On Wednesday, October 21, 2020, Los Angeles-based artist and philanthropist Gayle Garner Roski passed away peacefully in her art studio at her Toluca Lake home, surrounded by family and her vibrant watercolor paintings that brought joy to so many people. She was 79 and suffering from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
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The loving wife of real estate developer Edward P. Roski Jr. and the mother of three, Gayle was born in Los Angeles on September 11, 1941, to Russell Dwight and Mary Lewis Tucker Garner. As the third of four children, born after sisters Mary Ann Garner and Cheri Munson and before brother Tucker Dwight Garner, she lived her formative years in Hancock Park.
After her high school graduation from the Buckley School, she enrolled at the University of Southern California as a fine arts major. It was at USC that she met the love of her life. She married Ed Roski shortly after his 1962 graduation from USC and then they moved to Quantico, Virginia, where he began his service to this country as a Marine.
In 1966, the couple returned to Southern California and settled in the community of Toluca Lake. She put aside her artistic aspirations as she focused on her family and raising her children, channeling her creative abilities into helping with school projects, sewing costumes for Halloween and skating competitions, and volunteering with Los Floristas to help children with special needs.
At age 50, after her youngest child had moved out of the family home, Gayle was diagnosed with cancer. She used art as part of her therapy to battle the horrific disease, and when she emerged cancer-free, she had the focus and resolve to pursue her lifelong dream: to be an artist.
In the three decades since that declaration, Gayle had exhibited at galleries and museums from Southern California to Scotland. She had been an invited artist in the annual Masters of the American West Art Exhibition at the Autry Museum since 2009. She also regularly participated in numerous exhibitions of the historic California Art Club, including 20 installments of the organization’s signature event, the Annual Gold Medal Exhibition.
Many of her vibrant watercolor paintings depicted the life and land of cultures around the world, as she was an avid world traveler. Gayle explored with her husband some of the most remote parts of the globe – from the depths of the North Atlantic Ocean to view the ruins of the Titanic to the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro – always with paints and sketchbook in hand to record her experiences in artwork.
Gayle also shared stories of other cultures as a children’s book illustrator, developing artwork for the multi-cultural book publisher East West Discovery Press. Her first collaboration with this publisher, Mei Ling in China City, a true story set in Los Angeles during World War II, received numerous literary awards.
While she embraced opportunities to use her craft to spotlight rich traditions of people from around the world, her most significant body of work paid tribute to her native Los Angeles. These works, collectively titled the “Los Angeles Millennium Series,” were developed over 20 years, beginning in the year 2000. All 44 of the paintings, which spotlight beloved sites throughout the Southland – from Downtown Los Angeles to the San Fernando Valley and Orange County – will be published later this year in the book The Gift of Los Angeles.
Gayle was also a steadfast advocate for her fellow artists, actively involved with public art initiatives as a Commissioner for the Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs and the chair of the Arts and Furnishing Committee for the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. She also designed the angel form for two different public art programs that adorned Los Angeles with colorful larger-than-life angel statues decorated by local artists.
Following her years of devotion to arts and art education, in 2006, Ed and Gayle Roski pledged a naming gift to their alma mater, which resulted in the renaming of Southern California’s oldest visual arts school to the USC Gayle Garner Roski School of Art and Design.
Gayle is survived by her husband of 58 years, Ed; daughter Reon Roski; son Edward Roski III and his wife, Colleen Roski; daughter Katrina Roski and her husband, Marc Pearl; and grandchildren Bryce Roski, Austin Roski, Grant Roski, Ashley Roski, Edward Roski IV, Charlotte Pearl, Madeline Pearl and Abigayle Pearl.
As an expression of sympathy, memorial contributions may be made to Augie’s Quest to Cure ALS. Augie’s Quest is dedicated to funding the most aggressive and innovative research and fast-tracking effective treatments, with the ultimate goal of halting, reversing and curing this devastating disease.
The Roski family is extremely grateful for the support and advice they received from Augie’s Quest to help find exceptional doctors for Gayle’s care. The family is hopeful that the efforts of this trailblazing organization will find a cure in the near future, so others do not have to endure the pain that Gayle did.
Donations may be made online at give.augiesquest.org/roski. In addition, donations may be made by check, payable to Augie’s Quest, and mailed to:
Augie’s Quest to Cure ALS
P.O. Box 9886
Denver, CO 80209