“I Am Happy Helping People”: The Life Of An Army Spouse, Government Employee, And Persistent Volunteer

Gayle (Talley) Colacicco


Gayle Talley was born in Missouri, 80 miles south of St. Louis. Her parents divorced when she was an infant, and she grew up as a “latchkey” kid. Her mother worked in a factory to support the two of them. She remembers that summers during her childhood were “magic,” and she spent most of her time playing in the park. In high school, she took a Civil Service exam, and after graduating, she began working as a GS-3 Clerk Stenographer in St. Louis at the Mobility Equipment Command. She had been promoted to GS-4 and was assigned to the Secretary of the General Staff’s office, taking shorthand notes of meetings, when she met Lieutenant Michael Colacicco, USMA 69, who was serving as the Commanding General’s Aide. As they got to know each other, Michael asked her to marry him three times, and each time she skillfully rebuffed him. He deployed to Vietnam in December 1970 and returned in December 1971, during which time they corresponded by mail. After returning home, Michael traveled to St. Louis to ask her to marry him again, proposing with a West Point miniature as an engagement ring, and this time she said yes. She planned a wedding in eight short weeks, and they were married on March 25, 1972, before honeymooning in Las Vegas. She was then working at the Defense Logistics Agency, managing shipping aviation fuel around the world, and was able to transfer from St. Louis to Virginia. Michael was in the Engineer Advanced Course at Ft. Belvoir, and was selected to teach in the West Point Department of History. To do so, he had to earn a Master’s Degree in History, but as an Engineer, he was also required to have an advanced degree in Engineering, so he ended up earning two Master’s Degrees from the University of Michigan. Gayle helped by typing out all of his hand-written pages. Their first child, Joseph, was born in June 1973 in Ann Arbor, and Michelle was born in December 1974 during a blizzard (the ambulance got stuck in the snow). Bill was born at West Point in 1977 when the hospital was in Building 606, delivered by Dr. Posner. Years later, his son, Dr. Matt Posner (USMA 94), operated on Gayle’s knee. Their next assignment was the Berlin Brigade in Germany. Because there was no housing available, Michael traveled overseas alone while Gayle remained at West Point. Housing became available very quickly, and she had to manage the move alone, including shipping the car, packing the house, and traveling with three young children. They finally made it to Berlin, and were stationed there from 1978 to 1981, enjoying “an experience I wouldn’t trade for the world.” While in Berlin, Gayle worked for the Chief of Staff and volunteered with the Red Cross. After Berlin, the Colaciccos were stationed at Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas, where Patrick was born in April 1982. Three years at Ft. Bragg followed, and when Michael’s unit deployed to Grenada, Gayle helped organize the first Family Support Group in the Army for the 548th Engineer Battalion. In 1985, they returned to Ft. Leavenworth, where Michael was assigned to the Combined Arms Development Activity. This time, their housing was much better than their previous experience at Leavenworth, living within eyesight of the post pool, and the children knew to be home when the retreat cannon sounded. After their assignment in Kansas, the family returned to Germany in 1988 and were stationed in Giessen. While in Europe, the Colaciccos were able to explore, and the children learned to appreciate other cultures. In 1991, they returned to Kansas, this time stationed at Ft. Riley. By this time, the children were entering college. In 1992, Michael attended the War College, followed by his final assignment in the Army back at West Point. Gayle took a job working for DODEA (Department of Defense Education Activity) and the Department of the Army doing Human Resources work as a GS-13. She also volunteered with the Red Cross (and continues to do so). In this interview, she talks about her childhood, working as a government employee, and being an Army spouse. She describes her experiences at various posts, incorporating the lives of her husband and children into her story. She recalls interesting events, like when her son had appendicitis and she broke her ankle getting him to the hospital. She provides recollections of different people and events, creating a snapshot of Army family life from the 70s to the 90s. At the end of the interview, she reflects on what her service and West Point mean to her.


topics West Point History Teamwork Camaraderie Leadership
interviewer David Siry
date 10 February 2023


name Gayle (Talley) Colacicco
specialty Army Spouse / DA Civilian / Volunteer