Obituary: Ellen Catherine Carlson

Beloved matriarch, mother of nine, devout Catholic, minister, dancer

Ellen Catherine Carlson died peacefully in her sleep at her home in Claremont on August 25.

The daughter of the late James J. and Evelyn McQuaid, Ellen was born March 3, 1932, in Los Angeles. She grew up in Glendale, attended Bellarmine-Jefferson grade school and high school in Burbank, and graduated from Immaculate Heart College in Los Angeles in 1954.

Upon graduation from college and up until starting a family, Ellen worked for SoCal Gas Company. She began dance classes at a very young age and it became a serious passion for her under the tutelage of Jane D. Cotterell, who became a dear friend for life.

She went on to perform professionally and teach, and after a contracted dance teacher from Europe failed to show up, Immaculate Heart College hired her to teach the class in exchange for the cost of her tuition. 

She married Andrew V. Carlson on June 2, 1956. The couple lived in Inglewood, Santa Barbara and Thousand Oaks before settling in Claremont in 1973. There they immediately became actively involved in Our Lady of the Assumption Catholic Church, where they were both Eucharistic ministers.

She continued to live a full and busy life after her husband’s death in 1993. She taught Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, the Catholic Church’s religious education program, volunteered for Meals on Wheels, joined liturgical and folk dance groups, and was a member of the St. Lucy’s Benedictine Guild, organizing retreats and prayer services. She was also active in Stephen Ministry.

Ms. Carlson maintained lifelong friendships from every phase of her life. She was greatly appreciated by friends and family for remembering birthdays and anniversaries with cards featuring touching handwritten messages, her family shared.

As a young girl, she was asked by her parents which of a list of professions she wanted to pursue when she grew up. Her response was, “What if I want to be like you mom, and just live and be happy?” And so she did.

She loved nothing more than to bring together her children, grandchildren and their friends to swim in her pool and to enjoy her cooking at her long kitchen table. It was regularly filled with family and friends enjoying many dishes, which are captured in “Cooking with Ellen,” a cookbook put together by her family. Lemonade made from the trees in her back yard, pumpkin bread and oatmeal cookies were staples.

The more crowded her home became, the wider she smiled, beaming brightest every year during the Christmas season. At her final Christmas, she welcomed more than 40 guests to her home to celebrate her favorite holiday.

As her health declined in her final days, Ms. Carlson relied on her deep faith in God and lifelong devotion to Mary, the mother of Jesus, her family shared.

She was predeceased by Mr. Carlson on January 6, 1993. Her grandson, Daniel Carlson, also preceded her.

She is survived by her lone sibling and lifelong best friend, Mary Korth Curran, of Newtown, Connecticut.

The couple’s beautiful lives will forever be cherished in the hearts of their nine children: Angie Keegan (Tom) of Waltham, Massachusetts; Brian Carlson (Maureen Connor-Carlson) of Temecula; Kevin Carlson (Susan Robinson) of Elk Grove; Jane Chandler (Jeff) of King George, Virginia; Moira Schumacher of Seattle, Washington; Elaine Carlson of Lawrence, Kansas; James Carlson (Melissa Moultrie-Carlson) of Claremont; John Carlson (Karen Raz) of Santa Monica; Michael Carlson (Kimberly) of Studio City; grandchildren, Kevin Carlson Jr., Ryan Carlson, Emily Floyd, John Keegan, Andrew Keegan, Andrew Carlson, James Keegan, Moira Carlson, Ellen Keegan, Claire Schumacher, Duncan Stever, Paul Schumacher, Owen Carlson, Miles Carlson, Georgia Carlson, Jake Carlson, Theo Carlson and Audrey Carlson; and many nieces, nephews and great-grandchildren.

Todd Memorial Chapel, at 325 N. Indian Hill Blvd., Claremont, will open for visitation from 5 to 8 p.m. on Sunday, September 8. Rosary will be recited at 6:30 p.m. Funeral services will be held at 10 a.m., Monday, September 9 at Our Lady of the Assumption Catholic Church, 435 N. Berkeley Ave., Claremont, with interment immediately following at Holy Cross Cemetery, 444 E. Lexington Ave., Pomona.

The family wishes to express gratitude to their mother’s loving caregivers, Meredith McDowell, the Visiting Angels and the Visiting Nurses Association.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Visiting Angels Foundation at, or VNA Hospice and Palliative Care of Southern California at


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