Denise Gillingham, a Sun Valley resident, is a tall drink of delightfully fresh water.
One of the few life coaches in the Wood River Valley, she earned her masters in social work from Columbia University in New York.
Gillingham recently returned to the area after almost a year living in France with her twin daughters. She first came to Sun Valley for Memorial Day weekend in 1996 to visit her future husband, Gary Gillingham, an on-location movie controller/accountant.
“He had a condo in Sun Valley,” she said. “This was his heaven. The move here wasn’t deliberate. It was gradual. We had an apartment in L.A., and then we were bouncing around Europe on film locations.”
The couple spent two years together in Prague with their eight-month-old twins, shooting “Shanghai Knights” and “Hellboy.”
The film schedule kept them on the move. After Prague, the family returned to Sun Valley for most of six weeks and then headed off to London for eleven months to shoot “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.” After another spell in central Idaho, they picked up and moved again to France to work on “A Good Year.” The daughters were four at the time.
Gary Gillingham had been diagnosed with ALS (“Lou Gehrig’s Disease”) prior to the work in France, and in 2006, he died from the devastating illness. During her husband’s illness, Denise also became seriously ill. And it was her oncologist who suggested she speak with someone who had the same diagnosis for support.
“I knew I wanted to get credentialed in life coaching,” she said. For her, talking with a fellow cancer patient inspired her to work to help others who are also suffering. Last November, she started taking life-coaching classes in Paris.
The girls stayed with friends in Aix en Provence, where they were living in an apartment rented to them by an English woman who is a professor of linguistics at Cambridge University. Denise met her in the building’s laundry room.
“She wrote her doctoral thesis on psychological changes that occur when people speak more than one language,” Gillingham said, laughing. “The girls went through second grade in two different French schools. They each had their own circle of friends and now speak fluent French.”
Gillingham returned to Sun Valley this summer, and she plans on staying. She calls herself a co-active coach, meaning that the “relationship is one in which the coach and client are active collaborators on the client’s agenda.”
She will lead a free “Emotional Intelligence” presentation at Zenergy, at 6 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 19 on “relationships both professional and personal,” she said. “IQ can’t be changed but ‘EQ’ can be improved at any age. We’ll talk about how to get the competitive edge in a non-competitive way.”