Lark Eloise Galloway-Gilliam, the daughter of Lloyd Edward Galloway and Dorothy Carmen Kahn-Galloway was born on July 21, 1953 in Los Angeles, California. It is so interesting to know that the description of the weather in Los Angeles in 1953 was described as “warm Mediterranean days”, and maybe this is why Lark’s favorite food was Mediterranean and she was always on the hunt to find the “best grape leaves”. Lark was the fourth child of five children and the second daughter of the three girls. Lloyd and Dolly demonstrated profound love for family, and unquestionable commitment for the enhancement of their community which laid the cornerstone and direction of Lark’s life. Lark spent her childhood and young adulthood serving God through her work in her Dad’s church, Lincoln Memorial Congregational Church of the United Church of Christ. It was amazing to watch how Lark always seem to attract the youth in the church and as a young adult she directed the youth group-Pilgrim Fellowship. They trusted her with all their secrets and they had to because they could not hide anything from her. She was a master at reading their souls. She shared one of her greatest gifts with them guiding them on how to become effective leaders. Lark served in leadership positions from a local level to the national level of the UCC denomination. She was a powerhouse with a big destiny!
Lark was a lover of knowledge and demonstrated her intelligence and thirst for education from her initial educational experience at 24th Street Elementary School, where she excelled academically and artistically. She held the position of first chair violinist and loved classical music. Lark was among the first group of children that participated in the busing program that sent her to Emerson Jr. High and then on to University High. This opened a whole new world of challenges for Lark and she met them head on. She rose to leadership positions in every school she attended. Even at an early age Lark always seemed to develop a platform that was different from any other student that she ran against and she usually ended up the President of the Student Body Government. She was so serious and intentional about making changes to benefit all the students she represented. Like her Dad, Lark was a champion in Speech and Debate in high school. She attended U.C.L.A. for undergraduate studies and received a B.S. degree in Biology in in 1975. Initially, she had prepared for and applied for Medical School, and was accepted to UC Irvine, but then decided that she was called to a health advocacy role and decided to attend USC. In 1977 Lark received her Master of Public Administration degree and was ready to jump into community health and make a difference in the world. Lark completed all of her course work for her Doctorate in Public Administration, but got so caught up in her career and supporting others, that she had to put her completion of her dissertation on hold. With all she has done in public health she deserves to have an honorary Doctorate degree. But if you knew Lark, it really did not phase her, because working in the trenches enhancing the lives of the people she served was her first priority. Service to humanity came first in Lark’s life.
Lark worked in hospital administration at Kaiser Permanente and Cedars Sinai Medical Center for a few years and received lucrative consulting offers before opening a non-profit organization. For a decade, she served as the Executive Director of Assisting the Disabled with Employment, Placement, and Training, a program that helped people with disabilities find work.
She developed and organized Community Health Councils, and served as the CEO from its conception. The impetus for creating the organization stemmed from discovering that the healthcare establishments that were burned to the ground in the 1992 riots were owned by outsiders or were out of touch with the community. She started with a small group of women that were willing to plunge into making “waves of change”, and since then the organization has grown to more than 40 employees reaching out through different programs to make a difference where ever a challenge arises. As Paul Hernandez said,” We never knew what challenge Lark would take up next, but we knew it was always for the greater good of others that needed support, encouragement, or a voice that would not falter under pressure even if it was against all odds.
Lark was an organizer, a dreamer, a visionary who as one friend Orland shared, “ She would tell me that at night when the house was quiet and her mind was busy bringing the day to an end, she would go outside look up to the stars in the sky and pray to be open to God’s inspiration”. The answers to challenges or the visions of what to create next would come to her in her dreams. She was divinely inspired throughout her life and her career. Lark was a negotiator, a builder of bridges in situations that at first seemed like they were insurmountable chasms with no resolve in sight. “Her famous response to us was “Stop, look and listen, before you respond”, and now we know these elements were her tools for success!
Family was the personal part of Lark’s life, although to know Lark, you would invariably know that Robin was the love of her life. So from her union in marriage to Edward Robin Gilliam they were blessed to become parents of Robin Eloise. This creation of Mother and child relationship was a very special and sacred part of the core of Lark’s expression that will always be an eternal expression. They are so tuned into one another that they always know each other’s thoughts and even more profound, each other’s feelings. It is a mother –daughter relationship that really complimented each other. They are an invincible team. Robin has always been that person and space that was a refuge for Lark. She could come home no matter how late in the evening and Robin was there for her. She listened to what had unfolded that day and would chime in with words of an unbiased opinion that reflected Robin’s deep wisdom and love for her Mom. They are each other’s sounding boards as Lark is still infusing her spirit in Robin’s life and always will.
Lark holds a very special and sacred space in the lives of each family member. She was always the one that had that sense of humor that kept us on our toes. She started out being the quiet child who just seemed to watch and listen to everything that was going on. Then all of a sudden one day she opened up and started expressing herself and everyone was stunned. Our parents were amazed and so proud of what she had been carrying in the depths of her soul! We all knew that Lark had been chosen for a “big destiny” and that she would be relentless, committed, and determined. We as a family knew that she was a soft and gentle human being, but that when confronted with challenges she would become a “warrior for human rights”. She has a special and unique relationship with each of us in the family. Lark’s siblings Elizabeth G. Evans, Lloyd E. Galloway, Jr. Mark E. Galloway, and Patricia G. Banday, each have their own special love connection with Larkie (Tinker Bell) and have a deep and abiding love for her. Lark has a special love connection with her (brother)-in – law Eugene (Geno) Banday, sister-in-law Linda Galloway, and her (God) sister-Kathi Cliff. Geno was her barometer on the political and labor union issues and Kathi was her confidant. Her nieces Nicole A. Evans and Leilani R. Banday and Nephew Joshua E. Banday, each hold attributes of their Aunt Larkie and she is still their go to person when they have to make big life decisions. She loves her nieces and nephew with great admiration and patience and always accepted each of them for who they were designed to be. The family has been recently blessed by the birth of Celio H. Valdez-Banday, Leilani’s son, and Malia E. Banday, Joshua’s daughter. Lark use to say that Celio was her guide, because he really “got her”. Lark is so loved and cherished by her family. She was clear that each relationship had its own texture and dynamics. Lark (Sparkie) gave us the gift of learning what devotion to others means to the evolution of the soul.
Well done thy good and faithful servant! You have loved deeply. You have served unselfishly. You have fulfilled God’s destiny for your life and now you can rest (for a little) in God’s hands. As Robin said, “I understand that my Mom’s spirit got too big for her physical body because God needed her to do an even greater work”.
A Message to Lark from Daddy
Many are the miles that you have traveled, because your feet were shod with hope and a dream, with belief and will for which not discouragement or failure or trials were a match. The elements of your soul gave the edge to the spirit that was you whose values, whose beauty, whose resources made you a model for all those who shared the walk through life with you. So, artistic one, move on and upward to the prize you seek! You learned your lesson well by sensitivity of soul, a humility and grace that allowed you to peak through the covers of life and discover Truth! Your stride was confident and your gate winged by an inspired heart to drink deeply of the goodness of life. When you fell you rose higher than before, when you failed you won a priceless prize. When you felt pain or sorrow you experienced the sweetness of joy-because you sought to walk with God! Lloyd E. Galloway, Sr. – Lark’s father’s message to her American Poetry Anthology, 1990 Edition