David Legaspi III

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Artist David Legaspi III, who painted murals at churches and schools all over Malibu, died June 5 at the age of 51. It is believed he died of 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.

Legaspi has painted murals across the Southland, including several at Malibu schools, churches and other local sites such as the underpass at Leo Carrillo State Beach. Many of these projects were done pro bono. In 2002, he was named as a Malibu Times Citizen of the Year Dolphin Award winner for his contributions to the community.

In addition to his work in Malibu, Legaspi created hundreds of murals in the Southland area, including in the Los Angeles Unified School District, the City of 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.

Legaspi was born in Manila, the Philippines, on Nov. 19, 1960, the eldest of five siblings.

Legaspi received a Bachelor of Science in Architecture from the University of St. Thomas, Philippines, in 1983. For nine years afterward, he worked as an architect, visual designer, merchandiser and publicity artist for the U.S. Army & Air Force Exchange Service at Clark Air Force Base, Philippines, and the Royal Air Force, Upper Heyford, England. Legaspi then spent a year as a civilian architect in Madison, Wisconsin. In 1993, he became a full-time freelance artist and muralist, first in Sydney, Australia, and then in Los Angeles.

Legaspi found inspiration to paint murals for schools when visiting his 10 nieces and nephews in Australia.

“I began painting with my nieces and nephews and decided to do art with school children on my return since I was away from my family,” Legaspi told The Malibu Times in 2003. “In no time I had a connection with the kids.”

The first mural Legaspi painted was in the United Methodist Malibu Nursery School, where he encouraged the children to participate in the painting. Legaspi has said the most rewarding aspect of painting with children is the awareness his art generates toward the importance of the arts in schools. Each school mural he has painted is themed by education.

Legaspi painted all the murals at Malibu schools on a volunteer basis. In a 2003 Malibu Times article, one local parent quoted Legaspi as saying money has no value until you give it away to help someone else.

Legaspi is survived by his siblings, Dodie, Marileth, Denn, and Malou, his parents, Letty Legaspi and David Legaspi Jr., from Sydney, Australia; his nephews, nieces, cousins and other extended family who live in the Philippines, Australia, and United States, and Alice Stone and Barney Muller (his “adopted” California parents) of Lomita, CA.

A celebration of life will take place on Wed., June 27 at Santa Monica High School’s Barnum Hall, 600 Olympic Boulevard, in Santa Monica, at 1 p.m.

In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to: David Legaspi III Memorial Fund, PO Box 2863, Malibu, CA 90265. A memorial Facebook page titled “David Legaspi III Memorial Page” has also been created.