Claire Ellen Etheridge, Ph.D.

Claire Etheridge, PhD, at her Wood’s Cove home in the 1970s. Photo by Douglas Miller.
Claire Etheridge, PhD, at her Wood’s Cove home in the 1970s. Photo by Douglas Miller.

Claire Ellen Etheridge, Ph.D., 85, of Sacramento, passed away peacefully on Jan. 21, 2017, surrounded by family.

Claire is survived by her beloved partner Elizabeth Edgington of Sacramento; son Randall Glen Riley; daughter Rene Ellen Riley; sisters Joyce Bayne and Elaine Deatherage; and brother Richard Deatherage.

Claire lived in Laguna Beach from 1969 to 1997. Randall and Rene are graduates of Laguna Beach High School.

Claire was born Clara Mae Deatherage in Kilgore, Texas, on July 27, 1931. In 1952, Claire married Glyndon D. Riley; they divorced in 1968.

Claire graduated from George Pepperdine College with a bachelor’s degree in 1953; she earned her master’s degree in 1955. In 1963, she received her doctorate in psychology from Florida State University-Tallahassee with an emphasis in early childhood education.

After Claire graduated, she moved with her family to Inglewood, Calif., where she taught at Pepperdine University in Los Angeles and pioneered the Delta Sigma Theta Head Start Preschool program. In 1967, she publishedHead Start in Action” with co-author Francis Epps.

In 1969, Claire—known then as Clara M. Riley—moved with her children to the Wood’s Cove area of Laguna Beach. She opened a private clinical-psychology practice on Coast Highway in South Laguna and was an adjunct professor at the University of California Irvine.

            Claire held a diplomate in both clinical psychology and clinical hypnosis. In 1984, she served as president of the Orange County Psychological Association.    

            In the 1980s, Claire became president and founder of the Institute for Advanced Studies, a nonprofit, continuing education organization focused on healing, enlightenment, and spirituality. With her spiritual director, the late Rev. Robert L. Cornelison of St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, Claire founded a nonprofit religious organization, An Order of Healers, leading workshops and retreats, and giving spiritual direction.

In 2000, Claire published “Right Rhythmic Living, A Path to Healing.” In 2001, she published “Old Testament as Sacred Literature.”

A memorial service will be held on Feb. 2, at Sierra Arden United Church of Christ, Sacramento. Donations given in memoriam may be sent to the National Head Start Association,


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  1. I have been searching for Claire after she & Liz stopped contacting me in Canada. I am a member of Claire’s “Order of Healers” & am very saddened to hear she has passed away.
    My sincerest & deepest condolences to Liz. I would like to know how I can locate Liz.


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