Obituary of Gretchen U Kingsbury
Gretchen Umland Kingsbury was born August 2, 1933, in Cambridge, MA. Her childhood was spent in Burlingame, CA as the oldest of three children of Eugene and Pauline (Sawyer) Umland. She raised her own five children in Sutter Creek where she lived for 57 years. She died peacefully on January 1, 2024, with family and friends by her side.
Gretchen’s life is a story of learning, initiative, and service. Her community spirit and deep integrity touched countless people. Gretchen pursued her interests wherever they led, and she encouraged others to do the same. She had a passion for learning practical skills. Family trips were punctuated by spontaneous stops to watch people make things, whether in factories or fields. Everything she learned; she shared as a teacher.
She taught at Jackson Sr Elementary/Jr High from late 1960s through mid-1980s, specializing in PE and later establishing the Gifted and Talented Education program. After retirement she taught home-bound students and volunteered as a Court-Appointed Special Advocate (CASA). When her family was young, she learned and taught countless skills to youth in 4-H, Scouts, and Sunday school. She was passionate about girls’ and woman’s’ sports and worked tirelessly for equal access, co-founding the Amador County girls’ softball league in 1972 and later serving as director of referees for the youth soccer league.
In the 1980s and 1990s she honed her skills in home improvement by rehabilitating several properties that she maintained as rentals. She earned her contractor’s license and offered her services as Gretchen’s Papering and Painting, to the delight of many happy customers.
Dogs, horses, and even cats were her special companions throughout life, and she was rarely seen without a dog at her side. She helped dogs to become certified Canine Companions and together they visited area hospitals. She taught First-Aid/CPR for American Red Cross, drove the Cancer Van, installed Lifeline Service in homes, and led Active Aging classes in Sutter Creek. She was a founding member and first president of the local chapter of the American Association of University Women, and she volunteered at Sutter Creek Visitors Center.
When her children had grown, she longed to hear stories of their adventures and relished opportunities to visit them. She also traveled with close friends on tours of Alaska, Canada, Kenya, Mexico, and Panama.
Gretchen is survived by her five children: Karen (Michael Jacques), Diana, Hale (Carla), Jan, and Tom (Erica Tjepkes); and five grandchildren Caitlyn (Michael Gomez), Jacob, Paula, Henry, and Sage. She is preceded by her parents, siblings Peter Umland and Diana (Bos) Swensen, and son-in-law Erron Evans.
Throughout her life, Gretchen was a driving force in building and sustaining her community, working to connect people and find harmony. In her last years, devoted friends and caregivers completed the circle, bringing to her the vital sense of community that gave her strength and hope. Her family extends their heartfelt thanks to every person–and animal–who brought love and companionship to her side. We especially thank Mom’s team of caregivers and nurse Brenda Hudson, whose steadfast and professional care over many years enabled our mom to realize her wish of living at home to the end of her life.
A public celebration of Gretchen’s rich life will be held at 2 p.m. on Saturday, February 10, 2024, in the social hall of Creekside Methodist Church. Her ashes will be scattered separately in a private ceremony. In lieu of flowers, the family encourages donations to the Kingsbury Family Community Grant Fund at the Amador Community Foundation, www.amadorcommunityfoundation.org.To plant a beautiful memorial tree in memory of Gretchen Kingsbury, please visit our Tree Store