 100 articles per year on a variety of subjects where, with each report, she demonstrated mastery of the complexities of issues in Indian country.”
Since writing her first article in May of 2005 titled, Schaghticoke Status Attacked, Toensing regularly contributed articles covering the array of issues in Indian country. She served a well-received presence at annual NCAI, NIGA and USET conferences and worked in Washington DC to provide coverage of issues facing tribal leaders and federal policy.
Toensing’s final article for Indian Country Today in 2017 was covering the same tribe of which she wrote in 2005, the Schaghticoke, titled Schaghticoke Tribal Nation’s $610 Million Lawsuit Against CT Inches Forward.
As Napolitano writes in his eulogy, “Though her pieces were written with the immediacy and urgency of breaking news, many of them stand the test of time.”
Toensing’s official obituary reads as follows:
“Gale Courey Toensing died peacefully surrounded by family members on February 5, 2018.
She was born on April 7, 1946 in Montreal, the daughter of Mae (Kenmey) and Philip Courey. She emigrated to the United States and became a citizen. She received her MFA from Norwich University.
Gale worked in publishing and journalism. Most recently she was a staff writer for Indian Country Today. Over the years she received many awards for her writing.
Gale was a champion for the welfare and rights of people who needed advocates because of their needs or their mistreatment by others.
She is survived by her husband Craig; her daughter Liz and husband Ethan, of West Cornwall; and her son Seth and his wife Beth, of Somerville, MA; and her brother Jeffrey Courey and his wife Myrna and their two children, of Mississauga, Canada; and her niece Jennifer and her husband, of NYC.
She was predeceased by her sister Joyce.
A celebration of her life will be held in the spring and will be announced once plans are finalized.
Donations in tribute to Gale may be made to the Michael J Fox Foundation to help find a cure for Parkinson’s Disease.”
In a final tribute to her legacy as a writer, Napolitano posted a poem she had once sent to him in an email. Napolitano writes before the poem, “If you knew her, you know. If you didn’t, reading her work is much better than reading the words of this poor friend trying to describe her. In fact, best to close this remembrance with her words, not mine.”
My mother’s nightgown lies furled at the back of the drawer,
flimsy like a shadow someone forgot to pack.
I stashed it there unwashed five years ago,
death cells still clinging to its fibers. I want to take it out
and shake it, run it through the washer by itself
on gentle cycle, small load, dry it with a sheet
of Bounce and fluff it back to when she was a paradox,
a five-foot giantess, reliquary of bad advice.
I remember her pitying stare, poised dressed-to-kill
and dripping jewels on the living room sofa,
her daily exhortations, flipping through fashion magazines—
You look like death warmed over in those black clothes.
Why don’t you make yourself glamorous?
Go get a permanent and learn how to cook,
don’t show how brainy you are, show some cleavage,
that’s the way to catch a man—and the night her own brain,
hooked by a random ruby red hardening of blood, cleft itself
into smooth-surfaced planes between clearing
the dinner dishes and serving the tea, how her body
slid to the floor, fluid as a silk negligee tossed off a creamy shoulder,
the porcelain cups tinkling into shards like the memories
she tried to piece together the next four years, and never could.
I’d enter her room from the coded elevator
and she’d say my name, then Sister! Or, lost somewhere between
Intention and expression, Blue! as she waved the only hand
she could still move to flaunt the diamond rings my father
had given her through the years, until she grew so small they slid
over the bones of her fingers and fell into the safe
deposit box at my bank where I keep them with her gold bracelets
and emerald necklace and other sparkling things,
in a rectangle of steel as dark as the coffin she was buried in
or the drawer where her nightgown lies,
so I can tell her shimmering from mine.
–Gale Courey Toensing (1997)