Gert Boyle, 95, Dies; Sportswear Chief Billed as ‘One Tough Mother’


In announcing the opening of a flagship retail store, a print advertisement used just a picture of Ms. Boyle’s face — her glasses down the bridge of her nose, a cigar burning in one hand, as she stared straight at the camera, unimpressed.

“The tall, thin and blond models in our competitors’ ads may be easier on the eyes,” she wrote, “but they don’t care about you like good old Mother Boyle.”

Her tenacity extended to her personal life. Kerry Tymchuk, the executive director of the Oregon Historical Society, recalled the day a home invader tried to rob Ms. Boyle, and she managed to press a silent panic button to alert the police. She survived the assault with bruises and a bloody lip.

When the police chief of her town, West Linn, a Portland suburb, came by to see how she was holding up, Ms. Boyle told him, “I was doing just fine until you came in with that North Face jacket on.”

Her wit was on display in a series of business mottos — Gert-isms, as they were known — among them “Early to bed, early to rise, work like hell and advertise” and “Go fast and the wrinkles don’t show.”

As her wealth increased, she began giving money away. In 2015 she made her largest gift: $100 million to the Knight Cancer Institute, a Portland-based research institute that is part of Oregon Health & Science University.

“Gert wanted to be anonymous about that gift, and a number of us urged her to be public, to demonstrate that here’s this successful, powerful woman who has the capacity to participate at that level of philanthropy,” recalled Betsy Johnson, an Oregon state senator and a longtime friend.

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