In the depths of the Great Depression, a 17-year-old girl named Jean Wallice heard about a $10-a-week secretarial job and all but ran to apply.

Daniel Gale was seeking an assistant for his growing real estate brokerage in downtown Huntington. The job drew some two dozen applicants.

Impressed by the girl's shorthand, her energy and her smile, Gale hired her.

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She soon became the agency's first female agent, and went on to wed Gale's son, Kent. Married for 70 years, the couple turned the agency into one of the biggest on Long Island, Daniel Gale Sotheby's International Realty -- with a whale logo that Jean helped create.

Jean Gale died on Oct. 13 of natural causes at her home in Lloyd Harbor, her family said. She was 93.

"My grandfather saw in my mother something so special -- in her eyes and her warmth, her kindness and enthusiasm," her son, Stanley Gale, said. "He saw in her something bigger than life."

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Her family marked her death not with a funeral, but with a celebration of her life, her daughter, Mary Stokkers, said.

The oldest of five children, Gale was born in Brooklyn on Feb. 9, 1922. Her family moved to Huntington when she was a child.

Jean Wallice with her future father-in-law, Daniel Gale, in about 1940. Photo Credit: Gale Family

She and Kent Gale maintained a long-distance romance during his military service in World War II; they married while he was on leave in 1943 and did not see each other again until 1945.

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Kent Gale took the helm of the company in the mid-1950s, and the couple worked closely together.

"She was a power-behind-the-scenes kind of woman," said Patricia Petersen, the agency's president.

When Kent Gale suggested they come up with a logo, Jean Gale drew inspiration from Cold Spring Harbor's whaling history. A fellow agent's teen daughter created the first sketch.

A mother-figure to her own children, their friends and the agency's employees alike, Gale drew so many families to their Lloyd Harbor neighborhood that they all hired a lifeguard and ran an informal summer camp, Stanley Gale recalled.

Gale even had a knack for finding four-leafed clovers, which she would offer to her children and their friends.

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"As a little girl, I thought everyone had a mom like I had," Stokkers said. "Only when I was older did I realize how lucky I truly was."

Her three grown children all own homes on the street where they grew up.

On the day they gathered to remember her, they were stunned to see a whale in the harbor outside Stanley Gale's house, for the first time in memory.

"We just couldn't believe it," Stokkers recalled. "We all just felt it was mom saying she was fine."

In addition to Stanley and Mary, Gale is survived by her son Daniel K. Gale Jr., her six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. Kent Gale died last year at 96.

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In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent to Visiting Nurse Hospice of Suffolk, Inc., 505 Main St., Northport, NY 11768, or online at

visitingnurseservice.org/

hospiceathome.html.