Gail See, a former bookseller who was a major player in the Twin Cities book world for decades, died in her suburban Minneapolis home on July 15 at the age of 94 after a brief illness. See, who for more than a decade owned the Bookcase in suburban Wayzata that she sold in the early '90s to Peggy Burnet, was also active in the book world on a national level. She served as the American Booksellers Association board president from 1984-1986 and also served on the board of the National Center for the Book at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.

Closer to home, See played a pivotal role in conceptualizing in 1983 the Minnesota Center for the Book Arts that opened its doors in 1985, and about 15 years later, Open Book, the building complex on the edge of downtown Minneapolis dedicated to the literary arts. In fact, according to a 2016 oral interview conducted by the MCBA with See, the staircase in Open Book leading from the main floor to the second floor that looks like pages in a book is named the Gail See Staircase, in recognition of her commitment to MCBA and to Open Book. Besides serving on the MCBA and Open Book boards, including a stint as MCBA’s board chair in 1987-88, See served on The Loft and Graywolf Press boards. She also was one of the founding publishers with David Unowsky of Ruminator Press, which launched in 1994 and published books for the next decade.

In 1999, See received the Kay Sexton Award for her significant contributions to Minnesota's literary community.

Jocelyn Hale, executive director of The Loft from 2007-2015 told PW, "Gail bought an independent bookstore in Wayzata and soon became a leader in the field as president of the ABA board. Her passion, skills and knowledge of the literary arts helped build MCBA, Open Book, The Loft, and Graywolf. She was also deeply committed to libraries. She lived an engaged and vibrant life until the very end."

In an email to PW, Oren Teicher, the former CEO of the ABA, noted: "I had the privilege of working closely with Gail for a very long time. She was an extraordinarily accomplished bookseller; and, a real force for good in the Twin Cities and beyond. She served ABA incredibly well; she helped us launch ABFFE back in the early 1990s, and was the force behind Minneapolis' Open Book. She was very helpful to us when we did the Winter Institute in Minneapolis in 2017. Gail was always thoughtful and provided invaluable advice to me over many, many years. She was also a very fast power walker; you needed every bit of energy to go for a walk with Gail."

Graywolf Press’s recently retired publisher Fiona McCrae stated in a release, “All of us who worked with Gail See over the years loved her natural radiance coupled with a fierce loyalty and commitment to books, ideas, and the extended literary community. She was a forceful, effective board member and supporter to many local organizations, from the Loft to MCBA." Noting that See served two stints on the Graywolf board, McCrae recalled that during her 28-year tenure as publisher, See headed many committees, as well as served as chair of the board and on the press's national council. "She remained enthusiastically involved as a national council member until her last days," McCrae said. "Gail counted her blessings vociferously, often expressing her gratitude for her friendships. But the generous spirit that she showered on us all was a gift that she could never measure.”

This story has been updated with more information.