One Tough Farewell: A celebration of Gert Boyle


Gert Boyle died November 3 at the age of 95

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — It was a who’s who in Oregon at the celebration of Gert Boyle’s life Thursday. Oregon Governor Kate Brown and Nike founder Phil Knight were among the thousands who gathered to watch and listen to how she made a difference in so many lives.

Veterans Memorial Coliseum was packed with thousands of her friends, family, community leaders and Columbia Sportswear employees who shared stories and her words of inspiration.

Gert Boyle was 95 when she died November 3.

Her children and grandchildren talked about how she believed that hard work, persistence and being resilient is what helps achieve your goals.

They shared her love of red convertibles, jangly bracelets, jokes and snagging a bargain while shopping at the Woodburn Outlet Mall.

“Some dude in a suit and tie recognized Gert,” State Senator Betsy Johnson said. “‘Aren’t you Gert Boyle? Whats a woman like you doing in a place like this?’ With her quick-witted yet sometimes tart/yet always spot-on sense of humor responded, ‘You don’t get to be a woman like me if you don’t know how to shop bargains in a place like this.'”

Others noted Gert Boyle was someone who recognized people for their ability, not their gender. She was a pioneer as a woman who built and ran a multibillion dollar company. Columbia Sportswear now generates net annual revenue of $3 billion and employs more than 6,500 people.

She was a huge supporter of Special Olympics and also gave $100 million to OHSU Knight Cancer Research Institute.

Columbia Sportswear continues on under the leadership of her son, Tim Boyle, and her grandson. But as they said during the celebration, no one will be able to replace Gert Boyle, One Tough Mother.

Watch: The celebration of Gert Boyle’s life

After she died, tributes poured in from around the country. Sen. Ron Wyden made a speech on the floor of the Senate to recognize “her many economic and philanthropic contributions to Oregon.”

Gert Boyle was the Chairman of the Board of Directors since 1970. Columbia Sportswear said Boyle held various jobs at the sportswear business, from when she sewed the first fishing vest to becoming president of the company.

Her father founded Columbia Sportswear after the family fled Nazi Germany and settled in Portland. She took over the small outdoor clothing company after her husband died from a heart attack. At the time, she was a 46-year-old housewife and mother of 3 with no real business experience. But she helped build the struggling company into the brand giant it is now.

A portrait of Gert Boyle hangs in a Columbia Sportswear display. November 4, 2019 (KOIN)

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