Chastain lived 80 years, and then on May 15 at about 1 p.m., she
stared into the face of Jesus and was gone. It was cellulitis sepsis
that ended her time here. Obituaries usually start with the birth and
follow the person’s life going forward. Anyone who knew Gay can
offer testimony that she was anything but “usual,” so we’re
going to start with now and then go back.
She was living her life as she always did until Thursday, May 12, when some symptoms began to manifest from the sepsis. She did not make it a secret in the last year that she was ready to meet Jesus, and her final days were as she wanted – a short time of illness with family gathered around. Just before 1 p.m. on Sunday, May 15, her daughter Lisa was with her in the hospital. Gay was staring toward the ceiling. Lisa asked, “Mom, do you see Jesus?” Gay nodded affirmatively and was gone moments later.
So what did “living her life as she always did” mean? For the last 11 years she developed a routine that included attending regularly four churches, multiple Bible studies and a couple of lunch groups. The reason she attended four churches – Eureka Nazarene, Fortuna Nazarene, Eureka Seventh Day Adventist and the Embassy in Eureka – is because she recognized all churches have strengths and weaknesses, and the strengths of these four combined to provide her with what she considered a full and robust spiritual experience.
Some of her highlights from the last 11 years included a trip to Israel with a travel group, two trips to Hawaii with her daughter Lisa’s family, logging some of her property so she could be debt free, keeping up with her granddaughter Naomi’s swimming exploits, any chance to gather with family, a trip on a train with her sister Margo, a cruise to Alaska, attending her grandson Shane’s wedding in Missouri, and a week-long visit in Eureka last fall with Shane and his new bride Priscilla.
But there was a season when her day planner was not filled with church, small group and lunch appointments. That season began when she met Tilmon Chastain in 2004. They were both twitterpated, and they were married in March of 2005. She absolutely adored Tilmon, and every day from their wedding day until his death in January of 2011 was filled with joy and wonder. They traveled all over the country as Tilmon preached the Word of God. She always spoke of Tilmon with great admiration and affection. She called him a prince. Gay loved Tilmon’s family, from his children, grandchildren to his cousins and other extended family. In fact, she left behind a list of people to notify after she died, and Tilmon’s relatives comprise almost half the list.
Gay and Tilmon took notice of a local, anointed preacher named Trent Zelanick and began to support his North Coast Ministries. After Tilmon passed, Gay continued a relationship with Trent, his wife Amy and their five children. Gay loved them like family. In fact, she ended up renting her house to them and lived right next to them after her son Nate transformed her piano shop into an apartment for her. She remained active in her support of North Coast Ministries for the rest of her life.
Before Tilmon there was Greg Ornellas, Gay’s high school sweetheart. They were married 41 years until Greg died in December of 2002. At one point Gay and Greg were blessed to have all their children and grandchildren live within a quarter-mile of their home. After their three children – Lisa Trepiak, Nathan Ornellas, and Lori Curran – were teenagers, Gay spent most of the remaining time in the marriage as a self-employed piano technician. She tuned pianos and did piano repair. She took pride in her profession and her car’s license plate – PIANO RX - reflected that. She had many adventures in piano tuning, but the most striking was the time she was held at gunpoint by law enforcement during a drug bust. Talk about being in the wrong place at the wrong time! It took her hours to convince them that she was just the piano tuner. Apparently the drug bust was the result of months of planning as the confiscated drugs had a value of hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Many of her siblings (Tim Warlick, Roger Warlick, and Steve Warlick) and her mother Faith would gather whenever they could to play music. Gay was an accomplished musician, playing the piano, violin and harp. She gave piano lessons for nine years.
Her final years with Greg were sweet times as they followed through with gifting their children property near their home. They also enjoyed going to their grandson Cody’s high school baseball and football games. They were active in the Redwood Christian Center. After Greg’s death, Gay continued to follow Cody’s pitching career as he played college baseball, even traveling with Tilmon to Florida to watch Cody play for Edgewood College. She would cheer Cody on with “H-ooo-oook.” It was heartbreaking for her when Cody died in 2014. She made a memorial plaque that she posted on her front porch with the names of Greg (1941-2002), Tilmon (1939-2011) and Cody (1985-2014) and the years they lived. She included her own name on the plaque, leaving it to family to fill in the “2022” for her final year.
Gay and Greg’s house burned down in the late 1980s, and they lived in a travel trailer for more than a decade. After spending more than a decade working construction in San Diego, her son Nate returned to Eureka in 1995. Gay marveled at Nate’s craftsmanship as he returned to re-roof the barn, tear down the shack, remodel the rentals and build Gay and Greg a house. Nate also built houses for his sisters Lori and Lisa on the family property.
Gay was graduated from Eureka High in 1960. She broke her arm in a PE class at Eureka High, and when she married Greg in 1961, Gay’s father gave Greg the hospital bill and said, “This comes with her.”
Gay was preceded in death by her husbands Tilmon Chastain and Greg Ornellas, her brothers Truman Warlick and Roger Warlick, her grandson Cody Flynn, and her niece Tuesday Peterson. She is survived by her siblings Tim Warlick, Steve Warlick and Margo Meck; children Lisa Trepiak (Tom), Nathan Ornellas and Lori Curran (Ben); her grandchildren Naomi Trepiak, Carlene Curran, Shane Curran (Priscilla), Clarissa Curran and Hope Curran; her nieces Polly Hryn, Debora Kotterman, Tina Warlick, Trudee Greene and Desdemona Meck, and her nephews Brian Warlick and Jeff Warlick.
An announcement was posted on Facebook, and the family took great joy in reading how Gay had impacted many lives. Here a few messages from that post: “Gay’s prayers, encouragement, steadfastness faith, unwavering hope and love have carried us through some of the darkest and greatest times.” … “A friend that was as close as family.” … “A woman who loved her Heavenly Father and loved others deeply! I will miss her grace and elegance, passion for music, humor, cheerful disposition, and compassion for others.” … “She was a true example of Christ. She never judged or looked down.” … “We will miss her beautiful smile and lovely voice and just her cheerful presence.” … “She is my favorite Sister in Christ.” … “Gay was always open and friendly, and her faith was an encouragement.”
There will be a Celebration of Gay’s life on Saturday, June 4, at Redwood Christian Center (6000 Humboldt Hill Rd., Eureka), at 3 p.m. We usually read at this point in the obituary something about “in lieu of flowers,” but, you know what, we like flowers. Feel free to bring flowers to the Celebration of Life.
The obituary above was submitted by Gay Chastain’s loved ones. The Lost Coast Outpost runs obituaries of Humboldt County residents at no charge. See guidelines here. Email email@example.com.