Garcia's mom

Gaby O'Donnell, Mayor Robert Garcia's mother, introduces him during his election night party April 7, 2009.

Mayor Robert Garcia’s family has set up a scholarship fund at Cal State Long Beach to honor his mother, who died this week, by helping students who want to go into healthcare — with a focus on helping women and immigrants — the city’s elected leader announced in a tweet Thursday, July 30.

Gabriella O’Donnell died on Sunday, at 61 years old, from coronavirus-related complications, the mayor announced Monday, July 27. O’Donnell immigrated to the United States in 1982 with then-5-year-old Garcia from their native Lima, Peru.

They settled in the San Gabriel Valley, where she cleaned houses to earn a living; she later moved to Whittier and became a medical assistant in a satellite office for the City of Hope in West Covina.

“My mom was a healthcare worker for over 25 years and she cared for thousands of patients during her career,” Garcia said in the tweet.

O’Donnell never attended college, according to a statement on the scholarship fund’s website, but seeing both of her sons graduate from CSULB was one of her greatest accomplishments.

“The family,” the statement said, “encourages returning women and immigrant students to apply to continue Gaby’s work of supporting patients and caring for those who are sick.”

Once the scholarship exceeds $150,000, the statement added, it will become eligible for permanent endowment.

As of Thursday evening, the fund had raised $14,275. To donate, go to

“She was a healthcare hero,” Garcia said in another tweet. “Our healthcare workers need your support to fight COVID-19. Stay safe and protect our families.”

Load comments