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Obituaries

Ellen Wright

 

Ellen Wright, 95, a longtime Laguna Beach resident, passed on March 1 in the home she occupied for 57 years.

Wright was born in Nova Scotia, Canada, but moved to Laguna Beach in 1954.

 

She was an acclaimed organist and pianist and played at Laguna Presbyterian Church for 34 years.

 

Wright is survived by sons Fraser, Ken, Graham and Steve, plus seven grandchildren and nine great grandchildren.

 

She will be missed by all who knew her.

 

A memorial service is set for 3 p.m. Sunday, March 11, at Laguna Presbyterian Church.

 

 

Professor Lee W. Rhodes, Ph.D

Dec. 7, 1927 – Feb. 11, 2012

Prof. Lee W. Rhodes, a Laguna Beach resident, passed away due to complications following surgery. He was 84.

Rhodes was the third of seven children born to Herman and Sadie Rhodes, and raised in Forks, Wash.  After graduating from Forks High School, Rhodes enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps.  He served honorably in WW11 aboard ship in the Mediterranean, then subsequently on land in the Korean War.  Following military service, Rhodes graduated from University of Washington with a bachelor of science degree in biology.  He completed advanced degrees in Colorado including a master’s degree in education and in later life, a Ph.D. in leadership and human behavior from the U.S. International University.

Lee was a professor of biology at Saddleback College for many years and then served as a trustee following retirement.

Recently, as a volunteer, he taught computer skills at the Laguna Beach Senior Center (always the teacher).

As an elder of the Cowlitz Indian Tribe, Rhodes served as tribal historian.

Lee was also an avid fine woodworker and enjoyed making toys and heirloom furniture for all his grandchildren.

He was predeceased by brothers George, Gene, Gerald and Donnie; sister Dorothy; and his beloved sons Randi and stepson Kevin.

Rhodes leaves behind his loving wife Elizabeth (Betsy); sister Nadine; step-children Duane Cromleigh,  Alison and son-in-law Kevin Defrese, Heather and son in-law Bart D’Alfonso, and Cynthia and son-in-law Marcus Crahan; adoring grandchildren Patrick and Aidan Defrese, Catherine and Christine Crahan, and Cooper and Trevor Neilsen.

In lieu of flowers, please donate to Oxfam America and Plan USA.

Lee and Betsy’s mission in life is to provide food, shelter, and education to those less fortunate.

 

Phyllis Ritter

Sept. 17, 1925-Jan. 24, 2012

 

On Feb. 25, 1919, in Steubenville Ohio, Simon B. Young wed Helen Barbara Shaffer and they raised two daughters in Butler, Penn. One of these girls was Phyllis Helen Young.

An energetic high school drum majorette, Phyllis graduated in the top of the class of 1943 and began to study dance while working at a local Macy’s in Pittsburg. There she met and married Kenneth George Denton, Sr. They moved to California where managed The Broadway, in Los Angeles.

On Sept. 20, 1946, she gave birth to her first of two sons, Kenneth George Denton, Jr.

With the baby-sitting help of her mother, Phyllis pursued a career in choreography and won roles dancing in several MGM films, including “April Showers”, “The Ten Commandments”, and “Westward Women” as well as guest television appearances on “The I Love Lucy Show”, including the famous dream dance scene. She also earned billboard exposure as “The Brew 102 Lady”.

The family’s favorite get-away included Laguna Beach’s Woods Cottages (location of the Glenneyre parking structure) and the cliffs below Victor Hugo’s (now Las Brisas restaurant).

After the unexpected death of her husband in 1954, Denton drew strength from her faith and verses from “The Prophet”.

She married Robert “Denny” Ritter and moved to Long Beach where her second son, Robert Ritter Jr., was born. The family moved to Corona del Mar in 1957.

In another cruel twist, her second husband died in 1962.

Ritter raised her two sons while working full time as a secretary at Newport Beach’s Imperial Savings from 1968 to 1978.

She also took real estate appraisal and escrow classes at Orange Coast College and became a loan officer at the lender. She went on to work as a senior loan officer with American Residential Mortgage until retiring in 1992.

In retirement, Ritter walked the beaches in Laguna, toured the festivals and fairs around the county and continued to take adult education classes at Saddleback. She would park many blocks from a restaurant to walk off the food while returning to her car.

She moved from Corona Del Mar to Irvine in 1983 where she remained active traveling with friends. She would share her journeys with enthusiasm and a smile as wide as all out doors. No one ever forgot her smile.

Two days before my mother’s death, I took my daughter and grandchildren whale watching and we came across a pod of hundreds of porpoise. Her favorite animal was the dolphin. And like them she is now free and smiling.

Ritter is survived by her sister Dee Segal, of Las Vegas; son Robert Ritter and his wife Cindy, of Maui; and son Kenneth George Denton, Jr. of Laguna Beach. Her ashes are at sea with her beloved dolphin.

 

 

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