Longtime community activist Marilyn Gunnell dies at 73


Marilyn Gunnell, a former nurse and private investigator who was active in the community for roughly 25 years and received several honors, died Jan. 18 at Glendale Adventist Medical Center. She was 73.

Gunnell was born in Boston, Mass., to Lester and Gloria Smith. She lived in Glendale for 43 years.

Gunnell had been a member of the Glendale Sunrise Rotary since 1989 with perfect attendance. She was also a member of the Los Angeles County Medical Assn. Alliance, District 4, serving as president for three years.

Among her community efforts she spearheaded were “Not Even For A Minute,” part of national campaign to prevent child deaths due to heat or accident when they are left in a car unattended; “Bully Me Not,” an antibullying education effort with expert training for local educators and a donation of books to the library; “Shaking Shocker,” an education campaign to prevent shaken-baby syndrome; and Glendale Safe Place, which designated safe havens for runaway or homeless youth.

She was also a founding adviser of the Interact Club at Hoover High School, a founder of Glendale Leaders for AIDS Awareness during the height of the AIDS epidemic and a former board member of the Glendale YWCA.

In addition, she was involved with the Glendale Youth Coalition, Glendale Human Relations, Safe Place National Advisory Board, Committee for a Clean And Beautiful Glendale, Glendale Healthy Kids, Glendale Chamber of Commerce, Glendale Latino Assn., and Glendale Healthier Community Coalition, which she was a member of from 1996-2014.

Among the awards she received were the Glendale Adventist Cancer Care Guild 2015 Courage Award, an honor from the Glendale Latino Assn. in 2014, the Service Above Self Award from Glendale Sunrise Rotary in 2011, the Glendale YWCA Heart and Excellence Award in 2008, the Glendale YMCA Harold Prugh Award in 2002, Glendale News-Press Woman of Achievement in 2001, the Glendale Community Coordinating Council Certificate of Achievement in 1994 and the Beth Israel Hospital School of Nursing Award for Outstanding Activity in 1962.

Survivors include her husband Dr. John C. Gunnell; son Matthew and his wife, Lisa Popuck; son Eli and his wife, Lisa Chan; daughter Sarah Sumner and her husband, John Sumner; daughter Ingrid and her husband, Frank Higginbotham; and daughter Emily Bennett and her husband, Paul Bennett; 11 grandchildren; and a sister-in-law, Yvonne Smith. She was preceded in death by her parents and brother, Irving Smith.

Viewing and visitation will be from 6 to 9 p.m. on Monday at Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills, followed by a funeral at 3 p.m. Tuesday at the Old North Church at Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Marilyn Gunnell Fund at the Community Foundation of the Verdugos, 111 East Broadway, Suite 200, Glendale, CA 91205, or the Marilyn Gunnell Legacy Fund, c/o Patient Care Foundation, Attn: Joy Simmons, 801 S. Grand Blvd, Suite 425, Los Angeles, CA 90017.


Mark Kellam,

Twitter: @LAMarkKellam