Gert Boyle, the boisterous, longtime chairwoman of Columbia Sportswear and first woman inducted into the National Sporting Goods Hall of Fame, died yesterday in Portland, OR. She was 95.
When regularly asked what her future plans were, especially as her years advanced, Gert’s consistent answer was “To survive.”
Clearly, that was something she did her entire life from her early years escaping Nazi Germany with her family to her later work with her son Tim, Columbia’s President and CEO, in re-invigorating a small outdoor apparel company’s fortunes a half century ago when it was struggling. She ran Columbia Sportswear from 1970, after her husband’s sudden death from a heart attack, until 1988 and earned her moniker “One Tough Mother” from a 1984 brand advertising campaign that featured her with a “Born to Nag” tattoo. The handle would also serve as the title of her 2005 autobiography.
Eight years ago, Gert was surviving again. This time from a foiled invasion of her Portland home by a would-be kidnapper.
Besides her son, she is survived by daughters Sally Bany and Kathy Deggendorfer; five grandchildren; a sister and 5,300 employees at Columbia. In lieu of flowers, mourners may make donations to the Knight Cancer Institute at Oregon Health & Science University where Gert made a $100 million donation following the death of her sister. Columbia Sportswear is expected to announce details of a ‘Celebration of Life’ event for Gert this week.