Carol French Gilbert, a caring, fun, and loving mother, grandmother, wife, and friend passed peacefully on May 6th after a battle with lung cancer at her home in Thousand Oaks, California. She was 87.
Carol was born to Frank and Marie French in Beverly Hills, California, where she enjoyed an idyllic childhood looking up to her older sister and surrounded by neighboring friends. Frank co-owned Frost & French Studebaker dealership and Marie was kept busy with their daughters. Carol was a product of an excellent Beverly Hills public school system, preparing her for liberal arts study at Stanford University. In 1956, she took a bachelors degree in dental hygiene from the University of Southern California’s School of Dentistry.
After finishing her formal training, Carol and her first husband lived in Vicenza, Italy, where their son Christopher Zaccalini was born. They moved to San Francisco for a while and Carol worked as a dental hygienist near Union Square. She fondly spoke of riding the cable car to work all dressed up in heels, a topcoat and hat, as was the fashion in those days. Later, they moved to Los Angeles where Roderick was born.
Carol met her second husband, Jack Gilbert, in the dental chair at the office where she worked. She delighted in telling stories of Jack’s numerous attempts to gain her hand in marriage. He was a highly successful businessman who rarely took no for an answer. After tying the knot in 1966, they lived in Toluca Lake where Carol entertained many of Jack’s associates, tended a beautiful rose garden, engaged in many creative craft projects, and raised her two boys. Carol took pride in the life lessons she taught her sons, including the importance of getting along with others and the value of having strong moral character. The family relocated to Calabasas in 1976, as Jack’s business focus turned toward Ventura County. Carol traded her mom-car for a Corvette that was fun to drive, but it presented a challenge when she strapped full sheets of plywood on top for her framing projects.
In 1985, the couple moved to a waterside home in Oxnard and Carol became Jack’s first mate on the “SeaJack,” a 61-foot motor yacht they docked there. Carol embraced the camaraderie of her seafaring neighbors. She also loved operating and decorating her own electric Duffy, the “CrackerJack,” during boat regattas held in the harbor. It was during this time that Carol and Jack began their long, philanthropic relationship with California Lutheran University.
Carol made her final move, after Jack’s passing, to University Village Thousand Oaks in 2014. This placed Carol across the street from a campus community that she grew to know closely and to love profoundly. She took great pleasure in meeting Cal Lutheran students and learning of their academic and co-curricular achievements. Carol was a regular guest at concerts, stage performances, convocations and sporting events. Her commitment to student success will carry long into the future, as Carol’s generosity can be found in campus buildings, athletic facilities, landmarks, scholarships and endowments.
Carol is predeceased by her late husband John B. Gilbert, her sister Rosemary Budlong, and her parents Frank and Marie French. She is survived by her son Christopher Zaccalini and daughter-in-law Priscilla Zaccalini of San Francisco, her son Rod Gilbert and his life partner Kaley Moore of Camarillo, her granddaughter Sylvie Gilbert of Santa Barbara, and her niece Kathleen Edberg of Landrum, South Carolina. In addition to Carol’s immediate family members, she leaves behind countless loved ones, including dear friends from University Village, her fellow worshipers at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Thousand Oaks, and the entire community at California Lutheran University.
Carol’s magnetic smile and steadfast optimism will be missed by all that knew her, yet we are comforted that Carol’s enduring faith in Jesus Christ assured her entry into Heaven.
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