Obituary: Reuel Piersol Witherell

Award-winning gardener, married 66 years


Reuel Peirsol Witherell, also known as “Rudy,” died at home in San Clemente on July 13.

Reuel was born April 6, 1928 to James and Cleda Peirsol of Pomona, where she grew up and in 1946 graduated from Pomona High School.

She married the love of her life, Frank Witherell Jr., on June 1, 1951, after graduating from the University of California, Santa Barbara with a bachelor’s degree in kindergarten primary education. On their first date, at Santa Barbara’s Miramar Hotel, a palm reader told them they were “born lovers.” This proved true in their 66 years of marriage.

The Witherells settled in Pomona, where they raised their six children—Teresa Ann, Frank III, Saundra Lee, Lynn Reuel, Joan Suzanne and John Peirsol. Mrs. Witherell volunteered for many organizations, including Bluebirds, Camp Fire Girls, Brownies, Girl Scouts, the PTA and Junior Women’s Club.

Her love and passion for gardening was evident in the beautiful grounds at her home. When she was nominated for the coveted title of gardener of the year, the judges came to visit and were awed at what they saw: an expanded original San Clemente Ole Hanson house surrounded by flower-bedecked patios, dense greenery, colorful flower and vegetable gardens, all backed up by a terraced, well-tended ravine garden. Not only did she take the 2004 gardener of the year title, the Orange County Garden Club district judges had to create a new category for her: patio, garden, ravine. She was a longtime member of the San Clemente Garden Club.

The Witherell home was open to all with lots of love, laughter and fun. The couple crisscrossed the world on adventurous travel, covering six of the seven continents.

Mrs. Witherell was preceded in death by her husband, Frank Witherell Jr., and her son, Frank Witherell III.

She is survived by five children, Teresa Ann Witherell, Saundra Lee Minshull, Lynn Reuel Wallace, Joan Suzanne Shelby and John Peirsol Witherell; six grandchildren; six great-grandchildren; sister Helen Pruitt of Bend, Oregon; and cousin Barbara Cousins of Indio, California.

“Reuel’s infectious smile, joy of life and compassion will be missed by all,” her family shared.

A private family gathering will be held.


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