Kalle Benallie
Indian Country Today

Gloria Kellogg's pursuit in life was to make a difference, help others and instill the same values to her children.

And she did.

Her husband, Michael Kellogg, credits her for all three of their children graduating college and achieving accomplishments in their careers.

“She was responsible for a lot of the family’s success,” he said.

Gloria taught the preschool age group at a Montessori school for eight years, starting in 2000, taught three years for Head Start programs in Stillwater, Oklahoma, until 2010, and was a Girl Scout leader in New York and Oklahoma, including leading her daughters’ troops.

“Her mission in life was to help young kids to get a good foundation towards school and develop good habits for turning success,” Micheal said.

Gloria died on Nov. 8 from COVID-19 complications at 59 years old. She is survived by her husband and three grown children: Josh, Gabrielle and Jillian. She was from the Naakai Dine'é (Mexican Clan) and born for the Ashii hí Clan (Salt Clan).

Her youngest, Jillian, said former Girl Scouts have reached out to the family and said Gloria changed their lives and made them all feel valued.

“She always told us we could be strong women and we can be whatever we want to be when we grow up,” Jillian said.

Her son, Josh, said his mother was immensely loving.

“She just wanted the best for us, even if we didn’t know that we needed it at the time,” he said.

He remembers her enjoying teaching so much that she would make things for the classroom in her free time, like laminating papers and making “spider legs” to attach to a sweater.

“Activities like that, she loved doing, just being able to work with those kids,” he said.

Additionally, Gloria liked to sew and to keep herself busy. She sent notes to the children she taught who were now in college, Michael said.

“She never cut corners on any of her projects or anything that she was working on. She always made sure she did it right,” Mike said about her core values.

Gloria sent holiday-themed gifts to her children for Valentine's Day and Easter, including candy, cards and stuffed animals.

“She was just sweet and endearing,” her son said.

Jillian said she had a close relationship with her mom because while her older siblings were at college, she would go to her mom’s preschool activities and do scouts with her.

“I just loved spending time with her. It was fun. Just being in her presence, I felt comfortable,” she said.

Gloria met her husband in 1977 in her hometown of Tuba City, Arizona, at Window Rock High School. They were both 16.

They attended New Mexico State University in southern New Mexico. Unfortunately, she did not finish due to financial reasons.

They were married on June 25, 1983.

“She was my world,” Michael said.

‘COVID was just too much’

After moving around for a while due to her husband’s job, they settled in Farmington, New Mexico, where Gloria worked at JOANN Fabrics and Crafts. When the store opened again from the state’s restrictions, she told her husband that she was worried because customers were going inside maskless and unregulated.

Her son said she possibly contracted the virus from “having to be in proximity of customers so much.”

She tested negative frequently throughout last summer until Gloria took a test on Oct. 18, when she went to the emergency room for a medical issue.

A few days later, on Oct. 21, she was confirmed positive. On Oct. 26, Gloria was admitted to the San Juan Regional Medical Center in Farmington after her oxygen became low and she had difficulty breathing.

On Nov. 8, the family agreed to take her off the ventilator and wake her up from sedation. She died within a few minutes of being taken off the ventilator.

Mike said the nurses set up a FaceTime for the family to say goodbye. “That’s what hurt the most. She was alone and probably scared,” Jillian said.

Her life remembered

Jillian said that she will miss her mom’s hugs the most.

“With her hug, I just felt safe, I felt relaxed. I think a mother’s hug is unforgettable,” she said.

Her husband’s favorite memory of his wife is her infectious laugh and loving nature.

“She had a great sense of humor and her passion that she would put into every project,” he said.

And he will always miss holding her hand.

Her son said that he treasures a teddy bear she gave him for his 31st birthday after, what he thinks, she forgot about.

“Having that right now means so much to me,” he said. Josh hopes people take the necessary precautions and take the pandemic seriously.

“I don’t wish what happened to our family on anyone,” Josh said.

Her husband wishes everyone to know Gloria’s life-long mission was to make a positive impact in the world.

“She was God’s light,” he said. “Gloria believed the world could be a kinder and gentler place.”

The family plans to have a celebration of life later this spring.

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Kalle Benallie, Navajo, is a reporter-producer at Indian Country Today's Phoenix bureau. Follow her on Twitter: @kallebenallie or email her at kbenallie@indiancountrytoday.com. Benallie was once the opening act for a Cirque Du Soleil show in Las Vegas.

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