Cover photo for Valerie (Kiernan)  Gervais's Obituary
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1950 Valerie 2023

Valerie (Kiernan) Gervais

June 18, 1950 — August 31, 2023

Davenport Crystal Lake

Our beloved Valerie J. Gervais, 73, of Fox River Grove, IL, passed away in Barrington, IL, on August 31st. She was born Valerie Jeanne Kiernan in White Plains, NY, on June 18th, 1950, to Thomas F. Kiernan and Carolyn Mae Higuera (Stroop).

In 1959, she moved to Wilmette, IL, and eventually attended New Trier High School, followed by Barrington Consolidated. Valerie then attended Bucknell University as part of the Class of 1972. At Bucknell she married David Gervais, with whom she had three children, Eric, Michelle, and Mathieu. Valerie and David moved to Illinois in 1979, and later divorced and remained amicable. She met Bill Linnemann and they became inseparable in work and life, as owners of Mission Bay Ski & Bike in Elgin, IL, and in marriage. After retiring, they became snowbirds, wintering in Tucson, AZ and spending summers in Fox River Grove.

While attending Bucknell University, Val was featured in the New York Times for her accomplishment of being the first woman to receive Bucknell's varsity letter for her role in managing and competing with the cross-country team, in the era before Title IX provided equity for women in college athletics. She was described by the Times as "an articulate and gregarious person who enjoys being involved in a variety of activities from art and music to athletics". She was a gifted painter who specialized in watercolor and oil paintings, and a sculptor who was recognized for advances in the use of reinforced concrete for sculpture. Valerie's passion for music was well known by her friends and family. She was a proficient piano player and singer who enjoyed performing all types of music. As a student, she performed Brahms at the White House with her University choral group. However, her true love in music was the Beach Boys, and their harmonic singing resonated for her throughout her life. In her later years, she continued performing choral, folk, oldies, country, and Spanish language music in Tucson with a variety of groups.

Val is well known for her role in managing and owning the Mission Bay Ski & Bike company. An athlete at heart, the business provided a network of contacts and support for her to continue her own training. She was a successful triathlete, converting on her background as a teen lifeguard and runner to reach the top echelon of endurance competition, the Ironman race in Kona, HI. Mission Bay also supported the local triathlon community, through sponsorships and events such as Mrs T’s Chicago triathlon. Mission Bay's good reputation allowed them to expand their operations in Elgin, then further to Dundee and Chicago, and to establish a thriving mail-order business. In retirement, Val and Bill continued participating in local cycling groups as they traveled to visit friends and family around the world.

Her favorite hobby was genealogy, and she spent countless hours researching her Irish and Indigenous Californian roots with her cousin, Shelley Higuera. Her ancestry descended from the Rumsen-Ohlone people of Monterey, and she loved to visit and explore the Spanish Missions throughout Arizona and California, looking for clues. Members of her maternal lineage have been certified as Californios, the descendants of the original inhabitants of California.

She is survived by her husband, William Linnemann, her three children, Eric (Lisa), Michelle (Waldo), and Mathieu (Nandika), step daughter Stefanie (Christian), and grandchildren, Zara, Ellyana, Theodore, Nelle, Abigail, and Remy, as well as her sisters, Christine Goddard and Ginger Kiernan. She is predeceased by her parents, Carolyn and Thomas Kiernan, and her grandson, Sheldon.

A private family funeral will be held at St. Peter and Paul in Cary, IL.

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Valerie (Kiernan) Gervais, please visit our flower store.

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