This week’s Q&A feature is FISH volunteer Genny Gray. A mother of five, basket-maker and an avid crossword puzzler, Genny sent the Islander her answers all the way from Norway where she is accompanying her husband for the next three months. (Look for Genny’s travel stories and photos in future issues of the Islander)
Where are you from?
I am a native Californian. I grew up in Marin County, across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco. I went to college at the University of California at Davis and prepared to teach grammar school.
What is your profession?
I taught fourth grade for only one-and-a-half years and then started my full-time job as wife and mother.
What brought you to the islands?
My husband visited Sanibel with a colleague who had a time share here. He said that he thought I would love it and hoped I could go sometime too. It took a few years for that to work out, but when we did come I discovered he was right — I did love it! Even though it rained the entire week I was there, I knew it was the place for us. We bought a condo within a year and built our house within three years of that. My husband is still working full-time, so we are not exactly year-round residents, but I spend about 10 months of the year on Sanibel.
What's your family like?
Our four daughters and one son live in five different states so I don’t get to spend as much time with any of them as I would like. The computer is great because it makes it much easier for us all to keep in touch. My husband and I were lucky enough to have our family (five children, four spouses and three grandchildren) with us in Sanibel over the Fourth of July to celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary.
Why did you become a volunteer for FISH? What kinds of things do you do for FISH?
I volunteered for FISH when I knew I would be living primarily on Sanibel. I knew several people who were involved with FISH, and I liked what I heard about the work they were doing. I volunteer in the Walk-In Center. I handle calls requesting rides, equipment and information and find volunteers to fill the need and I also drive people to doctors appointments. This summer I helped to maintain the Food Pantry.
What do you like most about being a FISH volunteer?
I enjoy being part of an effort to make people’s lives a little easier. I enjoy meeting other volunteers and working with them and I love the way the Sanibel community supports FISH and its work.
In your spare time, what do you like to do?
I am a basket maker. I like to travel, and enjoy seeing new places and taking pictures — but I am always happy to come back across the causeway to Sanibel. I am active at our church (St. Isabel’s), an avid reader and I like to correspond with friends and family.
What's something people might be surprised to learn about you?
I do the daily New York Times crossword puzzles in ink!
If you could have dinner with anyone living or dead, who would it be and why?
I love the work of the author Madeline L’Engel. Her non-fiction describes her faith journey and her interest in many aspects of human relationships. Her fiction is imaginative and captures a spirit of adventure without disregarding reality. I would have loved meeting her.
We hear you're currently in Norway — what's it like? Do you miss Sanibel?
My husband is a professor in environmental engineering and is working for three months as a Fulbright Scholar at the University in Bergen. We have been here three previous times for shorter stays, and I have come to feel at home in the city. It is a beautiful place. We love walking out to the fjord each evening to see the sun setting over the water. The light on the surrounding mountains constantly changes with the sun, clouds and rain. We are now losing about five minutes of light each day as fall begins. We are living in a house that was built in 1850 with a chimney dating from the 1600s. Very interesting! I always miss Sanibel — even when I just go to Ft. Myers!
Who or what inspires you?
People who deal with hardships and challenges with a smile and a positive attitude are the most inspiring people to me. Sometimes I am amazed at how people are able to get through loss and tragedy and remain engaged in life. It makes me reevaluate what I think are my challenges and how I deal with them. I am also inspired by my family and friends and their love and support... and by getting to live in a beautiful place like Sanibel.
Genny Gray in Norway