Gayle Eileen Fillman

Gayle Eileen Fillman 1947-2010 Gayle Fillman left us in the early morning on December 14, 2010, to continue her journey of spiritual adventure. Gayle was born on February 21, 1947, in Eureka, CA, to John Louis Fillman Sr. and Delma Alberta Kurth. A graduate of Arcata High, Arcata, CA, and Humboldt State College, Gayle led her softball team to victory as a championship pitcher, but it was her discovery at age 19, that led to her lifelong passion for Aikido and spiritual enlightment. She trained rigorously with Sensei Richard Kahoalii, eventually receiving her black belt. During her tenure as a teacher at Willits High ,Gayle began teaching aikido at the then fledgling Mendocino College. At the urging of her students, she established Ukiah Aikido in 1976, and was chief instructor and owner until her passing. She also operated Willits Aikido Dojo. Additionally, Gayle was employed by Redwood Childen's Services as a consultant and trainer at the time of her passing. Gayle Fillman, as a role model and inspiration to countless people throughout her amazing life, achieved deep respect as a Sensei (teacher) who was both demanding and loving. She opened doors and blazed the path for women in what was then a male dominated martial art. One of her dearest friends, revered teacher, and greatest role models, is a treasure of Japan, Sensei Fukuda, at age 98, the highest ranked woman judo instructor in the world. Gayle's work extended to popular self-defense classes she developed for women to help them learn strategies of awareness and smart choices. Her love and work with children was always a motivating source in her life. She never gave up on a challenge, whether it was a troubled student or rebuilding the engine in her sports car. She never failed in her search for the best in a person and felt it her duty to bring it out. Gayle was a highly sought after instructor in the Aikido world and rose to the rank of Go Dan (5th degree black belt). Sensei Gayle's legacy of Aikido students from beginners to black belt has influenced too many to count. She also taught gymnastics to generations of children and young adults, going to California State Finals several times. Sensei Gayle touched the lives of many people in her community and throughout the world through her unique aikido training and gymnastics coaching. Her zest and spirit inspired her students, her community, and the many organizations she consulted with and she will be missed terribly. She had great love and respect for CoyoteValley Tribal Council, Redwood Children's Services, Tapestry Family Services, and Boys and Girls Club of Ukiah, among many valued communities. She was also past president of the Soroptomist Club of Ukiah. But it was Gayle's gifted ability to use Aikido to restore self-confidence and awareness of personal value to at-risk youth that gave her such tremendous joy most recently. Gayle is survived by her life partner of 23 years, Carol Marrington, her siblings, Ed Shay (Rose), Joy Fillman-Browne (David), ), Doreen Fillman-Bouche (Wes), Dawn Fillman-Barbante (Al), John Fillman, Jr. (Linda), Gary Kearney (Linda), Lynn Casey (Mike), Terry Kearney (Jo), Martin Olson (Jeff Holt). Nieces and nephews: Dan Shay, Kirk Fillman (Devin), Michelle, Andrea & Sean Barbante, John & Quinn Fillman, Caitlin & Jesse Browne, and Katelyn Fillman. Gayle is also survived by numerous, dear cousins, and great nieces and nephews. Friends are invited to a viewing at Eversole Mortuary, Friday, December 17th from 4:00 to 8:00 pm. In lieu of flowers, please make a donation in Gayle Fillman's name to Redwood Children's Services, Boys and Girls Club of Ukiah, or other local youth serving organizations. Friends are invited to a viewing at Eversole Mortuary, Friday, December 17th from 4:00 to 8:00 pm. A celebration of Sensei Gayle's amazing life will be announced at a later date.

Published in Ukiah Daily Journal on Dec. 16, 2010