by Sam Allard
Like a lot of young women with impeccable penmanship and a compulsion to anthologize, Christina Gaston had a handwritten list of her favorite things in the world:
-Love for my family.
-Going to the movies.
-Driving to music lessons and performances.
She was a woman of disarming beauty, charisma and compassion; a woman who relished the smell of dusty book stores, who collected antiques before it was trendy; a woman whose eyelashes and lips made Audrey Hepburn look frankly plain; a woman who was not above walking a mile through snow in six-inch heels to volunteer; a woman who loved, above all, music.
“Music was Christina’s voice for self-expression” wrote Christina’s sister Cassandra and mother Elizabeth in a prepared statement for Scene. “She always enjoyed performing, whether it was on stage in a symphony hall or stopping by the Seniors Center to brighten up their day.”
She started playing violin at a very young age, back when the instrument’s body was roughly the size of her torso. She was living in the Dominican Republic with her family at the time and cultivated a love of music alongside her big sister who played cello, piano and guitar. Practicing four hours a day, which Christina routinely did as a child, wasn’t only a testament to her discipline and perfectionism; it was even more a testament to her passion.
In 1985, when she was only six, Christina’s father and grandfather were killed in a tragic car accident. The three Gaston women moved back to the states, near Atlanta, to be closer to Elizabeth’s family.
“[We] were like the three musketeers,” wrote the Gastons. “One for all and all for one.”
This merry trio of strong, intelligent, cosmopolitan women hop-scotched the nation to see its finest museums and cultural centers. Traveling together, learning about the world, appreciating art in all its forms — it was Christmas all year round.
Christina’s love of music and art followed her, even as she aged. She obtained academic degrees in music and played in symphonies and ensembles from Battle Creek to Poland. And despite her commitment to constantly perfecting her own artistry, she never stopped giving. She would frequently teach violin lessons to beginners (often for free) and participated in music outreach programs through CIM to spread her love of music to local schools.
When a serious injury short-circuited what would have been a prolific musical performance career in 2010, Christina found solace in her love of museums and a professional home at the Cleveland Museum of Art. She worked there until being offered the position of managing director at ChamberFest Cleveland.
“I really loved working with Christina,” wrote Diana Cohen, the Executive Director of ChamberFest. “She brought warmth, class and professionalism to our growing organization. She was a fantastic colleague and her contributions will always be remembered and appreciated greatly.”
But even more than her contributions to the cultural community —- which were significant, even at her young age — friends will remember her more for her laugh and her smile and her infectious charisma.
“Her laugh….it was amazing. Just this amazing guffaw,” said one of her best friends from the Cinematheque. “And she was just absolutely gorgeous. I remember once, it was at a Humphrey Bogart movie, I thought, God, it should be her up on that screen.”
Her family will remember her, always, for her eternal reserve of goodness: donating her gorgeous long hair to locks of love, inviting foreign-exchange students home for the holidays.
“At antique malls, if Christina saw old photos, she would buy them saying, 'They are somebody’s family, and they need a home.'” Cassandra wrote.
Like sisters tend to do, Christina and Cassandra diverged in their interests and careers as they got older, but remained best friends, visiting each other as often as they could no matter where they lived.
“I couldn’t help but constantly smile and laugh when we were together.” Cassandra wrote. “No matter how old we got, it’s as if we were two giggly, carefree teenage girls having fun. Christina had a unique way of bringing out the best in me.”
Cassandra also wrote that Christina felt a deep connection to Cleveland and that after college, she had opportunities to go all over the world, but she wanted to return here. She lived in Cleveland longer than she lived anywhere else in her life.
And for a true beauty like Christina — a soul beauty — she could’ve graced her friends and family and Cleveland, Ohio, with her presence for 1,000 more years and it wouldn’t have been long enough. Not nearly.
STATEMENT FROM GASTON FAMILY 10/28/2013:
We would like to thank the overwhelming number of Christina’s friends and other people in the community who have reached out to us across multiple states to extend their support and kindness. Unfortunately, we were forced to make her online memorial/tribute wall private. However, if you would like to contact us regarding Christina, we encourage you to email us in confidence at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We greatly appreciate that Scene has tried to show respect and sensitivity to our family and Christina while reporting this story.