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Virginia Montalbano

Avid traveler, accomplished bridge player

Virginia Mary Katherine Morrish Montalbano, a longtime Claremont resident, died on January 30, 2016 with her daughter by her side, just shy of her 100th birthday. 

She was born on July 31, 1916 in Detroit, Michigan and grew up in nearby Grey Haven. She moved to Los Angeles in the 1940s and in 1965 settled in Claremont, which was her home for the rest of her life. 

After a brief career as a legal secretary, Mrs. Montalbano devoted her time to raising her children. She was a tireless and loving mother who always put her children’s interests ahead of her own. She was full of wisdom and energy and known for her integrity and great strength of character. She had a keen sense of humor and an optimistic passion for life that brought out the best in others and enabled her to conquer almost any challenge. 

She loved good conversation, good books and crossword puzzles, and was an avid bridge player well into her 90s. She was excellent at the game and for many years, when her children were grown and living independently, she played bridge three to four times a week from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. with up to three tables of players who would rotate hosting at their homes. Even at age 99, she spent many hours over her last months playing gin rummy with her daughter (and often winning!) while talking about life experiences and sharing her wit.

She also greatly enjoyed travel, particularly with her two younger sisters who both died in recent years. As a child, besides spending her summers visiting the family farm, she loved traveling in style by boat, car and train with her Uncle George and Aunt Winifred.  Virginia kept a travel diary about these month-long trips around the eastern United States and Canada at age 12 and 13. She described her first train trip at age 12 as thrilling, particularly because she had an upper berth. The only problem was that she struggled to get into it and then got stuck and needed her youngest sister’s help to get out.

Her writing shows her awe of the countryside and historic settings she experienced. From 1968-1994, Virginia kept a record of her travels that included 23 international boat cruises in Europe, Asia, Africa and Australia. She took at least three road trips throughout the United States, the longest of which covered 29 states.

“She is greatly missed by those she  left behind, but we are comforted that she is at peace with her sisters and imagine her enjoying bridge with old family and friends,” family shared adding that she will always be in their hearts. 

She is survived by her three children, Patrick Gallagher of New York, Lynn Gallagher Sacco of California and Michael Gallagher of Arizona, by many grandchildren and great-grandchildren and by four beloved nephews as well as other family members.  

Virginia’s extended family will hold a celebration of her life from March 20 to 28 in Scottsdale, Arizona.