Gayla R. (Manuel) Clemons

July 12, 1935 ~ February 3, 2019 (age 83)

It’s not what you gather, but what you scatter that tells what kind of life you have lived. ~ Helen Walton

Gayla Rae Manuel Clemons, 83, of Winona, MN passed away peacefully in the early morning hours on Sunday, February 3, 2019 at St. Mary’s Hospital in Rochester, MN. Gayla was born on July 12, 1935 to Harold and Ione (Sanders) Manuel in Worthington, MN and was the oldest of three children. She grew up in St. Peter, MN and worked in the family’s Ben Franklin store. After high school, she stayed in St. Peter receiving her BA from Gustavus Adolphus College. Gayla received her MA from Eastern Illinois University before beginning her career as a physical education instructor in Faribault, MN. She subsequently taught at the Lake Forest High School, in suburban Chicago, IL for 35 years starting in 1959. A trailblazer, Gayla was the Physical Education Chair until her retirement in 1994 and added the responsibilities of Assistant Athletic Director in 1970, a role then known as the Girls Sports Coordinator.

Gayla, known as “Clem” to her students, was coach, teacher and mentor to many young women and her long career meant that she went on to teach many of her student’s children. At a time when girls sports were in the fledgling state, Gayla advocated, along with the Illinois High School Association and other female leaders, to create the same opportunities for female athletes that had historically only been offered to male athletes. As a result of their efforts and similar efforts made across the country, the federal civil rights law, Title IX, which prohibits discrimination based on gender in education, was passed in 1972. Title IX was the catalyst in breaking down cultural and legal obstacles to create gender equity in opportunity for all women nationwide. Her pioneering spirit lives on still, through the Gayla Clemons Athletic Award, presented annually to a female Lake Forest High School Senior, honoring her outstanding performance as a student athlete and leader personifying commitment and dedication to excellence.

Upon retirement, Gayla moved to Winona, MN to be near family and remained active pursuing her many interests, which included her dogs, the Vikings, gardening, golf and bridge. She organized a book club, bridge club and was part of the Ruskin Study Club, the Winona Art Club and the Winona Women’s Health Auxiliary, helping to start the Fantasy of Trees program in which proceeds go to scholarships for students pursuing health care careers.

Gayla is survived by her sister Sandra (Dick) Pope.; sister-in-law Susan Manuel; her nieces and nephews Kathleen Pope, Lisa Pope, Jody (Eric) Johnson and Jim (Tobi) Manuel; great nieces and nephews Lucy (Adam Gerhardt)Pope, Jon Karl (Megan) Petters, Anna Petters, Karina Johnson, Max Johnson, Susan Manuel and great-great-niece Avery Petters; step-siblings Steve (Linda) Crutchfield, Susan Crutchfield and Sally Rohrback. Her lively spirit and contagious sense of humor will be missed by her family and many friends and her beloved dog, Gracie. She was preceded in death by her parents, step-father Robert Crutchfield and brother Michael Manuel.

A funeral service will be held on Saturday, February 9, 2019 at 3:00 p.m. with visitation starting at 1:30 p.m. at Fawcett Junker Funeral Home, Winona. Interment will be in Woodlawn Cemetery. Memorials may be directed to American Heart Association and/or Winona Women’s Health Auxiliary.

Services entrusted to Fawcett Junker Funeral Home, Winona, MN and Fountain City, WI. Words of sympathy or remembrance may be left at

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