Fay L. Gemmell

January 14, 1921March 22, 2013
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Fay Lincoln Gemmell, 92, of Keene passed away with grace and ease at Genesis HealthCare on March 22, 2013. He was surrounded by his family and died peacefully soon after Hospice Chaplain, Nancy Wood, arrived and gave him a heartfelt, traditional blessing.

Born in Milford, Nebraska on January 14, 1921, to Faye and Iva (Ficke) Gemmell, he grew up on a Nebraska farm where he was deeply affected by the expansiveness and loneliness of the Nebraska prairies. At an early age, his love of learning and his search for universal truths became his life companions. He worked his way through college, graduating with a bachelor’s degree from Nebraska Wesleyan University in Lincoln. He received his master of divinity degree from Boston University School of Theology, and, in midlife, he earned his doctor of ministry degree from Andover Newton Theological School in Newton, Mass.

An ordained United Methodist minister, he served churches in Nebraska, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire for 21 years, the last six being in Keene at Grace United Methodist Church. Fay was the first ecumenical campus minister at Keene State College and worked there from 1963 to 1986. After retiring from the campus ministry that he loved so much, he served as a chaplain for the Cheshire Dartmouth Hitchcock Hospital and for southwestern New Hampshire Hospice. In addition, Fay was a pastoral counselor for 25 years with MAPS Counseling Services. There he was a pioneer in private industry on-site counseling, working three years at Peterborough Ball Bearings and seventeen years at Millipore Corp in Jaffrey. For 26 years, he wrote a weekly column, Proxy Pulpit, which appeared in the Saturday edition of The Keene Sentinel. He wrote of the comings and goings, the ups and downs of everyday life through which he expressed spiritual messages. He challenged his readers to "feel" God rather than be exclusively tied to specific religious beliefs and to embody the spirit of interconnection. His compassionate presence as a community minister helped an enormous number of people through both joyous and tragic times. Fay's tent was big enough to hold everyone. He was all-inclusive, welcoming people of all religious persuasions, people with various social values, the rich and the poor, the young and the old. He was the minister to everyone.

His life was highly influenced by the lives of Abraham Lincoln, Carl Jung, and Martin Luther King. He was a free thinker who thought outside the norm, always questioning, growing and learning. He loved life, and he felt that what truly matters is being caring and doing unto others as you would have them do unto you. Fay’s retirement enabled him to spend more time with his wife of 59 years, Charlotte, and their grown children and grandchildren, and to enjoy his other passions. He was a voracious reader, a poet; a masterful gardener, a world traveler, and a man who loved to sing and laugh. He was always working on a creative project, and he took great delight in his talking African gray parrot, Prince, and his miniature daschund, Madchen. He felt blessed to live in Keene and was often seen witnessing life and connecting with people at his hangouts – Timolean’s, Swanzey Diner, The Pub, and Panera’s . It was always special to go out for breakfast or coffee with Fay. His family feels great joy that he was and will continue to be a part of their lives.

Both his wife, Charlotte, and his son, Jon, predeceased Fay. Survivors include daughter-in-law, Marilyn Gemmell, of Keene; son, Joel Gemmell, and his wife, Carol Resch, of Washington, DC; daughter, Krista Gemmell Harris, and her husband, Brad, of Seattle; daughter, Heather Watterson, and her husband, Kevin, of Keene; son, Mark, and his wife, Jodi Williams, of Minneapolis; brother, Jack Gemmell, and his wife, Lorraine, of Sidney, Nebraska; sister, Phyllis, of Kearney, Nebraska; sister, Carol, of Brule, Nebraska; nine wonderful grandchildren and two adored great grandchildren.

Family and friends are invited to call at the Foley Funeral Home, 49 Court Street, Keene, on Friday, April 5th, from 4 to 7 p.m. A memorial service will be held on Saturday, April 6, at 1:00 p.m. at the United Church of Christ, 23 Central Square, Keene.

Should friends desire, memorial contributions may be sent to the charity of their choice.


  • Visitation Friday, April 5, 2013
  • Memorial Service Saturday, April 6, 2013

Fay L. Gemmell

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April 6, 2013

I always looked up to Fay as a pioneer and as one who was on the growing edge for United Methodists in New Hampshire. He reminded us of what really mattered.
Jim Batten (Concord, NH)

Phylis Manning

April 5, 2013

What wonderful memories reflected in photos... many will miss this wonderful man who dedicated his life to others...
Our hearts go out to you in this difficult time. May happy memories overtake the pain...
Love, Phyl & John Manning

Wayne Worcester

April 5, 2013

Fay Gemmell lived life as art. Those of us who were fortunate enough to know him well and to grow up with his children will never forget him. How could we? He welcomed us as his own, fed us if we were hungry and sheltered us if we were cold. He taught us the importance of acceptance, the meaning of honesty and the true value of friendship. His was a special grace. Like love, it lasts.

Mark Hildebrandt

April 5, 2013

The obituary is wonderfully written and portrays Fay as I knew him. He was a fabulous man and a great neighbor on Wilber Street. I was blessed to have him perform my wedding. I am so glad that I got to know him. And now he's with his beloved, Charlotte.

Blake Richards

April 4, 2013

Reverend Gemmell was a huge part of the Richards' family as long as I can remember. As Fay and I often joked, he married and buried us. His entire family is a blessing to all of us fortunate to have shared his wisdom and love of family, friends and all people who weren't friends YET. Thank you, Fay, for being an integral part of the loves of so many people.
Blake C. Richards III

Lee & Deb McMahon

April 4, 2013

I treasure the more than fifty year relationship that I shared with Fay. It certainly has been humbling to be able to call such a great man my "friend". I personally know no other person, who reached out to...touched AND healed so many. His insights and abilities were extraordinary.
Fay shared in many of my occasions of importance, including marrying my wife, Deborah and I at the Stoddard Church 28 years ago. He also gave the blessing at our children's weddings, and performed funeral services for our parents.
I am sad that Deb and I will not be able to partake in Fay's final farewell, as we are 1700 miles away, however our children, Jennifer, Mark and Tara will be there representing us.
Joel, Mark, Krista and Heather please know that you are in our thoughts and prayers.
With Love, Lee and Deb McMahon

Jon Gagne

April 3, 2013

Our heartflet condolences to the entire Gemmell family. Rev. Gemmell was a man of love and fath and a dear friend to thousands of people. He will be missed by all of us. Our thoughts and prayers are with you all!
Jon and Ginger Gagne (Kingsville, TX)

Penny Van Alstyne

March 30, 2013

Heather - my condolences.

March 29, 2013

March 29,2013

We hold so many wonderful and profound memories of our friendship with Fay beginning in Lawrence,Ma. in the nineteen fifties, continuing at Wanakee, and at Grace UMC in Keene. He was our mentor, counselor, teacher and colleague, but mostly a friend who was always there to help and guide us along our journey.
We send our love to the entire Gemmell family with fond rememberances of our times together especially at Wanakee. We send these greetings from Colorado where we have wintered with our son
Joel and his family. We will return to our home in Maine in early May. We will hold you all in our thoughts on Saturday as you honor and celebrate your dad's life.

Carol and Ed Claus Bayfield,Colorado York Beach, Me.

Raynor R. Smith Sr.

March 29, 2013

Fay was a wonderful minister, a wonderful man and more than that a wonderful friend......what we shared over the years will always be special to me and although I hadn't seen Fay in a few years he made an imprint on my life that will always remain. I am sorry for your loss and I am equally sorry for this world's loss.