Obituary: John Michael Layne

Family man, businessman, actor, traveler

John Michael Layne died March 16 at the age of 88 after a brief illness.

He was born July 31, 1935 to Virginia and John Wheatly Layne in Paintsville, Kentucky. The family moved to Salt Lake City in 1940 where he spent his early years growing up with his cousin Gwen Maw.

Michael and his mother relocated for a short time to San Francisco before settling in Balboa Island, California in 1949 with his stepfather, Otto Culbertson. There he lettered in both football and track and field at Newport Harbor High School, graduating in 1953. It was during this time that he met his future wife, Connie.

After high school he enrolled at Pasadena Playhouse College of Theatre Arts, where he discovered his passion for acting and the stage. “He never met a stage or microphone that he didn’t like!” his family shared. In addition to his chance to participate in multiple plays, the Playhouse required students to take classes in fencing, archery, singing, dancing and even ballet. After his years of study at Pasadena Playhouse he furthered his education at the University of Arizona, graduating in 1958 with a degree in finance.

During his time in Tucson, he was the president of the local chapter of the Kappa Sigma fraternity. “He told us many stories that sounded like ‘Animal House’ before the movie came out,” his family said. In future years he continued to expand his education when he attended the Drucker School of Management at Claremont Graduate School (now Claremont Graduate University), earning a management degree in 1980.

During his final year at University of Arizona, he married Connie Jean Mangold, who was a fellow U of A student. After graduation in 1958 the couple moved back to Newport Beach. They had two sons, Mark and Dan. “He always introduced them as ‘One good looking and the other smart,’” his family added. “They never figured out who was what!”

In 1965 the family relocated to Claremont, where he worked for J.C. Penney Co. rising to the level of store manager and then regional manager. After 30 years with J.C. Penney, he retired.

The couple took advantage of this time, traveling frequently with their good friends Russell and Marylin Wyle and Bill and Lola McCalister. These trips took them to places like Spain, Italy, France, Hungary, Egypt, Switzerland, and Bali to name a few. They also took regular trips to Ashland, Oregon to attend the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

In addition to his foreign travel, he enjoyed trips and camping in the Sierra Nevada with family and friends, even going on a few backpacking trips into the backcountry. He took multiple fishing trips with his good friend Chip Milne to places ranging from the Willow Beach at the Colorado River, again to the Sierra Nevada, and multiple journeys to Canada. After long days of fishing they always ended it with games of cribbage and a good scotch. He also enjoyed getting out and golfing with his friends regularly. And though his handicap wasn’t that great, he did record two holes in one.

In retirement he took the opportunity to get involved with his cousins’ Bill, Sylvia, Se and JW Layne in the creation and launch of a new theater in Palm Springs, Palm Canyon Theater, which opened in 1996. He loved getting back on the stage, and performed in multiple productions, as well as being involved in the business side of things.

He gave back to his community in many ways during his life, including with Newport Beach Junior Chamber of Commerce, Reading for the Blind, serving as president of the Claremont Young Musicians Orchestra and Claremont Little League, and as a member of the Claremont Presbyterian Church Choir (“He was tone deaf!” his family said.) to name a few.

He leaves behind his wife of 67 years, Connie; sons Mark Layne (Michelle) of Lake Crowley, California, and Dan Layne (Lisa) of Claremont; grandchildren Kirstie Armijo (Kevin) of Camas, Washington, Charlie Layne (Lauren Cox) of Sparks, Nevada, Jessica Rios (Jandro) of Beaverton, Oregon; and great-granddaughters June and Nora.

A memorial service will take place at 2 p.m. Saturday, May 11 at Claremont Presbyterian Church, 1111 N. Mountain Ave., Claremont, CA 91711.


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