Gaynell O'Malley
Born Jan. 12, 1938 ~ Died Feb. 11, 2002 at age 64
Photo Photo

Portions of a letter written to Gay's daughter, Linda Mesteth, on 3/31/06 — from Elsa Barlow Walton.

Gay lived just down the street from me. I was on Colusa, near Riviera Elementary and Gay was on Via Sevilla. So Gay was my closest neighbor. We were best friends from about 1951 when my family moved to Redondo Beach.  Although we met in the same 6th grade, (at Seaside) I was quite young for my class and Gay was quite old for her class.  We were almost exactly two years apart.  So Gaynell was much more mature than I was — and it showed.

After Riviera Elementary was built, Gaynell and I used to walk down to the swings in early evening before dinner.  I was an imaginative and dramatic child so I often embarrassed her.  But when we were alone she'd go along with my childish games.  As we swung I made her play  "Space Cadet" and we were Tom and Roger saying stuff like "over and out".  On our way home I made her mount, canter and dismount from a pretend horse.  Usually I was the Lone Ranger on Silver and she had to be Tonto on Scout. She was mortified and made sure no one saw her. I was still too young to care.

Beginning in 1953, (9th grade) we waited together at the school bus stop at the horribly early hour of 6:50 AM on cold, foggy, winter mornings.  We had to endure a half-hour long bus trip past pumpkin and rice fields on Hawthorne Ave. to reach what seemed like our very distant high school .  Then at THS, we had to hang out by our lockers in the cold hallways for another half hour waiting for teachers to open the doors and let us into the warm classrooms.

Gaynell was a very funny personality.  She and I had hilarious times together.  I remember some hard-fought, marathon, monopoly games that lasted all day.  She and her mom tried to teach me to play cards, but I had no mind for it.  Gay was unique — as was her family.  To me, Tom O’Malley was a very handsome and mysterious fellow who was a test pilot.  I also loved her step-mother, Lee, who was very beautiful and sociable and funny.  Of course I thought her little brother was a terrible brat!

As sophisticated teenagers, Gay and I spent long weekend hours walking down the hill to the beach.  Generally, we met up with our neighboring girlfriends, Sandy Beaird, Dyanne Demaree and Karen Brunell, among others, as we walked.  We had to walk a little over a mile to Torrance Beach where we seductively arranged ourselves on towels near the lifeguards while we giggled and talked nonstop.

Gay and I pursued different activities in high school and made different friends.  (I was a Thespian and involved with art and drama and dance.)  By 1956 Gay was going steady with Rick Haase and I was going steady with another classmate, Larry George.  They both lived in Lower Hollywood Riviera.  I think we double dated a few times — probably to drive-in movies.  Rick had a cute little blue car and he gave us rides to school once in awhile when we were seniors.

After I left for Hawaii in 1958, Gaynell and I began to lose touch with each other.  Gay worked in the UK for several years and then I know she toured Europe with her Mom and Rick.  I think she and Rick were engaged to be married for a while. 

Memories from others:

If you would like to contribute memories about Gay please send them to Elsa:


THS Grad. photo
Fifties photo
Sixties photo
Catching Up

Information about Gaynell sent to Elsa from Gay's daughter, Linda Mesteth, on 4/11/06

Gay married Allan Staley around 1964. Gay met Al through his sister, who was a co-worker of Gay's in the UK. They were married in the little church of the west in Las Vegas. They had a son, Jay, in 1966 and a daughter, Linda, in 1970. Al worked as a postal manager for the postal service. They lived in Long Beach, CA until 1984 when Al was transferred to Hermiston, OR. Linda still lives in north-eastern Oregon. Her brother lives in Texas. Between them they gave Gay six grandchildren.
Al retired in 1996 and the couple moved to Payson, AZ. Payson is about an hour outside of Phoenix. Linda say it is a beautiful small town with excellent weather. Gay is buried there.
In 2002, just before Valentine's Day, Gay passed away. A main artery in her brain burst. It might have been weak all her life or it might have been the result of years of smoking. She died instantly. Up until then she had remained slim and had been healthy.

Seventies, location
Photo Album
Dyanne Demaree Radke kept this sketch and sent it to me with the note, above. Dyanne says that Gay made the sketch in a home-ec class. I also remember seeing Gay make sketches like this. We all admired her elegant figures and dress designs. —Elsa