Obituary: Loretta Warmbrunn

Longtime Claremonter, Pitzer alum, beloved great-grandmother

Loretta Warmbrunn, a longtime Claremont resident, Pitzer College alumna, and beloved mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother, died March 30. She was 90 years old.

Born in Detroit to parents who immigrated to the U.S. from Italy, Loretta was one of five siblings — the only girl in the middle of four adoring brothers. After her family moved from Michigan to California, she enrolled at Pomona High School. There, she excelled as a student and met Wesley Fretter, whom she married two years after her high school graduation in 1951.

Together, the couple had four children — Linda, Wesley Jr., Dianna, and Cynthia — and settled their young family in Claremont. She took a job at Boy’s Market in Pomona, starting as a clerk and working her way up to office manager. She worked full time for years while also raising the children and filling their home with laughter, games, and homemade Italian feasts.

After divorcing in the 1970s, she returned to school, enrolling at Pitzer College through its New Resources Program for older students. She studied anthropology and met Werner Warmbrunn, a history professor and founding faculty member at Pitzer. Werner, who dedicated most of his career to Pitzer, said meeting her was the college’s greatest gift to him. They married in 1984.

Her studies led her to become a docent at the Southwest Museum in Los Angeles, known for its collection of Indigenous art and artifacts. Building on her lifelong appreciation of art, she also began painting. She gravitated toward watercolors, captivated by the play of color and light. She captured her travels with her husband in paintings as well as photos. “Walking through their home is like joining them on their journeys, ranging from Mesa Verde in Colorado to the Abruzzo region in Italy, where her mother was born,” her family shared.

An avid gardener with a deep appreciation for the beauty of nature, she volunteered at the Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden (now California Botanic Garden). She mixed her love of flowers with her love of painting; for years, her watercolors of native wildflowers graced the garden’s annual wildflower show. These works were also turned into notecards that were sold at the garden’s gift shop.

“Across the better part of a century, Loretta carried herself with timeless grace,” her family added. “She was completely devoted to her family and is absolutely beloved by her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. She had impeccable manners and innate elegance, even when she was cheering on her cherished Dodgers and teaching her stepdaughters to play five-card stud.”

She delighted in many things — reading to her grandchildren, walking among flowers, making cannoli, dancing, learning Italian in Tuscany, and hosting the multi-generational family holiday gatherings that filled her house several times a year.

“She once wrote that art shows itself in many ways,” her family said. “She lived a life that embodied that belief — finding art, beauty, and joy in so many people and places, but always, above all, in her family.”

Loretta Warmbrunn was predeceased by her husband Werner Warmbrunn; granddaughter Stephanie Bell; brothers Lou and Frank; and nephew Conner.

She is survived by her four children; brothers Eugene and John; grandchildren Alex Elliot, Breanna Richardson, Zack Davis, Matt Fretter, Lindsey Fretter, and Andrea Jenkins; stepchildren Erika and Susan Warmbrunn; as well as eight great-grandchildren and one great-great-grandchild.

At her request, her family will hold a small, private memorial service. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to City of Hope at


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