Eva Ghilotti, matriarch of the 100-year-old Ghilotti Bros. construction company, will be remembered at a celebration of her life at 1 p.m. Friday at San Rafael Joe's, the longtime Fourth Street restaurant she called "my home away from home."
A resident of Kentfield, Mrs. Ghilotti died April 12 after a brief illness. She was 87.
In 1992, she teamed with her late husband, Mario Ghilotti, and their two sons, to continue a family construction company founded in 1914 by Mario's father, James, an Italian immigrant. As chairman of the board, Mrs. Ghilotti and her husband, who died in 2010, built the business into one of the largest construction firms in California. In 1995, Ghilotti Bros. was ranked 12th in the top 100 women-owned businesses in the Bay Area by San Francisco Business Times.
"With my dad, she was the other half of the business," said her son, Dante Ghilotti. "She was born and raised in West Texas, rode a horse to and from school every day, went on month-long cattle drives when she was 9 years old. She was really a tough woman who grew up in the old west. So, within the company, she was very good at keeping everyone's feet on the ground, making sure that everything was done right, that all the dollars were spent right, and everyone minded their Ps and Qs."
He attributes his mother's organizational skills and military discipline to the 16 years she spent in the Air Force and the Army Air Corps. In addition to working in the Inspector General's office, she served as an administrative assistant to a base commander and was on a comptroller's staff, handling budgeting and expenses for the aircraft and equipment used for training Air Force reserve personnel.
She met her husband while she was stationed at Hamilton Air Force Base in Novato. They were married in 1961. The young couple bought property in rural Nicasio and started the Mar-Ghi Arabian Horse Ranch, which she managed. They competed in horse shows throughout the Southwest and had two horses that were ranked in the top 10 in the world.
An outbreak of rabies in 1973 decimated their stable of horses and threatened the Ghilottis' lives. After they both survived six months of rabies treatment, they stopped breeding and showing horses.
Mrs. Ghilotti would go on to spend the rest of her working life with Ghilotti Bros., which celebrates its centennial this year.
"For her, life was simple," Dante Ghilotti said. "She believed in love of God, love of family and hard work. She was from the generation that did what you have to do."
Mrs. Ghilotti is survived by sons Dante Ghilotti of Ross and Michael Ghilotti of San Rafael. She also leaves eight grandchildren. A ninth grandchild is on the way.
Donations in her name may be made to the Mario Ghilotti Family Foundation, 525 Jacoby St., San Rafael, 94901.
Contact Paul Liberatore via email at email@example.com
©2014 The Marin Independent Journal (Novato, Calif.)
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