Obituary: Marilyn ‘Lynn” Kirkendall

Great grandmother, world traveler, volunteer, magician’s assistant

Longtime Claremont resident Marilyn “Lynn” Kirkendall died after a short illness on February 25, 2018 at the age of 91 while vacationing in one of her favorite places, New Orleans, Louisiana.

She was born June 10, 1926, in St. Louis, Missouri, the oldest of five children. She taught at Arthur Murray Dance Studio, was a model, and at 19 became an assistant to famed magician Harry Blackstone Sr. She spent a year traveling by train with Mr. Blackstone, mostly in the eastern part of the US. Her main act was levitation, but she also performed others, including being sawed in half. Despite the many pleas of her family and children to reveal the secrets behind the tricks, to her last days she demurred, always saying with a smile, “It was magic.”

She belonged to Youth of Unity church organization, and attended the group’s national conference at Unity Farm near Lee’s Summit, Missouri in the summer of 1947, where she won a bathing beauty contest. The group’s president, Richard “Dick” Kirkendall, was to “kiss and crown” the winner, which was how she met the man who would become her husband.

She had plans to travel to California after the conference to visit the sister of her boyfriend at the time (who was Mr. Kirkendall’s best friend). Her boyfriend had to stay behind in Missouri to complete some church work, so she hitched a ride to California with Mr. Kirkendall and some others to help defray the cost of gasoline.

Once in California, Mr. Kirkendall offered to show her around Los Angeles, and before long they fell in love. They married in Los Angeles in 1948, and celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary this past January.

The Kirkendall’s four children, Rick, Jeff, Linda and Brad, were born between 1949 and 1957. The young family lived for a brief time in Missouri, where Rick was born. In 1950 they moved to Lynwood, California, where Mrs. Kirkendall worked in the office of the physician who would later deliver the couple’s three youngest children.

The family relocated to Claremont in 1963 when Mr. Kirkendall was hired as principal of Sycamore Elementary School. He later went on to become Claremont Unified School District’s deputy superintendent and then superintendent, retiring in 1987. During this time, Mrs. Kirkendall was a gracious hostess to many district staff members and other educational professionals at their home.

She was an avid seamstress, and in the late 1960s purchased Four Seasons Fabric Store in Chino, which she owned and operated for several years. She taught small business administration and sewing classes at Tri-Community and Claremont adult schools as well as sewing and crochet at Express Sew in Claremont.

She was the Claremont United Church of Christ moderator in the 1990s, when the church was building its new sanctuary organ, and was very proud to have played a role in assisting during this time.

After her youngest child went off to college, she obtained her insurance and securities licenses and worked for Teachers Management and Investments (TMI), providing financial planning and selling retirement investments to many teachers and educational administrators.

The Kirkendalls moved to Mt. San Antonio Gardens in 2000, where she was an active volunteer and member on many committees, including the sales room, hospitality, appreciation party, community orientation, resident holiday/theme parties and nominations committees.

She was a member of Soroptomist International, a global women’s organization whose members volunteer to improve the lives of disadvantaged women and girls through programs leading to social and economic empowerment. She was also a longtime member of PEO Sisterhood, an international women’s organization with a primary focus on providing educational opportunities for female students worldwide. She attended her last PEO meeting just a month before she died.

The Kirkendalls loved to travel. The couple spent many years visiting nearly every state in the US in their trusty travel trailer. Of all their journeys, she most enjoyed the summers when they would alternate taking their granddaughters or grandsons through most of the southwestern states. She also loved to spend time at their many timeshares, including in New Orleans, and enjoyed having others along with them. They continued to travel up until the end, taking their annual trip to New Orleans in February, where Mrs. Kirkendall became ill and died on February 25, 2018.

Of all her accomplishments, she said she was most proud of her family, their successes, and how close they all remained, her family shared. She was at her happiest when they were all gathered around, especially during the holidays.

She is survived by her husband, Richard; children Rick (Linda) of Hendersonville, North Carolina; Jeff (Colette) of Aurora, Colorado; Linda Hunt (Rick) of La Quinta; and Brad (Kym) of Manassas, Virginia; and by 11 grandchildren and 16 great-grandchildren.

Memorial services will be private. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center Emergency Room Fund at


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