Obituary: Marianne Rawlings (Spaw)

Beloved matriarch, consummate mother, caregiver

Marianne Rawlings (nee Spaw), beloved matriarch of the Rawlings clan, died peacefully at her daughter Monique’s home in Villa Park, California in the early morning of February 3, one week before her 92nd birthday.

Marianne was born February 10, 1931, on her maternal grandparents’ farm near Arbor Hill, not far from Greenfield, Iowa. Her mother was Floy Wilma Spaw (nee Bunce), and her father was Clarence William Spaw. Although she mostly lived and attended school in Des Moines, she spent many happy hours on the farm with “grama” Milly Jane (nee Pryor) and “grampa” Grant Bunce.

By the time her little sister Twyla Jane Spaw was born, her parents were separating, so Floy and her daughters moved to a predominately Italian neighborhood on the south side of Des Moines. Her favorite childhood friend was Tish Marasco and living in that neighborhood for four years greatly influenced and increased her love of cooking.

In the winter of 1944, just before her 13th birthday, she drove west with her mother, “grampa” Grant Bunce, sister Twyla, uncle Frank Bunce and his wife, to Los Angeles. Eventually the little family of three settled in Inglewood.

There while attending high school, she met the love of her life, Robert Louis Rawlings. Although Robert moved to Salinas with his mother Verna after graduating high school in 1948 to attend Hartnell College, he was soon hitchhiking down to Inglewood to visit her. After she graduated in 1949, they soon became engaged when he proposed marriage in an old Victorian home in Salinas.

The couple was married October 28, 1949, in the Bartlett’s home in Inglewood. They spent 52  loving years together raising a family of six children and helping to grow the clan to 16 grandchildren and more than two dozen great-grandchildren. All of their children were born in the 1950s at Hawthorne Community Hospital (now College Medical Center, Hawthorne Campus) under the watchful care of Dr. Jesse Richards, even though they maintained consecutive homes in Hawthorne, Glendale, and Sunland/Tujunga.

She was a consummate mother and caregiver whose artistic abilities were manifested in art posters and decorations for the Plainview Elementary PTA, murals for neighbors, and award-winning Halloween costumes for the neighborhood children. She excelled at cooking and entertaining, with themed parties featuring puppet shows and treasure hunts, and luaus. Her volunteer activities extended to being a den mother for the Cub Scouts of BSA.

On New Year’s Eve 1960 the family moved to Diamond Bar, where she established many lifelong friendships among neighbors, where she went door-to-door as an Avon representative. The family was among the first 60 charter members of Northminster Presbyterian Church, and she sang in the church choir and was a youth group advisor for high school-aged children. The house in Diamond Bar became the go-to place for many kids in the surrounding blocks, and she came to be known as “ma Rawlings” to all the friends of her six children. Eventually she worked briefly for Buffum’s department store in Pomona, then later at Jewel’s Diamond Bar Pharmacy. Her artistic talents and gregarious nature shined as she became a pharmacy tech and buyer for cosmetics and gift items at the store.

By 1972, she was learning cake decorating from her neighbor Helen and branched out into catering with the encouragement of Hampton’s Meats and the help of her husband and kids. She continued to work both at CVS Pharmacy and Marianne’s Cakes and Catering after the family moved to Lake Forest in 1974. Her cakes were works of art in which she took great joy and pride.

When her husband died in November 2001, she focused on building out the family ranch home in Anza, in Riverside County, with the help of many, including Roxanne, Rob, Cammy, and Kevin Rawlings, Rick Olcese and dear friends, and the Dale Hoffner family. In 2008, with the main house done, she was delightfully surprised when she partnered with a lifelong friend, Jim Sapp. They enjoyed many good times together until he died in 2018.

She enjoyed living at her beloved ranch near her cousins, and surrounded by good friends George Perez and the Hoffner family, especially Teresa, who looked out for her, until September 2022. From October 2022 until her death, her daughter Monique took on the management of her home hospice care.

“Although Marianne was lucky in life and love, she worked hard and always spoke her mind, she was a good Christian, and maintained always that one determines one’s own destiny by the choices one makes,” her family shared.

She was preceded in death by her husband Robert Louis Rawlings, Sr., daughter Roxanne Douglas (Woody), and grandson Andrew Douglas.

She is survived by her sister Twyla Jane Shumpert-Ross; children Denise Dianne Rawlings-Shinn, Robert Louis Rawlings, Jr. (Nancy), Cameron Lee Rawlings (Maureen), Kevin William Rawlings (Martine), and Monique Alyce Minner (Jim). She had 16 natural grandchildren, many more “adopted,” 28 great-grandchildren, five nephews, and several great nieces and nephews.

Viewing and services will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday, February 18 at Todd Memorial Chapel, 325 N. Indian Hill Blvd., Claremont.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Marianne Rawling’s honor to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society at


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