Friends say Idaho transgender woman's memory not honored at funeral

Jennifer Gable took this photo in October 2013. She described it as her “favorite selfie so far” and included it in a Facebook photo gallery that documented her transition.
Jennifer Gable took this photo in October 2013. She described it as her “favorite selfie so far” and included it in a Facebook photo gallery that documented her transition. Provided via Facebook

Jennifer Gable was a Twin Falls native who lived in Boise and worked at Wells Fargo Bank. She died suddenly Oct. 9 at the age of 32, from an aneurysm, friends said.

Gable, a transgender individual, had changed her name legally from Geoff in 2007. Her friends of recent years knew her as a woman who spoke her mind without hesitation but reached out for emotional support when she was feeling down.

Now some of those friends, who attended Gable's funeral in October in Twin Falls, are outraged. They say Gable's memory isn't being honored: She was in an open casket with a short haircut, wearing a suit, at a service they say made no mention of her female identity.

"They never mentioned once 'Jennifer,' " said Naomi Sweatfield, a friend who knew Gable while growing up in Twin Falls. "They never spoke of any of that."

An obituary published in the Times-News in Twin Falls identified Gable as Geoff, referred to Gable using male pronouns and showed photos from when Gable presented as a man.

Gable's maternal grandparents, George and Joan Walton, raised her, according to the obituary.

A man who answered the telephone at the Waltons' home Sunday evening said, "We have no comment."

Gable's mother died in 2001. Her father, Tony Gable, could not be reached Sunday.

The obituary describes Gable as a talented singer and musician who played the piano, trombone, violin and guitar. Gable played in jazz bands in junior high and high school.

The obituary said Gable grew up as a member of the Twin Falls First Christian Church and was baptized in 1996. She attended Morningside Elementary School and O'Leary Junior High and graduated from Twin Falls High School in 2000. Gable married Ann Arthurs in 2005 in Hawaii; they later divorced.

When Gable died, the death certificate listed her name as "Geoffrey AKA Jennifer Gable," Mike Parke of Magic Valley Funeral Home and Crematory told the Miami Herald.

Another friend who attended the funeral was Tiana Colesell, who lives in Twin Falls and said Gable was a childhood neighbor and friend.

"She never really had an easy life," Colesell said. "As a younger kid, she had trouble. She was never comfortable."

Sweatfield said she and Colesell were "livid" during the funeral and did not feel comfortable going to the graveside service afterward.

"As much as we probably should have stood up and said something, we didn't think it was appropriate," Colesell said.

Parke told the Statesman late Sunday that, as the funeral director, he "did what I was legally bound to do by my client."

Parke said he did not wish to be quoted further except that his business had honored "the wishes of the next of kin."

Gable's friends on Facebook have posted comments, photos and links in response to the service. Many of them knew Gable before her transition and had reconnected only on Facebook.

Colesell remembers getting a friend request, then a message, from Jennifer Gable and wondering who the woman was - and how Gable knew so much about Colesell. It finally dawned on her after many conversations. The two made plans to meet up in Boise, though they never did.

"I noticed she was starting to change (in recent months). She was getting a little happier," Colesell said. "She reminded me of a caterpillar who went into a cocoon. ... She was like a butterfly, she was flying high."

Two of Gable's favorite things were the television show "Supernatural" and her longtime pet, a black miniature schnauzer named Mindy, according to friends and the obituary.

Joilene Topete, who knew Gable and Gable's ex-wife, remembers catching up over coffee.

Topete was friends with Gable when she began transitioning to a female identity several years ago.

"At some point in her life, she decided that was something that would make her happy," Topete said. "I think it was really hard. ... It's hard to tell your family and hard to feel accepted."

But Gable stuck it out through hormonal changes, a two-month name-change process and other challenges, Topete said.

"It's what her path to happiness was," she said.

Audrey Dutton: 377-6448, Twitter: @IDS_Audrey