“You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.” ― Mae West
The industry lost a dear friend this past weekend. Gayle McCormick O’Connor. She wore several hats over the more than 40 years she contributed to the legal industry, from law librarian to paralegal to marketing strategist and consultant to the stars. She was one of the most outgoing, energetic, and experienced people in our industry.
Craig Ball said she lights up a room. Doug Austin posted that Gayle was one of the nicest people he’s ever known. And Bob Ambrogi wrote that Gayle was warm and thoughtful and vivacious. She is all that and more. Together with her husband Tom, who is also a dear friend and an ACEDS Advisory Board Member, they were one of the power couples of the industry.
Gayle’s unexpected passing shocked and saddened us, and it strikes us at ACEDS that as devastating as it is, this industry has a unique way of coalescing around good and sad times and finding the joy. So, we remember and memorialize a few thoughts about Gayle here.
How We Met
Mike: I first met Gayle years ago at an ABA Tech Show in Chicago. She and her husband Tom were regular attendees. And they usually made it to Fest in Chicago, too. Anyone in the know will recall they loved the train ride alongside the Mississippi from New Orleans to Chicago, a 20-hour haul. At breakfast in Chicago, the two regaled the simple beauty of the trip. It was clear to me they enjoyed each other’s company. They would tell me stories of the trip and the stops they made along the way. But before long our conversations always turned to New Orleans and usually to Jazz Fest and to the annual inquiry: “When are you coming to New Orleans?” And then we’d reminisce about bands we’d seen and the classic rock of the 60s and 70s.
Maribel: Gayle and I met at ILTA several years ago, by chance, randomly, in a main area as we were walking to our next session. Gayle spotted me and smiled, and I did same. She ran over to me and immediately complimented me on my 5-inch heels. Gayle also had on heels and an amazing outfit. We immediately became friends, talking shoes, clothes, and of course, marketing. Later that evening, at a social event, we both realized that our other common connection besides shoes was her husband, Tom, who I had known for quite some time. Every time after that first meeting, we would see each other at a conference and run to each other with big smiles and lots to chatter. Tom would spot me at a conference and say “Gayle is shopping” or “She’s over at the booth” or some other place knowing that I would run to find her. If I was on a dance floor at ILTA or Fest, Gayle would soon be by my side in her spiky boots or heels and me in mine, and we’d dance for hours.
What most may not know is that Gayle and I spoke quite often. Almost weekly, we would exchange notes or texts or a quick catch up call that always ended with a “love ya.” When my father passed, she was there for me, constantly checking in. She shared stories of her mothers with me and of plans that her and Tom would have. When she landed her role at EDT, she couldn’t contain the news and sent me a note right away. We celebrated over the phone.
Gayle and Tom would share stories of Jazz Fest and invite me down to visit. This past year I had planned to visit them both but of course it wasn’t meant to be.
Ari: I have known Tom and Gayle for many years, but was fortunate to really get to know Gayle over the past seven months on the Virtual Lunch. We saw each other on Zoom regularly during over 100 discussions throughout the pandemic. She was often the first or second attendee so she always occupied the square next to mine. She was a true original, with a style, spirit, and smile that brightened up our world.
How We Will Remember Her
Mike: I will remember Gayle as a powerful tour de force in our industry. Always with a smile and helpful advice. Never with an agenda and always open and welcoming no matter who or where. Quirky, but only in the very best of ways, she did indeed light up a room, and when you met her you knew why and how. She spoke her mind with an endearing honesty that was refreshing. She just had a good soul and a warm heart. And the biggest smile in the industry. That’s perhaps what I’ll remember most—walking across some sidewalk in front (or behind) some hotel to grab a quick smoke between sessions and seeing Gayle across the way –smiling, with open arms, like I hadn’t seen her at Breakfast. I’m thankful to know her and now even more sad now that I never made it to New Orleans. Tom, I promise, I’ll get there.
Maribel: I will remember Gayle as beautiful and youthful. She was full of life and love with a spiritual aura that grew and grew as she entered a room and engaged with everyone around her. An aura that you couldn’t avoid because it would engulf you and fill you with her energy and happiness. And I’ll honor Gayle by continuing to wear high heels and dancing the night away during every conference. I’ll greet everyone with as big a smile as Gayle would, and I’ll sing “Happy Birthday” to each of our mutual friends so that we all know she is always with us. And I’ll finally make that trip to Jazz Fest and dance the night away there, too, remembering my beautiful friend.
Ari: I will miss her laugh, personality, and generous presence. She was a wonderful member and supporter of both the e-discovery and Virtual Lunch communities, and I am so grateful for the many opportunities I had to learn from and collaborate with her.
Rest in peace, Gayle. We miss you already.
Mike, Maribel and Ari
“You’ve gotta dance like there’s nobody watching, Love like you’ll never be hurt, Sing like there’s nobody listening, And live like it’s heaven on earth.” ― William W. Purkey