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Gail Goltra

Mrs. Peter S. Goltra (Gail A. Wright) passed away peacefully on April 17, 2015, ending a 22-year battle with cancer at the age of 73.


Born to Mr. and Mrs. Frank C. Wright Jr. (Gertrude Aspell), Gail was a woman imbued with a love of helping others and an interest and understanding of the various cultures in our world. In 1945, at the age of three, she moved with her family to Oberursel, near Frankfurt, Germany, where her father, a well-known artist, worked with General Lucius D. Clay in the post-war reconstruction. Their house was across the street from a displaced persons camp and the memories of those with such misfortune stayed with Gail for life, shaping her passion for philanthropy in her later years.


Upon moving back to the United States, Gail spent the remainder of her childhood in Edgartown, MA, and New York, where she graduated from The Chapin School in 1960. Her keen, inquisitive nature led her to fuse her interest in art, born of watching her father, with her youthful knowledge of the greater world, and to become an art historian. She graduated from Brown University in 1964, and afterwards voraciously sought out culture, studying with the noted art historian Julius Held in Vienna, then archeology in Athens, and finally Japanese art and architecture in Kyoto. She even went so far as living in a monastery on the Ise Peninsula to try to understand the Japanese people and their traditions. Her studies were not confined to art history as narrowly defined, and she explored the broader circumstances of her subjects’ lives, discovering, for example, in research for her master’s degree, that beyond his art, her favorite artist, Michelangelo, was also a successful real estate investor at the time of his death, owning 23 vineyards, olive groves and rental properties in the vicinity of Florence.


Back in New York, Gail met and married Peter Goltra of Middleburg, VA, in 1982. Their exit from St. Patrick’s Cathedral following their wedding was a memorable one: As they walked out of the cathedral, they were spontaneously cheered on by tens of thousands of people marching up Fifth Avenue as part of the estimated one million that had gathered in New York that day for the March and Rally for Peace. Peter has said that he was blessed to have been given 32 years with Gail in marriage. In all that time, they had only one argument, which was about his working too late. He quickly realized she was right, apologized, and from then on rarely left the office after 5:30.


Gail was an avid sailor, spending her summers on the water in Edgartown beginning in 1945, and winning the Edgartown Yacht Club Commodore’s Cup in 1960. She was actively interested in the work of the Venerable Order of St. John of Jerusalem at its eye hospital in East Jerusalem, making over 10 trips there and two to the Order’s ophthalmic clinic in Gaza. In 1994 she was made a Dame of the Order by Queen Elizabeth II in recognition of her support and commitment to the organization.


Gail is survived by her husband, Peter; stepsons Tad and Alexis, and their children, Phoebe, Wells, Charlotte and Josie; and her sister, Gill Bentley. A graveside service was held May 23, 2015, in Edgartown.

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