NEWPORT — A fundraising event to benefit the family of a beloved member of the local hospitality industry who died unexpectedly is slated for Sunday.
Gayle Walsh, who started as a bartender at One Pelham East in 2004 and worked her way up to assistant general manager, died June 10. According to her obituary, she "took her own life after a long and courageous battle with grief over the loss of her youngest daughter Caroline to suicide in August of 2020."
Sunday's event at One Pelham East, located at 270 Thames St., will benefit the Caroline and Gayle Sunshine Fund via tips, donations and silent auction earnings. It begins at 3 p.m. and runs until 1 a.m. and will feature live music from a number of performers and former Pelham employees behind the bar.
The fund was started in 2020 to raise proceeds to donate to individuals in financial need suffering from mental health to obtain access to health services and holistic wellness care or training in memory of Caroline Walsh who lost her life to mental illness.
Chris Kilroy, who owns the Pelham, said Walsh was a mother-type figure to the staffers at the nightclub and a well-liked employee by customers.
"To the public, Gayle was the lifeblood of Newport 's restaurant scene — the person who'd be dancing on the bartop on a slow Wednesday or at the quiet end of the bar lending her ear to anyone who needed it," Kilroy said. "To those who worked here, she wasn't Gayle. She was Mama G, who was there for their good and bad days, through marriages and expanding families.
"One Pelham East has always been a family, and it was because of Gayle," he said.
Scheduled to perform are Justin Draper, Stu Sinclair from Never in Vegas, Brian Cabral, Chopville, The Naticks, Beach Nights, Steve Demers, John Erickson from Blockhead and Ryan McHugh.
The guest bartenders will be Brittany Powers, Sara Sullivan, MJ Morgan, Rebecca King, Kelsi Chappell, Doug Key, Diana Malachowski, Tasha Breshinski, Katie Linn, Bobby Penha and Abby Medeiros. Kilroy said some people will be flying across the country to make it to the event.
"After Gayle passed, we were overwhelmed by people reaching out wanting to help from former bartenders, bands, and regulars," he said.
A celebration of life was held last weekend to remember Walsh, and a Go Fund Me account has been established in her name. It already has exceeded the $20,000 goal, with 250 contributors. Walsh leaves behind two daughters — Alexandra and Bethany — as well as other family members.
"Gayle would be your favorite person to go out with at night and always your confidant," Kilroy said. "She was your life coach, yoga teacher and spiritual guide. She had that uncanny ability to make anyone feel like an old friend, always a smile on her face and quite literally a 'kick in her step' when behind the bar."
This article originally appeared on Newport Daily News: One Pelham East, Newport, bartender Gayle Walsh remembered