Alberta Loraine Lawson Galleron, 86, passed away peacefully at her home in Rutherford on Jan. 21, 2012. She was born on Jan. 3, 1926 to Perry and Mazie Lawson. Alberta grew up in Santa Rosa during the Depression. She was one of six children and times were hard. As a child, Alberta worked alongside her mother, picking prunes in order to afford school clothes. She attended Burbank Grammar School, where she had the opportunity to perform. A natural talent, Alberta excelled in singing, dancing and acting, and performed at local theaters and fairs in Cloverdale, Sebastopol, Armstrong Grove and Guerneville. At age 6, Alberta was chosen to be “Child Queen” of the 1932 Santa Rosa Rose Festival. She was crowned during an elaborate ceremony and parade where 50,000 spectators lined the streets to see the little queen.
In 1940, the Lawson family moved to Calistoga, where Alberta attended high school. She was majorette of the drum corps and played flute and saxophone in the band. Throughout her high school years, Alberta worked as a telephone operator for AT&T and waited tables at the Village Green, Cohen’s Resort and the Mountain View Hotel. After graduating from Calistoga High in 1944, Alberta moved to San Francisco and enrolled in beauty school. Upon graduation in 1947, Alberta moved back to Santa Rosa, where she worked as a hairdresser and telephone operator.
Alberta met her future husband, Paul Galleron, at a sock hop when he spotted her across a crowded room and asked her to dance. They were separated by World War II, when Paul joined the Army Air Force, was downed in Siberia, captured by armed guards and held as a prisoner of war. Paul and his flight crew were eventually released from Petropavlovsk, Russia in August 1945.
Paul and Alberta were married in Reno, Nev. on Sept. 5, 1949, and made their home in Rutherford. One year later, 24-year-old Alberta entered a local beauty contest and won. She was crowned Queen of St. Helena’s Harvest Days Festival of 1950. The festive three-day event was a huge draw for tourists and culminated in a grand parade with Queen Alberta atop an elaborate float. She was interviewed on the radio by Dean Maddox of KFRC’s “Breakfast at the Cliffhouse” and had the honor of cutting the ribbon at the opening ceremony for Napa’s new freeway. Queen Alberta and her court were the first to cruise the new two-lane freeway in an open convertible driven by Mayor Owen Seavey.
A devoted wife, mother and homemaker, Alberta was the ultimate 1950s mom. Her home was spotless and her three children were sent to school with their hair combed, shoes polished, clothes pressed and a bag lunch made with love. Alberta ran the household while Paul managed the family grape ranch. They raised their children and enjoyed 28 years of marriage until Paul’s death in 1977.
During the 1960s, Alberta was a member of the St. Helena Players, where she was both the makeup artist and lead actress in “Cleopatra,” “Lo and Behold” and “A Child is Born.” She was a gifted painter and exhibited her oil paintings with a group of local artists called the Valley Daubers. An avid gardener, Alberta derived great joy from tending her yard and beautiful flower garden. She excelled at flower arranging and was known for her gorgeous bouquets and wreaths, which she gave away to family and friends. Many doors in the Napa Valley are adorned with her artistic creations.
Alberta was a gracious hostess, gourmet cook and party planner. Cooking was her favorite pastime and she delighted in trying new recipes. Alberta’s house was always filled with delicious aromas and delectable foods. She was the keeper of all the family recipes, and everyone gathered at her home for holidays and special occasions. Family, friends and neighbors will recall all the fabulous parties on the patio and celebrations in the family room, where every detail from food to décor sparkled with Alberta’s special touch.
Especially dear to Alberta’s heart were her three precious grandchildren. Summers at Grandma’s house were filled with love, fun and adventure. She made everyone’s favorite foods and always had special trips planned to exciting destinations. She nurtured her grandchildren’s spiritual growth, encouraged them to travel and championed their college educations.
Alberta volunteered her time at the Courtesy Desk at St. Helena Hospital from 1975 to 1990. She taught catechism for 11 years at St. Helena Catholic Church, and served as president of the Altar Society at Holy Family Church in Rutherford, and St. Joan of Arc Women’s Guild in Yountville. Throughout her lifetime, Alberta generously donated to countless charities and had supported children in Rwanda, Bangladesh, Ethiopia and South Africa since 1998.
Alberta lived her life with grace and dignity. She will be remembered for her beautifully coiffed hair, fabulous cooking, timeless elegance, gentle spirit, polite, quiet demeanor and kind, giving nature. Alberta put everyone first before herself; she was a loyal friend, loving wife, devoted mother and adoring grandmother. She will be deeply missed and will live in our hearts forever.
Alberta is survived by her loving children, Gregory (Jean Ann) Galleron, Gary Galleron and Paula Galleron; beloved grandchildren, Paul Galleron, Leigh Ann Galleron and Matthew Galleron; sister, Carole Mazzotti; and many cherished nieces and nephews. She was preceded in death by her parents; husband, Paul Galleron; sister, Mazie Bagnasco; and brothers, Perry Lawson, Howard Lawson and Kenneth Lawson.
The Galleron family would like to extend a special thank-you to Dr. Robert Darter and all the nurses and doctors at St. Helena Hospital for their kind and compassionate care. In addition, we would like to thank Connie Hamilton of Visiting Angels, and caregivers Alma, Edith, Amanda, Jonaline, Orelia and Rose for their vigilant care and devotion to our mother.
Funeral services will be held at St. Helena Catholic Church, 1340 Tainter St. (at Oak Avenue) on Friday, Jan. 27, at 11 a.m. Burial will follow at Holy Cross Cemetery in St. Helena. Arrangements by Morrison Funeral Chapel of Napa Valley, 963-3536. Expressions of sympathy may be sent to the family online at morrisonfuneralchapel.com.
Flowers are welcome, or memorial contributions can be made to the Rutherford Fire Department or Children’s Hospital in Oakland.