Obituary of Gail J. McKenna
Gail Joanna (Looker) McKenna, born August 27, 1941, passed away peacefully while surrounded by family on September 21, 2023. She was the daughter of the late Norman Van Riper Looker and Evelyn Reynolds (Hornby) Looker.
She was born in Morristown, NJ, and raised in Liberty Corner, NJ where she attended elementary and middle school. She went on to graduate from Bernards High School where she was a member of the drill team and various musical groups. Gail attended Lake Erie College in Painesville OH, obtaining a bachelor’s degree in music education with a concentration on the Pipe Organ. The highlight of her college years were endless stories of shenanigans and laughter during the winter term she spent studying abroad in Caen, France.
She began her working career with the North Plainfield School District teaching Choral Music. Shortly into her first year, she met another young teacher, Richard (Dick) McKenna, and the romance began. Gail and Dick married in August of 1964, moved to North Plainfield, NJ and started their family. For several years she was able to stay home and raise their three children. Gail again entered the workplace as a secretary in a local law firm. From there she went on to work for AT&T where she honed her writing and computer skills as an editor. She retired from AT&T after more than 20 years of employment.
Gail was extremely active in her community, churches, school district, and children’s activities. She spent many years as a member of the North Plainfield Junior Women’s Club. Throughout her life, she was a member of Liberty Corner Presbyterian Church, Watchung Avenue Presbyterian Church in North Plainfield, and the First Presbyterian Church of Bethlehem. At church, she was devoted to learning and teaching lessons of the Bible. She was a proud member of Presbyterian Women, holding various roles in and representing each of the churches she attended at conventions.
Her passion for music was evident in all parts of her life, most especially at church. She was a lifelong member of the chancel choirs, conducted various youth choirs, was a substitute organist, and began and directed the bell choir at WAPC. Gail and Dick had a church family and were very active in the Couples Club and their dear friends and gatherings of “The Birthday Group.”
Throughout her children’s youth, she was a mom taxi, #1 fan, and fundraiser to their sporting events, practices, rehearsals, concerts, marching band competitions, Girls Scouts, Boy Scouts, Youth Group, Swim Club and so much more. She was an officer and active in the NPHS Band Parents and had a blast at each home football game “slinging hot dogs and French fries” in the snack stand. She participated in the selection committee of Band Patents Scholarships and even tutored aspiring musicians in writing English papers for successful college entrance.
Gail was a piano and pipe organ student from a young age. From this, she developed her love and joy of music, in all aspects, as it was interwoven throughout her life. Her favorites were anything classical, instrumental, brass, big band, marching band, organ, all choir music, and LOUD!! The louder, the better! If an organ was playing she would stay, “Pull out all the stops and let that organ go!” Her other hobbies and interests included sewing, crocheting, and quilting. She was fascinated by the genealogy of not only her own family but of everyone she met. Gail spent countless hours researching, reading, and visiting homesteads, towns, historical societies, Ancestry.com, and other internet sites gathering information about her family. She loved history and made sure there was a historical and educational side trip on most family vacations.
Gail loved antiques and could tell you a complete history of each piece she had in her home. She loved flowers and always had a garden from which she could cut fresh flowers to display or give away. She was very successful in growing stellar Orchids and African Violets.
With their children, Gail and Dick spent their summer vacations full of laughter, games, swimming, and relaxation at Lake Sunapee, NH. On the way, Gail and Dick would stop in Massachusetts to see the McTague family for the annual antics and laughter. In 1990, they were able to purchase their own vacation home on Lake Wallenpaupack in the Poconos. Here they enjoyed their boat and many summers of “Lake Life” while they entertained and made memories with their children, grandchildren, friends, and neighbors.
Gail was predeceased by her husband of almost 50 years, Richard (Dick) McKenna, her son Douglas McKenna, parents Norman and Evelyn Looker, and her brother John Looker.
In 2015, she moved to Kirkland Village in Bethlehem, PA where she lived independently until her death. Again, she immersed herself in activity by directing the Joyful Singers and submitting written stories for the community newsletter. She was well loved and cared for at Kirkland through many difficult and challenging years both physically and with poor health. Her family is forever comforted and grateful for the care and attention she received from Kirkland during her decline.
Gail is survived by her daughters, Joanna Bartholomew (David) of Sellersville, PA, and Jennifer Peterson (Gary) of Flemington, NJ. She is also survived by her two grandchildren, David Bartholomew, III, and Alexandra (Allie) Bartholomew.
Family and friends are welcome to attend on Tuesday, September 26th:
Visitation- 9:30 a.m.-11:00 a.m.
Funeral Service- 11:00 a.m.
Burial will be at the conclusion of the service in the graveyard.
Liberty Corner Presbyterian Church
45 Church Street
Liberty Corner, NJ 07938
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that memorial donations be made to the following:
NPHS Alumni Association
C/O The Richard and Gail McKenna Scholarship Fund
34 Wilson Avenue, North Plainfield, NJ 07060
Please note that if you are donating by check, please address checks to the attention of the "NPHS Alumni Association."
Visitation at Liberty Corner Presbyterian Church
We, the Higgins family, for over 135 years and four generations, have been privileged to serve the families and the community as a whole with professional service and personal attention.
752 Mountain Blvd
Watchung, NJ 07069
Steve Szczubelek, Manager