Celebrating the Life of Gay Powers

Gay receiving the Humaitarian Award from the city of Davis last fall flanked by then Mayor Pro Tem Dan Wolk (left) and Mayor Joe Krovoza (right)
Gay receiving the Humaitarian Award from the city of Davis last fall flanked by then Mayor Pro Tem Dan Wolk (left) and Mayor Joe Krovoza (right)

Gay Havens-Monteagle Powers, 1946 – 2014

Gay Havens-Monteagle Powers, 68, died, following a long and courageous battle with cancer, on August 13, 2014 in Davis, CA. An artist in every sense of the word, Gay painted and showed her work until her last days. Gay will be remembered for her outgoing personality, zany passion for life, artistic creativity, and lifetime devotion to civil and human rights. Gay was born a twin on March 19, 1946 in Beverly Hills, CA to Jehanne Havens-Monteagle, a sophisticated San Francisco socialite and international cultural promoter of the Monterey Peninsula, and Lionel Stander, a popular Hollywood actor, socialist and political activist, who was a founding member of the Screen Actors Guild and blacklisted in the McCarthy era. Her adoptive father, Albert Gallatin “Gal” Powers, was the well-known proprietor of Gallatin’s restaurant in Monterey. Gay spent her childhood and came of age immersed in the rich social and artistic life that was California’s Monterey Peninsula in the 50’ and 60’s. She eventually managed the family’s now legendary fine dining restaurant. The magnificence of the natural beauty of the Monterey Peninsula was often reflected in Gay’s artwork.

Gay’s extroverted and fun loving personality was powerful in itself. When combined with the equally powerful personality of her twin sister Joy, a third person, “the twins”, emerged. As all who knew them, the twins were a force to be reckoned with.

On a lifelong spiritual quest, Gay explored and embraced numerous faiths and wove them into her own interfaith alternative. She was deeply comforted by a number of Mormon missionaries in her final years.

Gay graduated from Monterey High School and earned two Associate Degrees from the Monterey Peninsula Community College, one in Art and another in Electronics. She completed a Bachelor Degree, Art Studio and Philosophy, from UC Davis, graduating Phi Kappa Phi, cum laude in 1986. In the footsteps of her grandmother Estelle Houston Monteagle, Gay also attended Mills College, working on a MFA with Jay DeFeo. In 2002, Gay received a California Multiple Subject Teaching Credential with Crosscultural, Language & Academic Development Emphasis and in 2005, received a California Clear Single Subject Teaching Credential in Art.

During the course of her formal art studies, Gay was taught and mentored by three icons of the Bay Area Figurative School: Wayne Thiebaud, Roland Petersen, and Manuel Neri. Not unlike her predecessors, Gay abandoned her earlier style of abstract expressionism in favor of figuration. Gay was anointed into the third generation of the Bay Area Figurative Movement when she was selected by Roland Petersen to show her art along side his and Wayne Thiebaud’s in a 1991 exhibition, “Influences V”, at the Judith Weintraub Gallery, Sacramento, CA. Widely collected throughout California, Gay’s paintings have been shown at the SFMOMA Artist Gallery and frequently shown in both group and solo exhibitions at the John Natsoulas Gallery, Davis, CA. Several of her paintings hang in public institutions including San Francisco’s Grace Cathedral and the UC Davis Veterinary Center. Most of her work now resides in private collections in San Francisco, Davis, New York City, and Pebble Beach.

Like many artists, Gay supplemented her artistic endeavors with a variety of other jobs, including a stint as a technician for COMSAT, at the Jamesburg Station for the communications satellite corporation in Carmel Valley, her creation of Bonjour Baguette in the Davis Farmer’s Market where she sold bread and pastries for 20 years and was known as the “Bread Lady,” as well as several years as an art teacher in the Dixon School District.

Gay resided in Davis for nearly 30 years and was very active in numerous local civic organizations and political campaigns including being a member and chair of the Davis Human Relations Commission, founder of Davis’ annual Martin Luther King Day march, and a prime mover of the politics that got sexual orientation included in the Davis Civil Rights Ordinance and the establishment of Davis Domestic Partners Ordinance. The City of Davis gave Gay their Thong Hy Huynh Civil Rights Advocacy Award in 2004 and a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2013 for her significant civil rights efforts improving the quality of life in Davis.

