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How 'bout the Queen of Memories?

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How 'bout the Queen of Memories?

If you thought Velma, Queen of Fun was interesting, wait ‘til you meet her alter ego, Clark Fork’s Gail Fendley

   How many people do you know have played ultimate Frisbee? What local radio personality might have done that? Have you guessed Velma, Queen of Fun?

   Gail Fendley grew up in Atlanta Ga., which explains her gentle Georgia accent. Gail is a giver; she gives fun to people, she gives to her community, and she wants to give a big thank you to all her listeners on Sunday KPND FM. That’s right Gail and Velma are the same person.

   As a matter of fact radio is down the list of careers for her. Gail’s first career in Georgia was as a gardener. We aren’t talking an ordinary gardener, of course,  but an interior plantscaper. She owned a company that arranged the plants and flowers in large office buildings. One of her buildings was the Red Cross Office Building. The design and maintenance of all the plants in the building was her responsibility. Her business also did the gardening for many wealthy homes in the Atlanta area. “Both my grandmothers were gardeners,” Gail explained of the passion for plants she retains to this day.

   Music has played an important part of Gail’s life since childhood. In her early teens she wanted to see all the top name concerts that came to town. By getting a job as an usher she was able to get in free. There was a catch however. In order to see all the ”good stuff” she had to work the concerts she wouldn’t go to ordinarily. So she saw the symphony, jazz shows and more. This only served to expand her interest in music.

   One night she was dropped off to usher for an Andy Williams concert. Right after her mom drove away, 15-year-old Gail found out she didn’t have to work. So with some friends, who also didn’t have to work, she hiked up town to the Ritz to see whom they might see. Sure enough they ran into Andy and his entourage. They got a chance to talk to him and told him they were supposed to work his show but were told at the last minute not to. Of course they had no way home so they were stuck down town. Williams had them sit down in the lobby while he went up and changed. About 20 minutes later Gail, her friends and Williams were in his limo heading to the concert hall. The limo dropped them at the back door where they were taken to a place in the wings of the stage. Andy made sure they had chairs and sodas while they watched the show from the side of the stage.

   When Gail was in her early 20s she started playing ultimate Frisbee. The objective was to get the Frisbee to your team’s goal without running with it. It was played on a field similar to a soccer field. The game requires a lot of sprinting and is a “no-contact” sport. Gail says her team was “a real kick a__ team, we had some real gnarly women on our team.” The heat and humidity of Atlanta and the other southern towns they played in was oppressive, but these women could still win. It was on one of these trips that Gail was dubbed Velma. To escape the heat between games the team was in a gift shop looking at nametags. Each girl was given a tag chosen by the rest of the team Gail became Velma.

   By the early 80s Atlanta was just getting too big. The west was calling and on a trip she discovered Durango Colorado.

   This was the start of a second career. Purgatory Ski area was hiring and free ski passes were attractive so guess where she worked? During the off-season there was some gardening to be done at the ski area but soon she got the job doing group sales. Arranging corporate getaways was a big part of the job. She also started organizing special event. Putting together a music fest, and a brew fest are a couple of the events started under her guidance.

   One of her goals in moving west was to go down the Colorado River. During her time in Colorado she was able to make three trips down the river that runs through the Grand Canyon. All the trips were made in the fall after the main tourist season was over. She remembers fondly being removed from money, cars, and radio.

   While in Durango a girl Gail worked with did a radio show. She was going to quit the show to have a baby and suggested Gail replace her. Gail was apprehensive at first but another friend named Kari said she would team with her. Gail went on with the name her Frisbee team mates had given her- Velma. Kari went on with the name Devona and they became The Velma and Devona Show at KDUR.

   Once, when discussing educational degrees- BS, BA etc-  someone said they knew Velma’s degree it was QOF, and then explained QOF stood for Queen of Fun. So Velma, Queen of Fun, was born. Gail even used the title on correspondence with the job in group sales at Purgatory.

  After a few years in Colorado, several spent at the eight thousand foot level in a cabin with her husband, Scott, they took a trip to Idaho. One of her husband’s fellow workers, when hearing they were going to Coeur d’Alene said, “go 40 miles north to Sandpoint, that’s where I’m from.” This was supposed to be a camping trip but when they got to Idaho all it did was rain so they found an inexpensive room in Sandpoint.

   They were able to see past the rain, however, and see the wonders of North Idaho. It just so happened Schweitzer needed a special events/ group sales director so Gail applied. She got the job. When looking for a place to live they literally followed a rainbow and discovered Clark Fork They both fell in love with the town, found a house and bought it.

   Again Gail was able to create fun and fun memories for people. This is her kind of fun so her new job and new home-  even the commute to and from her beloved Clark Fork-  were exciting.

   Right away she became active in the Sandpoint / Clark Fork communities. She has served as a board member of the Panida, a facility she is very proud of. Gail is always quick to point out the Panida is community owned and operated. She has been a part of the Kinderhaven Telethon and is a volunteer for the Rock Creek Alliance.

   Part of her job at Schweitzer was the radio update each day. By doing the updates she met many of the people at KPND. Ray Allen needed a sidekick for the KPND Ski Party so Gail (Velma) stepped in. It was not long before Velma was on with Scott Moulton on Wednesday nights. When Scott passed on she continued to do promotions for the radio. Finally an opening came for the 2 to 6 slot on Sunday.

   One organization close to Gail’s heart is the Angels over Sandpoint. She says they are, “really the angels,” and the group strives to fulfill the role they believe those people who have passed on would have filled. The Angels formed in memory of Kathy Pellend, who died in a traffic accident five years ago. They have placed Kathy’s bench under the bucket tree on Dog Beach, and have put together several fundraisers for various Sandpoint charities. A recent event the Angles did was the Jim Lippi Roast; not only was it a fundraiser, it was also a thank you to Jim for all his community service. In the past they have hosted a dance in the spring and the fall. But this year the Bearly There auction is on the weekend they usually use. The Angels are supporters of Bearly There so are thinking of, maybe, doing a New Years Bash.

   Gail and a friend made the bear that is on display in front of the Panida as part of the Bearly There arts event. His name is Rascal and he’s made entirely of north Idaho Earth. The mosaic on his legs is another skill of Gail’s and will soon be on furniture she will create.

   Gail Fendley, or Velma, Queen of Fun, will continue to “create fun memories for people,” and the Sandpoint / Clark Fork area will be the benefactor. Just as one might expect, Gail wanted to be sure her audience got the word of how much she appreciated them and to say thanks to all the wonderful folks that listen to her and give her positive feedback.

    Southern sass, gardening maven, artist, inveterate recycler, radio personality, community supporter and the voice that growls, “Hey, it’s Velma, Queen of Fun!” over the FM airwaves– all rolled up into one package that loves to have fun.

   When the Queen of Fun isn’t creating fun memories for us, look for her at Finan McDonalds on First Avenue or at Alpine Shop on Church St. And if she’s not at either of those places, she can probably be found tooling around town on her three-wheeler, or gardening at the end of the rainbow in and around her home in Clark Fork.

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Author info

Ernie Hawks Ernie Hawks is a former theater director who has branched into the creative fields of writing and photography. He lives in a cabin in Athol with his lovely wife Linda, and feeds the birds in his spare time.

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