Obituary: Monica Romaine Gurak
Grandmother, entertainer, loved architecture, history
Monica Romaine Gurak, 82, died December 31, 2023 after succumbing to the deleterious effects of cancer.
Monica was born June 28, 1941 in Minneapolis, Minnesota to Monica Louise Literski and Joseph Anthony Gurak.
She moved to Pasadena with her family when she was young, attending Marshall Fundamental School and John Muir High School. After she graduated in 1958, she worked with the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, and as a paralegal.
Then known as “Tonie” — a nickname acquired while performing as a vocalist in nightclubs — she met R. Nelson Carnes in 1964. They married that same year and lived in various locations in and around Pasadena. They enjoyed entertainment and were known for their catering and passion for good food. The couple raised three children: Christopher, born in 1954 from Nelson’s previous marriage, Joel, born in 1966, and Charmaine, born in 1970.
An avid architecture enthusiast and history buff, she served in many volunteer positions with Pasadena Heritage, Pasadena Historical Society, and the Gamble House while raising her family. She was an active member of the Mayfield family during her children’s school years.
“She was famous for her entertaining, whether it be on a stage in Hollywood, singing with the Holy Family Choir in South Pasadena, or hosting one of her four star dinner parties,” her family shared. “Tonie was known for her hospitality.”
After leaving Southern California for the Bay Area in the early 1990s, she continued north and lived in Chiloquin, Oregon for five years before settling in the Ashland area in her later life. There she returned to her work as a legal secretary and was thrilled to be “Baba” to her daughter’s two children, Aidan, who was born in 2004, and Kris, born in 2008. Always active, she enjoyed taking courses at Southern Oregon University, dancing, and exploring the natural beauty of the area.
She returned to Southern California frequently to visit her son Joel’s family, and eventually relocated there in 2022, joining them in Claremont in 2023.
She is survived by her daughter Charmaine and her children, Aidan and Kris Brown; and son Joel, daughter-in-law Amy, and their children, Zoey and Milo Carnes.
“May her memory be a blessing to all who knew her,” her family said.