Marie Gallo, Modesto philanthropist, passes at 86

The wife of E&J Gallo Winery’s chairman is perhaps best known for spearheading the effort to construct the Gallo Center for the Arts in Modesto.

Modesto philanthropist Marie Gallo passed away in her sleep Monday at the age of 86, according to reports. 

Gallo’s husband, Bob Gallo, is the co-chairman of E&J Gallo Winery, the largest-family owned winery in the world and the largest private employer in Modesto. 


The crown jewel of Gallo’s philanthropy is downtown Modesto’s state-of-the-art performing arts center, the Gallo Center for the Arts. 

“Marie Gallo was the mother of the Gallo Center,” Gallo Center CEO Lynn Dickerson told ABC10. “Without her tireless efforts, it likely would never have been built.” 

The Gallo Center opened in 2007 and has served as a venue for local artists as well as top-flight national artists and entertainers who otherwise would likely not perform in Modesto. 

In 1997, Gallo was appointed by then-mayor Dick Lang to assemble a research team to look into the possibility of building a performing arts center. 

After the team’s work greenlit the project, the Gallo family donated $10 million to the project in 1999. 

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

Along with her work for Modesto’s performing arts, Gallo also was a prominent supporter of the Roman Catholic Church. 

The Gallo family donated land for Central Catholic High School, St. Stanislaus Church and the parish elementary school. 

Gallo also started the Catholic Social Service Guild in the 1970s and helped bring the Sisters of the Cross to Modesto. 

“Marie Gallo was raised in a home that stressed the importance of a vibrant faith and a compassionate heart and that showed through her community service,” the Stockton Diocese said in a statement. 

“Marie and Bob have passed on their faith and values to their family.” 

Gallo, a Modesto native, was born on April 23, 1935, and she graduated from Modesto High School and Notre Dame de Namur University in Belmont, University. 

She went on to teach at Alamo Elementary School in San Francisco before returning to Modesto in 1958, when she married Bob. Gallo also taught at St. Stanislaus Elementary School. 

Gallo is survived by Bob, her children Julie Vander Wall, John Gallo, Matthew Gallo, Thomas Gallo, Gina Gallo-Boisset, Amy Gallo and Mary E. Gallo-Lucisano, her brother Frank Damrell Jr. and 22 grandchildren.

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