Gretchen Wick Palmer of Ketchum, Idaho, passed away peacefully with her family by her side on May 8, 2021. Born Feb. 24, 1960, in Seattle, Wash., Gretchen spent her early school years at North Beach Elementary, Whitman Junior High and Ingraham High. Gretchen attended Pacific Lutheran University where she was awarded the St. Santa Lucia Bride, which represents someone who is a bearer of light in a dark world. Voted on by her peers, this was a clear indication of the person Gretchen has always been: caring, considerate, empathetic and revered by anyone who met her.
Gretchen’s father, Peter, and her late mother, Arlene Wick, were a large influence on her and the person we all know and love. They grew up boating and always spending time outdoors. She was a passionate athlete and a self-proclaimed “tomboy.” She and a good friend were the first “dock girls” at Roche Harbor—she was most definitely a “can-do” person. While at PLU, she played all four years on the varsity soccer team and varsity volleyball team and was on the track and field team, plus she was on the cheerleading team. However, Gretch’s real passion was skiing. She was the captain of the PLU ski team, participating and excelling in Nordic and Alpine ski racing.
She moved to Sun Valley upon graduating from PLU in 1982, and, like many, never looked back. The Sun Valley and Idaho lifestyle fit her well. Her first few years in SV were typical of many who choose to live in a mountain community with multiple jobs including ski instructor, waitress and teacher. From there, Gretchen went on to pursue a modeling career in the outdoor industry, was named the Outdoor Model of the ’80s and was published on over 80 magazine covers. She took her passion for modeling and the outdoors to start her own talent agency and seemed to always have jobs to keep her busy.
Gretchen met her husband, Terry Palmer, on what she thought was a blind date, set up by mutual friends. Terry will be the first to admit that he knew exactly who Gretchen was after noticing her skiing on Baldy and he was “anything but blind” going into it. Gretchen and Terry have been married for 35 years and raised three children in the Wood River Valley. They have always shared a love for the outdoors and lived their life every day to the fullest extent.
On Mother’s Day, May 12, 2019, Gretchen was diagnosed with a primary brain tumor, glioblastoma multiforme, or GBM. She battled through two brain surgeries, multiple strokes, broken bones and countless other challenges in the last two years of her life, but she never once complained and always remained positive. Going into her first craniotomy she set the ground rules for her family saying that no matter what, we always keep smiling, and remember to keep the humor. Her motto became “faith not fear,” which was a guiding force in her last few years of life. She led by example and was smiling and laughing all the way to her last day. During her recovery from surgeries and treatment plans, Gretchen was surrounded by her family and had constant support from her friends and surrounding community.
Though GBM was ultimately what took her life, her memory and legacy will be rooted in how she lived her life before her diagnosis. She never accepted her disease as something that would take her life and was always looking forward to getting back on her bike, back on the trails and back on her skis. Her passion for life and genuine positive energy were contagious for anyone who was around her. If you knew Gretchen, you were blessed, and you could see that she was beautiful, but her true beauty came from inside her, with her loving and warm spirit.
Gretchen is survived by her husband, Terry Palmer; her children, Grayson (Dewey Crowley), Bergen (Alexis Palmer) and Teagen Palmer; her grandson, Logan; her father and stepmother, Peter and Anne Marie Wick; and her siblings, Stephanie Cobb and Peter Wick III. She will be joined in heaven by her mother, Arlene Wick, and her grandson, Bennett Crowley.
Gretchen and the Palmer family would like to extend a special thank-you to their family, friends and surrounding community who stepped in to help in countless ways over the last two years. While these challenges can leave people feeling helpless, it was very clear that the Palmers had support coming from every direction. From meals to sharing puzzles to donations in support of medical bills, they are truly grateful for all the love and support you have all shown.
A private service will be held at St. Thomas Church with a celebration of life to be scheduled for later this summer.
In lieu of flowers, the Palmer family requests that you consider making a donation to one of the following organizations that are leading the research in finding a cure for GBM and were an integral part in Gretchen’s treatment and care:
• Hospice & Palliative Care of the Wood River Valley
• UCSF Neuro-Oncology Care of Dr. Nancy Bush
• American Brain Tumor Association
• St. Luke’s Cancer Institute