By Eliot Kleinberg
OCEAN RIDGE — In small towns, leaders wear more than one hat. Gail Adams Aaskov was a condominium manager, a real estate broker, a longtime commissioner and mayor, and a newspaper publisher. Often at the same time.
Mrs. Aaskov, who died March 30 at age 86, also published The History of Ocean Ridge in 1995, the year she first joined the commission in the barrier island municipality of about 1,600.
“This book may be small, but so is our town,” she wrote in the foreword.
“When I moved here, I could not find anything on Ocean Ridge,’’ Aaskov told the South Florida Sun Sentinel in 1998.
The book, just 80 pages, had an initial run of 500 copies, which sold out. A second edition was published in 2000 and an updated reissue came out in 2015.
“Gail was our resident historian. She was committed to the town in terms of its history and in terms of its future,” former Mayor Ken Kaleel said April 11.
And Betty Bingham, a longtime friend and herself a former elected official, said, “When she saw a need, she would do what she could do to fill a need. But she did it quietly.”
Gail Adams, born in June 1935 in Connecticut, graduated from Aurora College — now Aurora University — near Chicago. Living in Illinois and Connecticut, she worked and raised two daughters. In 1975, after a divorce, she moved to the town of Palm Beach.
She became a counselor at the Broward Correctional Institution, a maximum-security facility for women. There, she once witnessed two male guards beating an inmate, her daughter Cheryl Adams said from New York.
“She reported them,” Adams said, “and it pretty much ended her career.”
She later transferred to the Lantana Community Correctional Center, where she met center manager Walter “Bud” Aaskov Jr., who would become her second husband.
Gail Aaskov got her real estate license in 1980. In ensuing years, she lived in the Boca Raton, West Palm Beach and Delray Beach areas.
“She was in real estate. I think she was into buying things and moving in,” daughter Sharon Adams Poore said from Massachusetts.
The last stop: Ocean Ridge.
“She liked that it was a smaller town,” Poore said.
In 1993, the Aaskovs built a three-bedroom home on a canal off the Intracoastal Waterway. Around the same time, Gail Aaskov opened her own company, Ocean Ridge Realty. She also began a 25-year tenure as manager of the Crown Colony Club condominium complex nearby.
“She was one very determined lady,” said Denise Medina, who worked at the real estate office for about 15 years. “She ran a tight ship. She had a heart of gold.”
Aaskov was elected to the Town Commission in 1995 and reelected in 1998 and 2001. Three times, her colleagues designated her as mayor. She also served as president of the Ocean Ridge Garden Club.
She lost a re-election bid in 2004. She served on the town’s Board of Adjustment until she was returned to the commission in 2012. She was re-elected in 2015 but was voted out in 2018.
Over the years, one big campaign issue would be Aaskov’s role as publisher of a newspaper that at times featured stories about her and her campaign. From 1996 to 2008, she operated the Ocean Ridge Reporter, a free monthly whose profits were donated to the Public Safety Department.
Aaskov had to recuse herself any time the town discussed the strip on the 5100 block of North Ocean Boulevard that held just five units, including her real estate office. The five tenants — which at that time included The Coastal Star — were the town’s only commercial entities. The strip was converted to apartments and Aaskov moved across the street and later to a spot on Boynton Beach Boulevard.
In 2013, Aaskov self-published Signal 5. The book — the title is police code for murder — detailed the 2006 slayings of Serena Gomez, a popular former deputy town clerk and police dispatcher, and her husband, former town police officer Joe Gomez. Police in Eustis, about 25 miles north of Orlando in Lake County, said Serena was killed along with Joe, then a Eustis officer, by another Eustis officer who also killed his own wife and finally himself.
In August 2019, Bud died. Around the same time, Gail closed down her real estate business. By then, Gail’s daughters said, her health was failing, and the family moved her to Massachusetts. She was at an assisted living facility at the time of her death.
Mrs. Aaskov is survived by her two daughters and five grandchildren. Services were private.
By Eliot Kleinberg