David Lesgaspi III, 51, artist, educator, philanthropist, muse and teacher, mural donor and painter in California and Australia, dear friend to thousands, was found on June 5th. He had passed away from natural causes, a probable heart attack due to a pre-existing heart condition. The announcement of his passing was delayed until after final identification was made and his family in Australia could be notified.
May was a busy month for David, putting in long hours doing what he enjoyed most, painting
with children, sharing his love of art, and documenting his projects. On May 29th, David emailed a friend: "I've been busy painting murals all over town. I'm in the middle of painting with 1,200 kids at an LAUSD school right now, something like the one we did at PDMSS (Point Dume Marine Science School) in '06." But it was not to be -- David did not have the opportunity to continue painting with his precious Little Artists again.
David created hundreds of murals in the Southland area, including those at SMMUSD, LAUSD, the cities of Malibu and Santa Monica, private and public schools in the San Fernando Valley, South Bay schools, nonprofits such as the State PTA, as well as private commissions. Even so, David's largest impact was not what he put on walls, but what he inspired in the hearts of thousands of children -- and grown-ups.
David was born in Manila, the Philippines, on November 19,1960. He was the oldest of five siblings. David received his B.S. degree in Architecture from the University of St. Thomas, Philippines, in 1983. For nine years after matriculation, David was an architect, visual designer, merchandiser, and publicity artist for the U.S. Army and Air Force Exchange Service at Clark Air Force Base, Philippines, and the Royal Air Force, Upper Heyford, England. He then spent a year as a civilian architect in Madison, Wisconsin. However, David found that his day job was getting in the way of his murals. In 1993, he became a full-time freelance artist and muralist, first in Sydney, Australia, and then in Los Angeles. He returned to architecture at the CBMG Management Group in Santa Monica from 1999-2002. Thereafter, David embraced his life's calling, painting murals with and for children, whom he called his Little Artists, until his death. David did not charge for his mural services at his public projects. He most often paid for mural materials as well. He used funds from his private commissions to pay for his public projects. Phil Cott, principal of Malibu's Webster Elementary School, comments, "David was the single most generous and prolific contributor to our school in my 20 years at Webster, and literally transformed our environment." Many schools would make the same claim.
David is survived by his siblings, Dodie, Marileth, Denn, and Malou, his parents, Letty Legaspi and David Legaspi Jr.from Sydney, Australia, nephews, nieces, cousins, other extended family who live in the Philippines, Australia, and United States, Alice Stone and Barney Muller (his "adopted" California parents) of Lomita, California, and the thousands of children and adults whose lives he changed for the good.
There will be a Celebration of Life for David on Wednesday, June 27th at 1:00 p.m. at Barnum Hall on the campus of Santa Monica High School, 600 Olympic Boulevard, Santa Monica, CA 90405. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to: David Legaspi III Memorial Fund, PO Box 2863, Malibu, CA 90265. Visit his Facebook page at David Legaspi III Memorial Page.
Deirdre Roney is an activist, philanthropist, and artist who lives in Malibu, CA with her husband, John. Deirdre's two children, now 18 and 20, met David Legaspi when they were children and painted with him and their mother for most of their youth.
All photos by Robyn Lynch.