35th Anniversary: Girl Wonder: Gwill York

“I’m one of the last unplanned females,” Gwill York chuckled in 1974, the subject of a Cleveland Magazine profile on “a group of women who could be your boss.” She was the Cleveland Junior League president, a Vassar grad, and she impressed us with her steely social consciousness at a time when the heaviest lifting a socialite aspired to was someday writing a children’s book. She didn’t have an agenda, she said.

Her post-princess life is a testament to perseverance. A book, “My Son’s Name Was Fred,” was an outgrowth of her schizophrenic son’s 1981 death. Gwill co-founded the National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression to raise awareness, and won the organization’s 1994 Humanitarian Award (other winners include Mike Wallace and Tipper Gore).

She’s Gwill York Newman now, and resides in New Mexico. “I always believed in Cleveland,” she says. “The three organizations that got me through were Laurel School, the Junior League and the Cleveland Foundation.” She remains active in environmental causes and works on behalf of projects such as Cleveland’s local Hopewell therapeutic community. And — oh yes — she did write that children’s book: “Bingo Bear Was Here.”
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