Perhaps all you need to know about Gerri Gamma is summed up by her granddaughters Hailey and Brianna Gamma: “She was so cool.”
“It was always a good time when we were with her,” said Brianna. “And she used to let us drive her red Firebird.”
When they were younger, the girls looked forward to playing dress-up from Gerri’s chest full of fancy 1980s clothes.
“It was our stage,” said Brianna. “She loved fashion and we had real fashion shows.”
Gerri’s cooking — especially her chocolate cake — was legendary, as all her family will tell you.
“I hated coconut, but in her German chocolate cake it was magical,” said Hailey. “She was always baking and cooking. At holidays, she made everything festive.”
Gamma died in February at the age of 88. She is survived by her husband of 68 years, Ray, sons Raymond and Richard Gamma, granddaughters Brianna, Hailey and Tiffany Gamma and a large extended family.
Bob Szilasie, Gerri’s nephew by marriage, called her his “favorite aunt.”
“She had a wonderful extended family and she extended it to me,” said Szilaise.
For years she was a fixture in Santa Clara’s social, political and community sphere, donating her time and energy to causes as varied as the Santa Clara Elks Club to organizing flu vaccine drives at the Senior Center.
She worked on the political campaigns of Gov. George Deukmejian, County Supervisor Rod Diridon Sr., and legendary state senator John Vasconcellos. And she was an active member of innumerable Santa Clara organizations including the Sister Cities Board, the Woman’s Club, the Women’s League, PAL and the O’Connor Health Services Foundation.
Veterans had a special place in her heart and she was a dedicated volunteer to the Santa Clara American Legion Post 419. She was recognized by late Congressman and former U.S. Secretary of Transportation Norm Mineta for her work honoring women who served in Vietnam.
Noreen Brummel Giaretto grew up across the street from the Gammas and met Gerri when Noreen was selling Avon.
“She was a good customer,” recalls Brummel Giaretto. “We just clicked. I had only known her a week and she invited me over for lunch.”
“I met Gerri when I joined the Santa Clara Woman’s Club back in the 80’s,” said Robin Burdick.
“The thing I remember most about her is her unbridled enthusiasm and passion for volunteering for the numerous organizations she supported,” continued Burdick. “She was always there to help out with minor chores or take charge of a project. And she put her own special brand on everything she did.”