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Marie Gallo, Modesto arts center pioneer and family member of local winery, dies at 86

As a part of the E.&J. Gallo Winery family, Gallo was a huge supporter of local arts and education.
Credit: Joel Ottersbach

MODESTO, Calif. — Marie Gallo, Modesto philanthropist and member of the E.&J. Gallo Winery family, has passed away at 86. 

Gallo was well-known in the community for supporting many local causes, but perhaps most notably for her work with the Gallo Center for the Arts

"Marie Gallo was the mother of the Gallo Center," Lynn Dickerson, chief executive officer at the Gallo Center, said. "Without her tireless efforts, it likely would never have been built."

Dickerson calls Gallo the "matriarch of the Gallo family" to many in Modesto. 

"She was the out front person. Very involved in the arts, and education, and pretty much any good thing that ever happened in our community," Dickerson said. "She was very beloved by many, many, many people."

Dickerson had her own bond with Gallo, she says, as the executive director of the Gallo Center for the Arts. Dickerson said the two would text, meet for lunch, or just sit down for a chat, even after Gallo had handed off responsibility of the center to other capable community members. 

Gallo's involvement with the Arts Center was not too hands-on toward the end of her life, but she was with the foundation for it all. In 1997, Modesto's mayor at the time Dick Lang appointed Gallo to assemble a research team to investigate if a performing arts center was even a possibility. Marie Gallo pioneered the effort. By 2004, construction had begun with a generous donation of $10 million from the Gallo family. 

The arts center was just one of many things that Marie Gallo contributed to the greater Stanislaus County region.  

"She was just a lovely human being and cared very much about people, you know, whether they came from very humble beginnings," Dickerson said. 

Marie Gallo was married to Bob Gallo, the son of Julio Gallo, founding partner in the world's largest family-owned winery, E.&J. Gallo Winery. The winery has been headquartered in Modesto since 1933, with three generations of family members having a hand in the winemaking process. Marie and Bob had eight children together.

Gallo was also a devoted Catholic, and she and the extended Gallo family were big supporters of the St. Stanislaus Catholic Church and the Diocese of Stockton.

Unknown to some, Gallo was also a teacher at both Alamo Elementary School in San Francisco and later at St. Stanislaus Elementary School.

Though Marie Gallo has passed, she has clearly left a legacy in the Modesto area. Her memory lives on through the inspiration she brought to her students and through the numerous philanthropic the projects she helped bring to the community.

"Losing Marie is truly the end of an era," Dickerson said. "It’s hard to imagine our town without her. I feel blessed to have known and loved her."

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