Aug. 22 event ‘Fashionably Late’ honors Gretchen Gotthart SkeldonWritten by Caitlin McGlade | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Between a busy career at Libbey Glass and frequent chemotherapy treatments, Gretchen Gotthart Skeldon made time to love everyone.
She made time to grant wishes for sick children enrolled in the Make-A-Wish Foundation program. She made time to counsel women battling breast cancer. She made time to raise her daughter Lily, devote full attention to her friends in need and, of course, dress fashionably.
She set aside so much time for these things that she was always late.
“My wife was late to everything but I don’t know anybody that really got upset with her for being late. The reason she was late was because she was with another person and was giving them her total attention and when you were with her you were the center of her world,” said her husband, Phil Skeldon. “I think that’s what made her a success in every aspect of her life.”
When cancer claimed Gotthart Skeldon in 2010 at age 47, her friends immediately knew they wanted to carry on her work. They created a fund to support area agencies that aid children with disabilities and illnesses and women who have breast cancer. Within the year, they had planned their biggest fundraiser and, naturally, decided to title the event Fashionably Late.
“She never wasted a minute,” her longtime friend Gretchen DeBacker said. “She found out she was sick back in 1993 and I think that somewhere inside she believed that her time was going to be short, so she used every possible minute that she could and most of it was in the service of helping other people.”
As a tribute to her fun-loving attitude, Fashionably Late offers a night of music and dancing to raise money for the Gretchen Gotthart Skeldon Fund.
This year’s event is set for 6 p.m. to midnight Aug. 22 at Centennial Terrace in Sylvania. The Homewreckers and The Watermelon Men will perform plus special guest Chrys Peterson and the River Kings will make their debut performance for the fundraiser.
Tickets are $20 each or $250 for a table of 10. For more information or to purchase tickets, call (419) 481-0462 or visit gretchenfund.com.
Since the charity’s founding, the fund has raised more than $100,000, allowing organizers to donate to Sunshine, fund mammograms Susan G. Komen of Northwest Ohio, name a Make-A-Wish Foundation wish after Gotthart Skeldon, help fund an adaptive dance program at Toledo Ballet Association and more.
The fund focuses on organizations such as these because of Gotthart Skeldon’s legacy. She grew up in Toledo, attending Central Catholic High School and then University of Toledo. She graduated with a business degree and landed a job working with Libbey Glass. She worked her way into a national sales manager position and was designated the sales leader of the year six times throughout her career, including the year before she died.
“Through all of this — through chemo treatment after chemo treatment and hair falling out … outside of her chemo treatment, I don’t think she ever missed a day of work,” Skeldon said. “And it was never about selling a product. It was about meeting people and having fun with people and if the product sold, so be it.”
When she wasn’t on the clock, Gotthart Skeldon was volunteering. She was a wish granter for Make-A-Wish Foundation, meaning she would orchestrate a family’s trip to Disney World, and she also worked with Susan G. Komen of Northwest Ohio supporting women with breast cancer. She sang in her church choir for 25 years at Blessed Sacrament and was known for throwing fabulous baby and wedding showers, DeBacker said.
Gotthart Skeldon battled cancer on and off for years, beating the disease into remission a few times. She died in February of 2010 when the disease metastasized to her liver, DeBacker said.
“She always said, ‘I don’t want the disease to define me; I want to be known as Gretchen not a person with cancer,’” Skeldon said. “Even during all this bout with cancer, I could never be down, because she was never down. She even cheered up the doctors.”
Skeldon met his wife at a Bible study group at Corpus Christi University Parish in 2000 and they married a few years later when Gotthart Skeldon was 39 years old. Although doctors had told her that her years of cancer treatment would preclude her from having children, Gotthart Skeldon and her husband were able to have a baby. Their child, Lily, is now 9 years old.
“She was just a very kind person and, you know, some people talk about people who have died in that way and everyone has good qualities and misses people after they die, but Gretchen was special in the way she impacted the lives of the people she interacted with,” DeBacker said. “And when you were in her presence, that was it.”
“Gretchen was a very faith-filled person … I think people really felt the presence of God in her and spiritually it boosted their lives,” Skeldon added. “People came away feeling much more positive about life after they met Gretchen.”
Editor’s Note: This feature, which has been updated and edited, was originally published by Toledo Free Press in 2012.