Meet Gerri Shute

Location: Chicago, IL
Age: Over 60
Marital Status: Single
Education: Bachelor’s Degree in English, Master’s Degree in Library and Information Science

Gerri Shute enjoyed a wonderful career in the world of executive search. She was named Vice President of Research for a leading international search firm, a title rarely given in a research function. When asked about her passion project, Gerri says, “My family. Their health, their happiness, their well being. As one relative said, there’s not a dud among them.” And when talking about her fantastic husband whom she recently lost to Parkinson’s she says, “I had the great love of my life. How lucky can a girl get?”

Tell me about your career.

I started out in education and then moved to advertising. I was recruited by Russell Reynolds Associates from the Chicago Tribune. I created their research function.  I was there for 13 years. It was a very fast-paced, demanding environment. Most of us who were there in the early days, now say that having been there, we can do anything short of brain surgery.

What’s the single most important thing you learned in your career?

There is no room for anything but giving the client excellent service. That’s all.

Why’d you leave Russell Reynolds?

I got married to the man of my dreams and wanted to be more available, so I worked from a home office for 13 years.

How did you meet the love of your life?

After I left an 11-year relationship I said, “Now I’m going to get married.” I told all my friends, “You know single men, so don’t forget me.” My friend Curt introduced us.

On our first date David took me to the best restaurant in town. We hit it off from the beginning.

Why was marriage important to you at that point?

Finally, I wanted to build a home. I wanted a kind of sharing that you just don’t have when you’re not married.

There was a bench outside near the garage in the Sears Tower where he parked his car, across the street from my office. We’d always meet there on Fridays and go off to a movie and dinner and then spend the weekend together.

One Sunday night I had decided I had to move on, I said, “That’s it then, because I’m planning to be married…”

You wanted to get out because you didn’t think he’d marry you?

Yes. I thought, I’ll just start over again. That Friday I got a dozen red roses and the card said, “Meet me at the bench.” And I thought. “Well, as ever a gentleman, this is the kiss-off dinner. This will be a nice way to end it.” We went to the International Club and he made a formal proposal.

Oh Gosh!

We both wept. He said, “I cried all week long thinking of what my life would be without you.” He was at the height of his career, as was I at the time. We traveled, we entertained, we did everything! It could not have been a better 20 years.

Then he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s. The last three years or so of his life were very trying for him. He retained his brilliance and his sense of humor. He never once complained. It was a love affair to the end.

What did he do?

He was General Counsel for Sears, Roebuck and Company.

You miss him.

Yes. Terribly. After one year, something actually does happen though. Someone said, “You don’t get over it, you get used to it.” I miss loving somebody and being loved.

What kind of literature do you love?

Virginia Woolf is a favorite author, and then Edith Wharton is the other woman whom I am crazy about because she came from a wealthy family, but she did her own thing. She wrote constantly and made a great deal of money In House of Mirth, Edith wrote about class; how people of a certain class are snobby for no good reason. I also love anything by Henry James.

How do you define your style?

I like to buy classic clothes that I can wear over and over. I am known for not having a lot of clothes.  C.Z. Guest said, “You can only wear so many clothes.” I think that is right on.

Why do you love Maria Pinto’s clothes?

Maria is an artist. She knows how to cut for a woman’s figure. I love that everything is tailored for you. She has sportswear, daywear, cocktail dresses and her wonderful gowns… she’s selling cashmere sweaters and jewelry now. It’s one-stop shopping. I trust her and her staff—they would never sell me something that isn’t right for me.

What other designers do you wear?

I used to wear Ungaro and Valentino. I could put their clothes on and walk out the door without any adjustment. They know how to cut to fit me. I like Armani and Yves St. Laurent, but Maria is my first choice.

Who influenced your style?

My parents both loved clothes. They went dancing every Saturday night. I thought my mother was so beautiful that when I was a little girl I was certain she was a movie star. Red nails, red lipstick, very high heels… My father always bought my two sisters and me clothes for Christmas. Our best outfits were always the ones Daddy bought.

What’s your favorite restaurant in Chicago?

For casual dining I like Cafe Spiaggia. For fancier I like No Mi. I love the room. You can look out and see a wonderful view of the city and the lake. Everything is beautifully presented.

What’s your favorite secret place in Chicago?

If I’m doing errands and it’s before 2:00 PM, I slip into Spiaggia by myself and have the tuna tartar. It’s like playing hooky. In a contemplative mood, I visit the sweet, cloistered garden at Fourth Presbyterian Church.

Whose art do you like?

I love my Matisse print of a ballerina.  I collect figurative prints mostly by well-known artists I admire. Each has an unfinished look about it. I like Francine Turk. Her stuff showed up first in the movie “The Breakup”. I saw something of hers and I loved it, so I called her. She came with a basket full of drawings. I was looking at one piece and, after walking around my house, she said, “This piece does not work in your house. But this one does and this one does.” So I bought them both.

Do you have a favorite perfume?

Opium by Yves St. Laurent. I can’t live without it.

Tell me your favorite wine.

I like Santa Margherita and Prosecco Brut sparkling wine.

What about your facial routine, cleansing?

I wash my face with Dove soap. L’Oreal moisturizer, Neutrogena sun block. I wear Bobbi Brown lipstick and Estee Lauder blush and foundation.

What do you do to rejuvenate?

I take a nap.

What is your biggest indulgence?

Bernardaud, the fine china shop, sells tins of almonds and hazelnuts dusted with bittersweet chocolate. I buy a dozen cans at a time. I put them in a far corner so that I don’t eat too many.

What about a passion project?

My family. We really work together, nurture one another, look after one another, especially when my husband was dying—they adored David. I could never even tell you all they did for me and for him. I am a devoted sister and adoring auntie. I am fortunate to have a core group of loyal friends who are like family and who truly support one another. I have a new project in mind that I am not yet ready to reveal.

How do you define style?

To me style includes your life choices, your surroundings, the way you entertain. It includes your interests, the kinds of friendships you develop. I believe you must treat everyone with dignity and respect. Your choices of how you live and travel, find intellectual stimulation, all of those choices make up your style.

Has your style changed over the years?

An old friend, once said, “When you’re young, you can wear anything and look good and as you get older you need to buy more expensive clothes to achieve the same end.” And I think he’s right.

What important thing you have learned about money?

Never count on anyone to support you financially after you have graduated from college. It gives you power. I have always been financially independent. I think few people know that about me.

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