On January 2, 2022, after a courageous and quick battle with cancer, Gail Smalls, made her heavenly transition. She was surrounded by an abundance of love and a lullaby of comforting words from her children. She was 71 years old.
A lifelong Harlem native, Gail spent her time on earth being the epitome of love. The absolute best Mother, Grandmother, Sister and Friend that anyone could ever ask for. If there was one thing about Gail, she loved big and she loved hard. She took so much pride in loving and caring for not only her biological family, but for those who she adopted along the way. Gail’s door was always open. Whether you needed a place to stay for the night or a place to stay until you got back on your feet, you could count on Gail to welcome you with open arms.
Gail was born on August 21, 1950 to the late Samuel and Pearl Smalls. She grew up in the Martin Luther King Housing Development and remained a resident there till her last day. She was educated by the New York City public school system and graduated from Julia Richard High School. Her innate love of caring for people lead her to enroll in nursing school, where she became a Licensed Practical Nurse. She started her nursing career working for The Hospital for Joint Disease. She cared for and treated people struggling with drug addiction, later transferring to the pediatric unit. Wanting a more stable work schedule, so that she could be there for her 3 children, Gail joined the Martin Luther King House’s Head Start program as their nurse. Even though she was hired as the nurse, Gail wore several hats during her time there. She was a family counselor, boy scout leader and organized free meals for children during the summer. Any way that she could be of service, she was willing and able, however; no matter what she did, her love for nursing stayed strong. She later joined the Terence Cardinal Cooke Nursing home, where she worked until she retired. Wanting a sense of community Gail became a member of the Eastern Stars and later found her way to the Martin Luther King House’s Senior Center, where she was voted in as Vice President.
Nothing was more important to Gail than family. As a single mother, she poured every ounce of her love, sweat and tears into providing for her 3 children. She instilled in them a strong sense of self and rich core values. If you ever wanted to see her beam, just ask about her grandchildren. She loved to brag about every last one of them. You knew any and everything about these children that you never met. Another thing that made Gail beam was shopping. She just absolutely loved to shop. She knew the layout of every Walmart, Costco’s, Target and Sam’s Club. She loved telling you what she bought and what a great deal she bought for it.
Gail had an extensive movie collection; one that you could shop from as if it were a Blockbuster. She enjoyed a good a good comedy, sci- fi or western, but would kick you out if you tried to put on anything horror. Gail took pride in curating the most beautiful easter baskets for her grand and great grandchildren, just as much as she did making her world famous Macaroni and Cheese. She wasn’t a big fan of cooking, but when she did, news spread like wild fire. “Gail’s making fish and grits”, “ Gail’s making okra soup”, “Gail’s making Lima Beans and pig tails.” And the people came running, because her food was seasoned with the perfect blend of Lawry’s and Love. If she wasn’t at home or out shopping you would find her at the senior center, taking classes like Tai Chi, jewelry making and teaching others how to play sudoku.
To know Gail was to know love. To be loved by her was to experience a love like no other. Her legacy of love and service will live on for eternity.
Gail is survived by her loving and devoted Three children: Tijuana Young (Damon), Sharod Smalls, Sr. (Linda), Jessica Smalls-Langston (Brian); Eight Grand Children: Tiffany, T’nai, Chaz, Sharod Jr., Shalyn, Devin, Shanai and Christopher; Two Great-Grand Children: Asha and Arya; Brother: Samuel Smalls, Jr. (Jean); Five Nephews: Darrell, Vernon, Terrance, Shartik, Welton Jr.; Two Nieces: Michelle and Ashley. Preceded by her adopted Mother, Dorothy Smashum, Brother Welton Smalls, Sr. and Two Sisters: Veronica Green and Betty Jean Palmer. In addition to a host of grand nieces and nephews, cousins, godchildren, adopted children and friends.