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Turns for Gretch Raises Awareness for St. Luke’s Patient Assistance Fund
Monday, March 13, 2023


A grey snowy day didn’t keep Gretchen Palmer’s friends and relatives away from Sun Valley Resort’s Dollar Mountain.

Ignoring the flat light, about three dozen skiers, including her husband and children, took the chairlift to the top of Dollar Mountain. And then they proceeded to make a human slalom with the top person skiing around the others on the way down the mountain until everyone assembled at the bottom.

“Turns for Gretch,” as it was dubbed, wasn’t an idle pastime based on childhood play. It was meant to raise awareness about the Gretchen Palmer Patient Assistance Fund, which is overseen by the St. Luke’s Wood River Foundation.

“This is not a fundraiser. It’s to promote awareness,” said Gretchen’s widower Terry Palmer. “We’re just having fun going around each person.”

Among those participating was Christin Cooper, a 1984 Olympic silver medalist.

“Terry’s doing a great thing,” she said. “Plus, who can turn down a human slalom?! We used to do that as kids all the time.”

Gretchen Palmer, whose blond looks graced 80 outdoor magazine covers, was 61 when she passed away in May 2021 of a brain tumor glioblastoma multiforme. Born in Seattle, she was attended Pacific Lutheran University where she was awarded the St. Santa Lucia Bride which represents someone who is a bearer of light in a dark world.

Her passion was skiing. She was captain of the Pacific Lutheran University Ski Team and moved to Sun Valley upon graduating from PLU in 1982. She worked as a ski instructor, in addition to a waitress, teacher and model, and was named Outdoor Model of the ‘80s.

She quickly caught the eye of Terry Palmer, a 1972 Olympic skier who raced on the World Cup circuit in 1971 and 1972. He quickly got friends to set up a blind date.

“She came skiing by while I was coaching kids and she was so elegant. I said, ‘Who was that? Any of you guys know her?’ ” he recounted.

The couple raised three children during their 37-year marriage: Grayson, Bergen and Teagen.

Gretchen Palmer underwent two brain surgeries and suffered multiple strokes and broken bones over the two years following her diagnosis. But she told her friends and family: No matter what, we always keep smiling.

Following her death, Terry Palmer set up a fund for cancer patients in her honor to assist patients and their families with such expenses as transportation, lodging, utilities, groceries, medications, medical supplies and other items.

The assistance eases the stress of patients and families facing medication challenges so they can focus on their health and well-being, said Megan Tanous, chief development officer for St. Luke’s Wood River Foundation.

The fund has raised $122,000 so far.

“Cancer is a terrible disease,” said Terry Palmer. “What we found when dealing with Gretchen’s cancer is that it’s tough, no matter what. Every day you’re having to patch up a hole here, a hole there. The Foundation needs help so it can reach out to people. Patients need help. Any and all help we can provide to cancer victims and their families is exactly what Gretchen would want.”

To donate to the Gretchen Palmer Patient Assistance Fund, visit Or contact Betsy Mullins at or (208) 727-8419.

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