Giovanna Stark

Mar 16, 1944 - Jun 10, 2017


After a life rich in family and friends, with milestone work in health care and child care, plus establishing American Visions Art Gallery in Folsom, Giovanna (Joann) Tofanelli Stark passed away at home. Born in Italy in 1944 in a town that German forces controlled, she grew up in Grass Valley and raised a family in Fair Oaks. At the State Capitol, she advised the staff of governors, with special skill crafting bipartisan solutions. She loved innovation, working with legislators to create the heart and hand KIDS license plates to benefit children’s services. Governors and the Legislature embraced her policy recommendations, including establishing city and county child care planning councils. Giovanna assisted more than a dozen California counties to write their First 5 Children and Family plans. She founded a non-profit, Government Action and Communication, to assist California foundations to engage state and local governments. She was a mentor to young women who now hold positions in health, social services, and education. By the early 2000s, she was in demand as a keynote speaker at international conferences on children’s rights, child care, and foster care. During the 1980s and 1990s, she organized the Christmas Project, matching youth in foster care with donors who provided clothing, games, and other essentials. At her gallery, she brought nationally-known artists to receptions that featured her Tuscan cooking and her talent for celebration. “Art sooths the soul” was her motto. She leaves behind five children, Joanna, Gemaine, Ginessa, Sage, and Gabrielle Stark, and two step children, Celina and Carlos Reyes-Hailey, plus their spouses and partners, Michael Rexach (Joanna), Tony Tavares (Gemaine), Tara Alcione (Sage), Jesse Boomhower (Gabrielle), and Greg Schmidt (Celina); four grandchildren, Béa and Elena Rexach, and Ronan and Milo Boomhower; her sister Simonetta Balliet; brothers Gino, Francesco, and Alfredo Tofanelli; many nieces and nephews; the young people she took under her wing including Nic Lewis and his children Nic Jr. and Jasmin; and, her partner, Jack Hailey. Her husband Roger Stark, a pilot and firefighter who flew for the California Department of Forestry, died in 1992. She also survived her parents, Gino Tofanelli and Fedora Gragnani Tofanelli, and her sister Marta Minot. Friends and family will celebrate Mass at Presentation Church, 4123 Robertson Avenue, on Saturday, June 17 at 10 am; burial at Fair Oaks Cemetery, followed by a reception at American Visions Gallery in Folsom. In her name, the family is establishing a Youth Scholarship Fund for Arts and Innovation to enable promising teens to be the first in their family to attend college. In Giovanna’s memory, the family encourages donations to the Youth Scholarship Fund, to The Water Project (water for African villages) or The Wildlife Care Association at McClellan.

Funeral Home:
East Lawn Mortuary
5757 Greenback Lane
Sacramento, CA
US 95841


  • Julia Hernandez says:

    I’m so sorry for your family’s loss. Please accept my sincere condolences. I personally know the loss of both a mother and grandmother, and the pain can seem overwhelming. However I found comfort in the Bible’s promise for the future. Acts 24:15 speaks of a resurrection, a time when God will reunite us with our loved ones again! I hope this helps bring some comfort in this time of sorrow.

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