Kit Tournay: Music lover, tireless volunteer, beloved aunt

Music lover, tireless volunteer, beloved aunt

Kathryn Theresa “Kit” Tournay, a longtime Claremont resident, died on February 3, 2015 of a stroke. She was 87.

She was born March 18, 1927 in Newark, New Jersey where she graduated high school. Since World War II was in progress and women were needed in keeping the economy going, instead of college she went to work for Western Union where she became a teletype operator and night manager of a branch office at the age of 17.

Three men who were either 4-F or too old to serve in the war were her messengers who delivered by automobile. Wartime messages, often conveying injuries and the deaths of servicemen, had to be delivered within a certain timeframe by law. One time, without any messengers on hand, she had to lock up the office, get a taxi and deliver a sad telegram herself.

Later she worked for the Elastic Stop Nut Corporation, which manufactured large lock-nuts for locomotives and other heavy war equipment in the Contracts Department. Having seen California in 1948 on a belated graduation trip with her mother, she longed to return to the moderate climate with palm trees. Her dream came true in 1949 when she moved to Fontana to be near her sister Carol and her brother-in-law, who worked for Kaiser Steel Corporation. Kit worked there in the Controllers Division as an executive secretary for almost 10 years.

It was there she met her future husband, Norman, who worked for Kaiser Engineers, an associate company then building several more open hearths and a Bessamer furnace at the Kaiser Steel plant. They were married in Las Vegas on December 22, 1951 and were just a few months short of their 50th anniversary when Norman died on September 12, 2001.

They had purchased a new home in the second Claremont tract in November 1952 and lived in that California ranch house their entire married lives. It was with pride and joy that they both actively worked to improve it with a pool, lovely landscaping and an addition of several rooms. In 1957, their home was featured in the Home & Garden section of the Pomona Progress Bulletin newspaper with an article and two pictures. After several years at home, Mrs. Tournay went to work again for Young, Henrie & McCarthy, a law firm in Pomona where she was both a legal secretary and office manager for 15 years.

She loved to volunteer and at various times was president of The Women’s Democratic Club of Pomona Valley, The Eleanor Roosevelt Democratic Club, The West End Opera Guild and the American Baptist Women of Claremont First Baptist Church. She was active in Democratic politics for more than 20 years, often serving as a campaign representative or headquarters chairman, and founded and raised private funds for the Democratic Party Booth at the Los Angeles County Fair. In 1980, she was honored at the JFK annual dinner at the Biltmore Hotel for meritorious service to the Democratic Party.

Her other main interests included music and she attended concerts of the Los Angeles Philharmonic as a subscriber for more than 30 years. She was also a member of the Pomona Valley Chapter Sweet Adelines for 11 years, and sang in her church choir. From 1980 forward, Mrs. Tournay spent much time volunteering at Rancho Santa Botanic Garden as a nature interpreter and working in the seed house. In June 2012, she was honored at a dinner for 32 years of service and became a volunteer emeritus. She was a longtime member of Claremont first Baptist church.

She is survived by her niece, Sheri Wojciechowski, whom she loved very much, and a number of out-of-state great-nieces, nephews and cousins. Interment will be private, per Kit’s wishes, by the Neptune Society. 


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