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Gail Petersen Harwell


Gail Petersen Harwell, resident of Marin County from 1993 to 2021, passed away peacefully on Tuesday, April 26, 2022, at RiverView Care Center in Crookston, MN, where she had been a resident since October 2021.


She was born October 7, 1940, to Norma and Jerry Petersen at Minette’s Maternity Home in Fertile, MN. Gail was a determined high achiever in high school, which led to a full scholarship at Northwestern University Medill School of Journalism. After earning her Bachelor of Science in 1962, she launched a career as an advertising writer in Chicago. She was named a Vice President of J. Walter Thompson Company Chicago in 1969, where she worked primarily in television, writing for such accounts as Sears dishwashers, Kraft Foods, Sunbeam, and Jovan fragrances. In 1977, she moved to Boston and Arnold & Company; in 1979 to Manhattan and JWT New York; in 1983 to Los Angeles and Evans Advertising; and in 1993 to Marin County in the Bay Area.


Gail met her husband, Richard Sterling Harwell, in 1971 at Great Lakes, IL, at the end of a sailing race. They were separated by geography and circumstances, but fate brought them together again 20 years later, and they were married in 1993 at Concordia Lutheran Church in Fertile, MN.


In 1995, Gail changed careers, becoming an independent editorial consultant in the engineering-construction field. She often worked alongside Sterling writing, editing, formatting, and producing proposals, feasibility studies, and marketing materials for multibillion-dollar construction projects. She worked in Asia, Europe, Australia, and Central America, as well as across the U.S., continuing until her retirement at the age of 73. From that time, Gail and Sterling enjoyed a life of tennis, travel, volunteering, and relaxation overlooking San Francisco Bay. They were members of the Belvedere Tennis Club and the San Francisco Yacht Club. Gail was an avid reader, and she belonged to a local book club for 10 years.


Gail was preceded in death by her husband, R. Sterling Harwell, by her older sister and best friend Marlys Ozga, and by an infant nephew. She is survived by brothers Harold (Candy) of Brookline, MA, and Michael (Carol) of Fertile, MN, and brother-in-law Edward Ozga of Plymouth, MN; nine nieces and nephews; a host of grandnieces and grandnephews; and one great-grandniece.


A memorial service will be held June 11, 2022, at 2:00 p.m. at the Erikson-Vik-Ganje Funeral Home in Fertile, MN. In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to Parkinson’s disease research or Hospice of the Red River Valley.

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