Museum founder leaves a legacy of volunteerism

Longtime Santa Monica philanthropist Louise B. Gabriel died this week. Gabriel spent more than 50 years giving back to the community with particular focus on preserving local history including founding the Santa Monica History Museum and donating profits from her two history books to the organization.

In a statement, Development and Museum Manager Kathryn Evans said Gabriel was the reason the museum existed today.

She said Gabriel was a member of the Historical Activities Committee of the Santa Monica Centennial Celebration in 1975 which led to the establishment of the Santa Monica Historical Society. As the Society gathered a larger and larger collection of important artifacts, Louise worked alongside her husband, Bob, to bring the Santa Monica History Museum into existence as a place to display the city’s history.

She worked to find donated infrastructure, like furniture and display cases, and kept the project alive as it transitioned through several short-term homes before eventually establishing its permanent location adjacent to the Main Library on 7th Street.

She continued her involvement with the museum for more than 27 years serving as the full-time President on a pro-bono basis.

Friends and family said she was an integral part of Santa Monica and a stalwart protector of local history.

“As the museum grew, it was at her direction,” said Evans. “Her vision and leadership allowed the museum to thrive and to become an important part of the community.”

Daily Press Publisher Rob Schwenker is chair of the Santa Monica History Museum Board.

“We’re deeply saddened by the loss of our leader and friend Louise Gabriel,” he said. “She proudly preserved and protected the rich history of Santa Monica like no other before her and we’ll likely never find such immense devotion again. Louise left an unparalleled legacy in this community that will never be forgotten and her Santa Monica History Museum will serve as a tribute to that legacy for all time.”

Gabriel’s daughter, Susan Potter, said her mother was an extraordinary woman who lived her life to the fullest with great passion, humor and love.

“She loved the community she lived in and gave back in most generous ways,” she said. “She is an inspiration to so many and has left a tremendous legacy. The founding of the Santa Monica History Museum was to her one of her greatest accomplishments and what she was most proud of. The Santa Monica community having their own museum to preserve our own history for generations to come. There will never be another ‘Louise Gabriel. I was so blessed to have called her my mother.”

While Gabriel was well known for her work with the museum, she had an extensive resume of community service including work with the Santa Monica Bay Woman’s Club, Santa Monica Boys Club Auxiliary, Santa Monica Hospital Auxiliary, Santa Monica College Patrons, Salvation Army, Santa Monica Historical Society, California Federation of Women’s Club, Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce, City of Santa Monica, Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce, Project Lift, Santa Monica Westside Bay Area Health Screening Clinic for the elderly, Santa Monica College, Santa Monica Breakfast Club, Girl Scouts and the Santa Monica Hospital Medical Center.

Mayor Ted Winterer said she was will be deeply missed.

“Louise dedicated her life to Santa Monica through her deep philanthropic commitment and volunteer work for so many vital community organizations,” he said. “She was a powerhouse for the arts and keeping Santa Monica’s history alive through the Santa Monica History Museum. She will be greatly missed, but never forgotten and her legacy will live on for generations.”

She was recognized for her work by several organizations. Including the YWCA, Elks Club, Chamber of Commerce, Kiwanis, the National Conference of Christians and Jews, Santa Monica Board of Realtors and the Santa Monica Breakfast Club. In 2016, the Santa Monica Bay Area Human Relations Council awarded her the Mark J. Benjamin Community Impact Award.

Gabriel is survived by her children (Susan Gabriel Potter, Robb Gabriel and Sharyl Gabriel Szydlik), grandchildren (Patrick Potter, Bryan Potter and Michael Szydlik), sisters (Josephine Van Buren and Elaine Bruner), son in laws (Pat Potter and Joseph Szydlik) and many nieces and nephews.

In lieu of flowers the family would greatly appreciate donations to the Santa Monica History Museum in her honor, 1350 7th Street, Santa Monica, CA 90401. For more information call (310) 395-2290 or visit www.santamonicahistory.org.

editor@smdp.com

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