Anna Gail Gentile died Friday, April 19, 2019, in Napa, at home, surrounded by family. She was 93 years old.
Anna Gail was born January 4, 1926, in Russellville, Arkansas, to parents Celeste and Robert Ragsdale. She was born 15 minutes after her sister, Nancy; the identical twins were close companions throughout their lives. Following in the footsteps of their mother, a public health nurse, both sisters attended Vanderbilt University in Tennessee and obtained nursing degrees in 1947.
Anna Gail entered the Air Force Nurse Corps on March 5, 1951, and was stationed at Turner Air Force Base in Albany, Ga. There she met Air Force captain and West Point graduate Thomas Corbett Langstaff of Paducah, Ky. They married November 28, 1952, in Little Rock, Ark., at the home of Anna’s parents. Tom was stationed at Wethersfield, Essex, U.K., which at that time was a U.S. Air Force base.
Anna Gail was discharged from the Air Force on March 7, 1953, having achieved the rank of First Lieutenant, and joined Tom in England. When he died on a training mission that November, Anna Gail was pregnant with their daughter, Celeste Adine Langstaff, born in 1954. Mother and daughter lived with family in Little Rock, and Anna Gail briefly served as a nurse instructor, which inspired her to pursue teaching full-time.
In 1961, Anna Gail and Celeste moved to Los Angeles, where Anna Gail’s sister, Nancy, was living, and Anna Gail earned her master’s degree from the University of California at Los Angeles in 1963. She obtained a post as a nursing instructor in the associate degree program at Chaffey College in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., where she worked for 16 years.
Shortly after starting her job at Chaffey, she met Louis (“Lou”) Gentile, who was teaching business law, at a faculty meeting. The couple married July 30, 1965. Anna Gail became step-mother to Lou’s four children: grown son Bob and daughter Ellen, and younger daughters Linda and Elizabeth. When Ellen and Bob married and each had two children of their own in the 1970s, Anna Gail delighted in her grandchildren and played an active role in their lives.
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Lou retired from Chaffey in 1979, and he and Anna Gail moved north to Napa, where Nancy was living with her daughter. Anna Gail worked at Napa Valley College as a nursing instructor until her retirement in 1986. After Lou died in 1998, Anna Gail and Nancy lived together in Napa.
Energetic, dedicated, and public-spirited, Anna Gail became an active community volunteer in the years following her retirement. She volunteered at Olé Health (then Clinic Olé) as a pediatric nurse from 1987 to 1989. As a “founding mother” of the Napaolano Sexual Assault Response Team (SART), Anna Gail was the organization’s first sexual assault nurse examiner from 1991 to 1994 and served on its board of directors until 2005.
Anna Gail walked neighborhoods as a census taker, and together with Nancy served as a volunteer at Copia: The American Center for Wine, Food and the Arts, as well as with Computers For Schools, where she learned to refurbish donated computers for use in local classrooms. Anna Gail also enjoyed traveling with her sister, and the pair went on many camping and kayaking trips as well as Elderhostel tours.
An interest in family history and genealogy led Anna Gail and Nancy to take an active role in the Napa Valley Genealogical and Biographical Society. The sisters undertook extensive research about their mother’s participation in the public health movement in Arkansas in the early 20th century, and the research paper they authored won the Lucille Westbrook Award from the Arkansas Historical Association in 2007.
Anna Gail is survived by her daughter, Celeste, and Celeste’s partner, Bob Bancroft; her sister, Nancy Gilien; her stepson, Bob Gentile, and his wife Barbara; stepdaughters Linda Gentile, Ellen Trester and her husband, Paul, and Elizabeth Gentile-Means and her husband, Jim Means; step-grandchildren Michael Gentile and his family, Michelle Zedlitz and her husband, Trip, and Jeff Trester and his wife, Cinda; nieces Thea Gilien and Adele Gabriel, and Adele’s husband, John; nephew Bob Ragsdale and his wife, Becky; as well as great-grandchildren and great-nephews and nieces, and numerous family friends, past colleagues, and fellow volunteers.
A celebration of Anna Gail’s life will be held Saturday, June 22, 2019, at 1 p.m. at Embassy Suites Hotel, 1075 California Blvd., Napa, Calif. Those who wish to honor Anna Gail with a memorial donation may contribute to causes she supported, including SANE/SART, Olé Health, and Médecins Sans Frontières.