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Santa Monica History Museum Founder Louise Gabriel Dies  

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By Jonathan Friedman
Associate Editor

January 17, 2017 -- Services for Louise Gabriel, who founded the Santa Monica History Museum and was a community service leader for more than half a century, will be held at Saint Monica's Catholic Church at 10:30 on January 31.

Gabriel died peacefully last week at her Santa Monica home surrounded by her family, said her daughter Susan Gabriel Potter.

"She was an extraordinary woman who lived her life to the fullest with great passion, humor and love," Gabriel Potter said. "She loved the community she lived in and gave back in most generous ways.

"She is an inspiration to so many and has left a tremendous legacy that her
community and family can be exceptionally proud of," she said. "There will never be another Louise Gabriel. I was so blessed to have called her my mother."

Gabriel started the museum in 1988 in a small space on Third Street that her husband Bob, a former City Council member who died in 2007, found for a low rent. The museum moved several times before permanently locating at the Santa Monica Library building downtown in 2010.

Picture of Lousie Gabriel

“It’s been a difficult journey, but we’ve climbed the mountain and we’re here,” Gabriel told supporters at a reception the day the museum opened at its new home.

A little more than a decade earlier, Gabriel was part of a group that put together a collection of artifacts and photos to celebrate the City of Santa Monica's centennial in 1975.

(Photo of Louise Gabriel courtesy of Santa Monica History Museum)

"We had the first exhibit of history that the residents had ever seen, and people showed a great interest when they saw this history, and they wanted to see the formation of a historical society," Gabriel told The Lookout in 2010.

The Historical Society was formed later that year with Gabriel as a founding member.

Gabriel was born in Michigan. A fire in her childhood home there led to her belief in the importance of historic preservation.

“All of my mother's memorabilia was lost, all of her baby pictures, and I realized how important history is,” she told The Lookout.

Gabriel fell in love with Santa Monica while visiting the city with her family as a young person, taking more than 100 pictures of Palisades Park.

Not long after that, she made the city her permanent home. In Santa Monica, she met her future husband who coincidentally was also a Michigan native.

In addition to dedicating herself to preserving Santa Monica's history, Gabriel was a leader and member of various community organizations as well as a recipient of numerous civic awards.

A long list of her accomplishments are included on Gabriel's biography page on the Santa Monica History Museum's website.

In 2007, when the Gabriel's made a large donation to the museum, a statement posted on the its website estimated that over the previous 50 years Louise Gabriel had contributed more than 70,000 hours serving her adopted home.

"We have always loved Santa Monica," Gabriel told the Lookout in 2010. "We've traveled around the world and we have not found any place that we would want to live than here.”

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