Laura Marie Gobbi
March 15, 1969—June 13, 2020
Laura Marie Gobbi, a director at The Nature Conservancy, died at home in Washington D.C., on June 13, 2020 due to breast cancer. She was 51 years old and survived by her wife Victoria Clarke of Washington, D.C.; father Edward Gobbi of Lynnfield, Massachusetts; brother Eddie Gobbi of Wakefield, Massachusetts; and two cats, Taz and Saskia. She was preceded in death by her mother, the late Judith Ann Kennedy Gobbi and two other cats, Lulu and Stella.
Laura was the director of donor engagement at The Nature Conservancy (2019-2020) and based at the organization's Worldwide Office in Arlington, Virginia. Prior to this position, she was the director of donor relations and events at the Smithsonian Institution (2015-2019) in Washington, D.C.
Laura was a gifted director and manager of people. She was born to foster meaningful connections among coworkers and revered for developing talent, managing high-performing teams, all the while building community among her colleagues. She is described by one colleague as "a vibrant, engaging individual who approached every moment with sincerity and deep intent."
Laura's career had many chapters. She was an assistant vice president of alumnae relations and institutional giving for Mills College; executive director of the alumni association at her alma mater, Oberlin College; and a museum scientist at the University of California, Berkeley.
At each job, Laura most valued her relationships with colleagues and donors, and many became devoted friends.
She had wide and diverse interests. She earned a Master of Arts in the History of Art from New York University Institute of Fine Arts and a Bachelor of Arts in the History of Art and Flute Performance from Oberlin College. But her academic degrees did not begin to reveal all her loves.
Laura studied and spoke Italian and French, played the flute, wrote poetry, painted with watercolors, and was an adept student of the natural world, especially birds and butterflies. She served as the president of the board of directors for the Golden Gate Audubon Society, the San Francisco Bay Area chapter of the National Audubon Society, earning the designation of Master Birder through the California Academy of Sciences. But, her friends knew her as the expert they could count on to identify a rare species in a meadow or grove of trees that happened to be resting before continuing on during migration.
She once described herself in her personal biography on the OkCupid dating website as "a feisty Italian-Irish Bostonian at heart, one-part Sopranos, one-part Joyce…The first things people usually notice about me—my openness and interest in what they have to say. My positive attitude and ability to see good in things…Sometimes my style. I love shoes...The six things I could never do without: family, friends and animals; kissing; travel and narrative; nature; laughing; and music."
Throughout her life and illness, Laura returned to her gratitude, again and again. Gratitude was her mantra. For years, she kept a small paper cutout that still sits at the base of her personal reading lamp that simply reads: "BE GRATEFUL TO EVERYONE."
Laura had a clever and sweet sense of humor and wanted most to be remembered for that humor and her love of life and the natural world.
No public service will be held as it was Laura's wish to be cremated and have her ashes scattered at a special location on Round Lake Trail in Sierra Nevada and on the flats at the Mass Audubon Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary. Family and friends are invited to her celebration of life ceremony to be held at a later date.
In lieu of flowers, donations in Laura's name can be made to Smith Center for Healing and the Arts, 1632 U Street, NW, Washington, DC 20009.
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Published by San Francisco Chronicle from Jun. 20 to Jun. 21, 2020.