Gerda Kilgore was born in what was then West Germany. While studying English, she discovered Jane Austen.

She met the man who would become her husband during college. After they married, they came to the United States, where she worked as a teacher at a private K-12 school until 2017, when she and her husband retired and moved to Portugal to begin a new life. They spent a year touring Europe and had just returned to settle in their new home when she became ill. Her family from both sides of the Atlantic gathered to be with her.

Gerda was well-known and beloved to many in JASNA Southwest. Not long after the turn of the millennium, she teamed up with Margot Scheibe, another German-born Austen enthusiast, to form the Long Beach Reading Group. She led lively discussions of Austen novels as well as period literature and nonfiction related to Jane Austen, while Margo hosted, offering sumptuous refreshments, including many home-baked German specialties that were hugely popular among the members.

When Margo passed away, Gerda became sole leader until her return to Europe. She was also an active participant in the Southwest Region, and often volunteered at the JASNA Southwest booth at the Los Angeles Festival of Books.

Gerda will be truly missed for the friendship, humor, enthusiasm and the love of “all things Austen” that she brought to each reading group session. She leaves a legacy of continued discussion and fellowship around the author we all love. May she rest in peace. – Sherwood Smith, Long Beach Reading Group leader