Gay was a 5th generation “Old Californian” – who traces her family’s roots to colonial America, pre-Gold Rush California, the founding of Carmel-by-the-Sea, and the early development of the San Francisco Bay Area. Her mother’s family comes “…from a long line of whalers, Scottish lords, Boston Beacon-Hillers, revolutionary pirates, Virginia slave-owners, and beautiful women!” Her great-grandfather, Frank C. Havens, was born into one of the founding families of Shelter Island, NY and descended from Lion Gardner, who founded the first English settlement in 1639 in what was to become the State of New York. Frank C. Havens was instrumental in the early development of Piedmont, Berkeley, and Oakland. Together with his business partner, Francis Marion Smith, he built the landmark Claremont Hotel. The Frank C. Havens Elementary School in Piedmont is named for him. Gay’s other great-grandparents, Louis and Lydia Monteagle were driving forces in the development of key San Francisco institutions including the San Francisco Symphony, St. Luke’s Hospital, and Grace Cathedral. Her grandmother Estelle Houston Monteagle was a Carter from Virginia. Her grandfather, Kenneth Monteagle, was president of the San Francisco Symphony Association and the San Francisco Opera Association during its critical revitalization immediate following WWII. The Monteagle family residence in Pacific Heights was purchased by the British Government in 1954 and served as the Consul-General’s Residence for more than 50 years. Gay’s grandmother, Jane Gallatin, spent most of her childhood in the palatial Sacramento house of her father, Albert Gallatin, built in 1877, which later became home to 13 California governors. Albert Gallatin, a pioneer developer of hydroelectric power in California was descended from Jefferson’s Secretary of the Treasury, Abraham Alfonse Albert Gallatin. Gay’s grandfather Frank H. Powers married Jane Gallatin and together they co-founded the artist colony of Carmel-by-the-Sea in 1901. Jane Gallatin, a noted California artist, became the colony’s first artist in residence. Frank H. Powers worked to establish a theater in Carmel and spearheaded the building of the town’s first library. Most of Gay’s male ancestors were members of San Francisco’s legendary Bohemian Club.

Gay is survived by her devoted twin sister and patron, Joy Powers D’Ovidio and brother-in-law Gene (San Francisco), sisters Victoria Cole (Healdsburg) and Sandra Powers (Bridgehampton, NY), sister-in-law Jody Powers (Seaside), nieces Brooke Cole (Healdsburg) and Paige Cole (San Francisco), nephews James Cole (Petaluma) and Gallatin Powers Jr. (Monterey), cousins Heidi McGurin (Seaside), Flicka McGurin (San Francisco), Holly Fassett (Big Sur), Kimi Fassett (Pacific Grove), Dorcus Fassett (Pacific Grove), Kaffe Fassett (London, England), Erin Gafill (Big Sur) and her husband Tom Birmingham, and Diane Powers-Ellsworth (San Miguel de Allende, Mexico) and her husband Patric. Her brother, Gallatin “G” Powers, predeceased Gay.

Gay will be remembered and deeply missed by her mentor, confidant and caregiver, Jeffrey Ruda, her dear friend and caregiver, Liz Chalfant and dearest friends Willis “Bill” Ritter and Martha Rutan, as well as her many lifelong friends from childhood, the entire David Armanasco Family, Mary Alice Cerrito Fettis and her husband Nick, and Perla Armanasco Gray and her husband Richard.

And, Gay will be always remembered and missed by her much loved pets, Yoyo, Coco, Baby Priscilla, Super Kitty, Arthur, and Salvatore.

In Monterey, a celebration of Gay’s life will be held at the home of Mary Alice (Cerrito) and Nick Fettis, 5720 Carmel Valley Road, Carmel, CA 93923 on Sunday, September 21 from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m.

In Davis, a celebration of Gay’s life will be held at the John Natsoulas Gallery, 521 First Street, Davis, CA 95616 on Sunday, September 28 from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m.

Gay Powers drew this painting of Jasmine in late 2011 and gave it to me as a present for my birthday that year.
Gay Powers drew this portrait of Jasmine in late 2011 and gave it to me as a present for my birthday that year.

Editor’s Note: On a very personal level, Gay Powers touched our lives.  Our children affectionately referred to her as “Auntie Gay” and the photo (above) is a charcoal rendering of my daughter Jasmine Escamilla-Greenwald shortly before her second birthday in 2011.  The picture hangs above my computer desk at home where I write the Vanguard  each morning.


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Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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2 thoughts on “Celebrating the Life of Gay Powers”

  1. PhilColeman

    Gay was well-named, and I don’t mean the sexual orientation way. She was ever cheerful and lifted my spirits every time I interacted with her. I don’t think she had a mean bone in her body.

    Just a bit zany to make her even more appealing, she fit perfectly into any Davis sub-culture. And what a pedigree, Wow. I never knew she had such an aristocratic background.

    Gay is like a lot of people we come to know; once they are gone we realize how much we are going to miss them.

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