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History Museum Pays Tribute to Donors:

The Santa Monica History Museum recognized donors and sponsors at a Gala Tribute Dinner last Thursday, February 18, as it continues to build out its permanent home due to open later this year on the 7th Street side of the Santa Monica Public Library building.

The evening constituted some history of its own, as City Councilmember Bob Holbrook observed that there were “many generations of Santa Monicans in this room tonight” among the more than 200 paying tribute to the fundraisers. And the tribute constituted a fundraiser in its own right, as the $150-a-plate guests at Casa del Mar hotel further contributed to the museum’s purpose of “keeping history alive.”

After Emily Bosetti, an 8th grader from John Adams Middle School, stole the show with a magnificent a cappella rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner,” actor and film producer Joe Regalbuto (think Frank Fontana on Murphy Brown) presided over a program in which the stars were the major museum donors being honored.

Susan Gabriel Potter, on behalf of Bob Gabriel Co. insurance agency, said, “My dad would have been so very happy and proud to be here tonight,” referring to Bob Gabriel, who founded the museum with his wife Louise, now its president and CEO. Councilmembers Holbrook and Bobby Shriver represented honoree City of Santa Monica, which set aside the museum space in the library building.

Bourget Bros. Building Materials, which opened in 1947 with an initial investment of $300, donated the stone for the lobby, restrooms, and countertops at the museum, and John Bourget allowed that “by the time we finish the museum, we may be back to that $300.” Macerich, proprietor of the now-under-renovation Santa Monica Place, and Morley Builders, whose projects include the main library building, were also honored for their donations.

The Employees Community Fund of Boeing California, which includes the assets of the former Douglas Aircraft Welfare Foundation, sent a lively contingent to the dinner. Some may have thought that museum board member Iao Katagiri was joking when she presented the award and said the employees thought that Boeing was founded in Santa Monica, but Jean McNeil Wyner, who chairs the museum board, later told the Mirror that the employees took the Fund’s Santa Monica roots very much to heart.

Ron Funk, who began working at the Evening Outlook in 1956, and became its managing editor, and his wife Ann, who chaired historical activities for the 1975 Santa Monica Centennial Celebration out of which the Santa Monica Historical Society grew, accepted recognition for their contribution to an “In the Headlines” interactive exhibit that will allow museum-goers to see themselves on a front page from the past.

A gift from Billie Leone in memory of her late husband, renowned wrestler Baron Leone, was acknowledged, and posthumous recognition was given to Dr. John E. Gilmore and to Phila Caldwell. Dr. Gilmore’s legacy will help endow the continuing operations of the museum, Wyner told the Mirror.

Construction on the museum space is continuing, and Susan Gabriel Potter’s reference to an April 2010 completion may be accurate insofar as the construction itself is concerned. But allowing for the installation of exhibits – some of which will be hands-on, interactive experiences – an early summer opening seems likely.

Terrence Lyon

Mirror Contributing Writerterence@smmirror.com

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