SANTA MONICA, CA (December 19, 2007) – Longtime Santa Monica resident Bob Gabriel, owner of ISU Bob Gabriel Insurance Company, community leader, former city council member, and board member and co-founder of the Santa Monica Historical Society Museum, died at the Santa Monica UCLA Medical Center on December 13, 2007. He was 84.
Gabriel is survived by his wife, Louise, of 60 years, and their two daughters, Susan Potter and Sharyl Szydlik, and son, Robb, grandsons Patrick and Bryan Potter and Michael Szydlik, and his brother, Richard.
Gabriel was a strong voice and community leader in Santa Monica and received numerous awards over the years. They included: the Community Service Award from the Lions Club, the first “William S. Mortensen” Award from the Santa Monica-UCLA Medical Center and the Kiwanis Club’s Community Service Award. He also was the recipient of the Santa Monica Realtor Citizen of the Year Award, the National Conference of Christians and Jews Humanitarian Award, the Boys Club of America’s Medallion for Unusually Devoted Service to Youth, the Service Award from the Salvation Army and recognition from the Rotary International Foundation.
In addition, Gabriel was actively involved in many charities and non-profit organizations and served as president of the Boys and Girls Club of Santa Monica, the Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce and was chairman of the Santa Monica Hospital Board of Trustees. He was a member of the Santa Monica College Advisory Board and served on committees for the Santa Monica Unified School District. He also chaired the Santa Monica Convention and Visitors Bureau and was president of the board of St. Nicholas Cathedral.
“All of us having the good fortune to serve as Chair of the Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce try to measure up to Bob’s high standards of business and community leadership,” noted Tom Larmore, chairman of the Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce. “Bob served that role during a difficult time and, as he did in all of his activities, represented his constituency with grace and intelligence.”
A native of Detroit, Michigan, Gabriel grew up working in his father’s market, where he learned to service and respect people. He took orders by phone for home deliveries and credits his experience for helping him to work with others throughout his life. He ultimately managed the store.
In the early 1940s, Gabriel studied at Alma College, where he participated in the Navy V-12 program and was co-captain of the football team. Afterwards he served in the U.S. Navy during World War II and was recalled for active duty during Korea, most of it overseas. He ended his active tour with a training post at the Santa Monica Airport.
In the winter of 1946, Gabriel married Louise, his love at first sight, and they moved to California. In 1951, Gabriel was recalled to the Navy for the Korean conflict. He served on APA 202 as Boat Group Commander and later served as Assistant Operations Officer of a transport division staff.
He spent 17 months of a two-year tour overseas in Japan and Korea. Louise was left home alone raising their two children.
In November, 1960, the happy couple opened Bob Gabriel Insurance Company on the corner of 24th and Wilshire. His firm was widely recognized for giving personal attention to customers, its loyal and friendly professional staff, and the company’s dedication to commitment and outstanding customer service. Gabriel could always be counted on for a broad smile and warm handshake.
Gabriel loved Santa Monica and always praised the city to friends, relatives and even strangers whom he had just met. He was always fond of saying, “Santa Monica is the biggest ‘little city’ in the world with so much history. We feel privileged to be living in Santa Monica. We fell in love with the city when we first came here from out-of-state and knew this was where we wanted to spend the rest of our lives.”
“Bob devoted most of his life to the Santa Monica community, especially to the Santa Monica Historical Society Museum,” said Herb Katz, Santa Monica Mayor. “Bob and I had a long history together, spanning about 25 years. Over those years, we had many discussions. We didn’t always see eye-to-eye, but we always remained friends. He was a real gentleman, and I don’t say that about many people,” Katz added.
Gabriel was also extremely proud of the work being done by the Santa Monica Historical Society Museum to preserve the city’s treasures for future generations. The museum, which relocated to its new headquarters at 1350 7th Street in Santa Monica in October of 2010, aims to give residents a sense of roots, belonging and an appreciation for the unique qualities of their city, and to instill a sense of pride in the diverse, multi-cultural past of Santa Monica.
Gabriel and Louise focused on helping the needy and improving the quality of health care, education, and youth programs for over 50 years, and have always been committed to preserving and promoting awareness of their community’s heritage.