PENSACOLA ANGEL Gwen Appelquist passed away on Valentine’s Day at Covenant Hospice. Quint Studer said it best about the woman who served as the Director of Charitable Giving of the Studer Foundation, “As always, Gwen and God chose the perfect day for a perfect lady, Valentine’s Day. Gwen role modeled kindness and giving.”
When Gwen Appelquist was five years old, her father took her and her older brother and sister out of class to see their mother one last time. Gwen’s mother was dying. She had been suffering from an illness that left her paralyzed on her left side and bedridden for six months.
“She told me that the Lord was taking her home,” Gwen told me with a slight tremble in her voice and tears in her eyes when I interviewed her in 2008. “She wanted me to always do the right thing, even when it was difficult. She told me to live a good life and be a good girl.”
Those words have stayed with Gwen Appelquist and have guided her to be an inspiration to generations in this community. When the Independent News in 2008 asked its readers to submit names of people who inspire them, Gwen’s name was submitted more than any other.
As a realtor, Gwen was a superstar for nearly 40 years. She was president of the Pensacola Board of Realtors, president of the Florida Association of Realtors’ Women’s Council and a governor of the National Association of Realtors’ Women’s Council.
In 2008, I asked Gwen what was her secret to success. “When I first became a realtor in 1966, I saw a need for someone to take newcomers by the hand,” she said. “I helped my clients get acquainted with Pensacola. I would take them to the schools that their kids would be attending. I paid their utility deposits and brought them lunch on moving day. I made sure that they invested in a good home in a good location.”
In a community so dominated by male leaders, Gwen was selected to be the first female board chairman of the Pensacola Bay Area Chamber of Commerce in 1993.
“It was a real challenge,” she told me. “People asked, ‘How do you get along with all those men?’ I told them, ‘I treat them with respect and expect to be treated with respect in return.’ I never had a problem.”
Gwen loved the Pensacola Pelicans. You could find her at every home game sitting behind home plate cheering on her “boys.” The last time I spoke with her was last December at the Pensacola Children’s Chorus’ “Christmas on the Coast.”
Gwen was sitting on the third row. She was so excited about the news that the Studers may be bringing a Double A, Major League Baseball-affiliated team to Pensacola. She couldn’t wait to see the opening game at the Community Maritime Park, a project that she had supported vigorously in 2005 and 2006 when the park was challenged by Councilman Marty Donovan, Charlie Fairchild and C.C. Elebash.
I hate that she won’t be there to throw out the first pitch in 2012, but I know Gwen will be watching. We all now have a special angel cheering us on.
Gwen Appelquist set a standard for all of us to follow. She will be missed.