Charles and Gail MuskavitchA shared passion for giving back.
Charles and Gail Muskavitch Endowment Fund
Although Gail and Charles Muskavitch began their lives in two very different ways, their shared passions brought them together.
Born in Texas, Mildred Cornelia Smith was the oldest daughter of seven children. They were raised by a single mother and worked hard to support each other financially as they went to college and started careers. In the 1930s, Mildred changed her name to Gail Northe when she became a popular radio personality known for her fashion commentary and celebrity interviews. Gail’s flair for the exciting thrilled her audience. In 1936, during a broadcast for the opening of the Texas Centennial Exposition, she dropped gardenias over downtown Dallas from the door of her moving plane.
Over 1700 miles away, in Massachusetts, Charles was born to immigrant parents. His mother was a princess, making him a member of the Russian nobility. Education was important to Charles, and after earning a doctorate in chemistry from Harvard University, he traveled widely, completing a fellowship in Lithuania, conducting research in Egypt and Turkey, and advising the Peruvian government on the preservation of antiquities. Charles returned from abroad and became the Director of Research for the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts.
It was their work that caused the two to meet: Charles had heard about Gail’s flower drop and was invited to appear on her show to discuss art restoration. In 1939, they married in Texas and two years later, moved to a ranch in Auburn which they deemed ‘El Rancho del Norte’. During their time in Placer County, Charles taught art at UC Davis and worked as a conservator for the Edwin Bryant Crocker Gallery in Sacramento. In her later years, Gail created a strong daily spiritual practice of contemplation, reading, journaling and writing poetry. She was intensely interested in world religions which led to a fifty year study of comparative religions. Gail also edited spiritually themed books and volunteered for an organization dedicated to spreading the message of peace.
Throughout their lives, Gail and Charles enjoyed helping others. During a road trip through Texas, they picked up a young hitchhiker on the highway and Gail interviewed him for her show. Reflecting on her time as a radio host, Gail remembered him as one of her best subjects, saying, “Our ‘greatest’ guests were the simplest, most sincere, humble…for example…the young ‘vagabond’ Charles and I picked upon our way to Austin.” Remembering her modest roots and seeking to help the poor and needy, Gail started a private foundation with Charles in 1999. Charles passed away in 2001; Gail lived another nine years to the age of 106.
Auburn attorney Tim Woodall assisted in the creation and management of the private foundation as he and his wife Robyn were longtime friends of the Muskavitches. In 2012, Tim and Robyn began exploring ways to simplify the administration of the foundation and to learn more about local funding opportunities. After meeting with Veronica Blake and Jessica Hubbard, they decided to convert the private foundation to a Donor Advised Fund at the Placer Community Foundation. Today, The Charles and Gail Muskavitch Endowment Fund provides support to the poor, including assistance with job training, housing, and education and supports causes related to world peace. The new fund allows the trustees to fund causes important to Gail’s charitable interests and to preserve the legacy that Charles and Gail began together.