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Published: Saturday, 2/20/2010

Sales leader an activist for research into cancer

BY MARK ZABORNEY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Gretchen Gotthart Skeldon, 47, a sales leader and manager for Libbey Inc. who was an activist for breast cancer research, died Wednesday at Hospice of Northwest Ohio, South Detroit Avenue, from complications of the disease.

"She did not want to be defined by cancer," her sister Casey Schreiner said. "She wanted to live as fully and as beautifully and as gracefully as she could, to live her life in spite of it and have a full life."

She learned she had breast cancer in the mid-1990s. In the years after, she married and had a daughter, Lily, now 5 - though doctors said chemotherapy would make pregnancy impossible - and advanced in her career.

During her first remission, she began to offer support to those who found out they had breast cancer. She also gave talks about breast cancer at events.

"That was just her nature - to give," her sister said. "I think she just wanted to help other women in her situation."

She grew active in Susan G. Komen for the Cure, in part because she was appreciative of the money raised to research the disease and develop targeted treatments, her husband, Phil, said.

"She felt she had to do her part to advance the studies because those studies kept her alive," her husband said. The 2003 Northwest Ohio Race for the Cure was named for her.

"This event is the most inspiring thing for a survivor," Mrs. Skeldon told The Blade at the 2006 race.

Mrs. Skeldon was retail national sales manager for Libbey, the Toledo glass and tableware maker where she'd worked since 1987. She was in charge of key accounts and led a team of retail territory managers.

"Few people can be as much of a positive influence as she has been on this company, not only professionally, but perhaps more so personally," said John Meier, Libbey chairman and chief executive officer. "She was a beacon for all of us."

She was hired as a sales person and for several years, lived in Minneapolis and Seattle, selling Libbey products to restaurants and hotels. She was recognized as a leader in sales.

"She was never about the making the sale," her husband said. "She was about meeting people and making people feel better about themselves. Because of that attitude, the sales came. That was her direction in life - to make people happy."

She was born Aug. 24, 1962, the daughter of Martha and Bill Gotthart, and grew up in West Toledo. She was a graduate of Central Catholic High School and received a business degree from the University of Toledo.

As a teenager, she joined her mother in the choir of Blessed Sacrament Church. She appeared in church stage productions. At the Toledo Repertoire Theatre, she was a lead in the musical Guys and Dolls and appeared in A Christmas Carol with her husband.

She was a Make-A-Wish Foundation volunteer.

Surviving are her husband, Phil, whom she married Nov. 25, 2000; daughter, Lilian; sisters, Casey Schreiner and Missy Holden, and brother, Bill Gotthart.

As she requested, her body was donated to the UT Medical Center, formerly the Medical College of Ohio.

The family will receive friends from 4 to 8 p.m. today and 2 to 8 p.m. tomorrow at the Coyle Funeral Home, with a recitation of the Rosary at 7 p.m. tomorrow in the mortuary. Memorial services will be at 11 a.m. Monday in Blessed Sacrament Church.

The family suggests tributes to Susan G. Komen For the Cure, the Make-A-Wish Foundation, or the Blessed Sacrament School building fund.

Contact Mark Zaborney at:

mzaborney@theblade.com

or 419-724-6182.



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