Obituary: Doloress Lucille Cullen

Chaucer scholar, longtime Claremonter, author, dedicated Catholic

Dolores Lucille Cullen, a longtime resident and familiar figure in Claremont, died at home October 11. She was 91 years old.

Dolores is survived by her sister, Audrey Abbot; children, Ted, Catherine and Marge, her companion and caregiver for the last three years; ten grandchildren; and 18 great-grandchildren.

She was preceded in death by her daughter, Mary; and her brother, Dennis.

She was known to many Claremont residents as that older woman they would see walking up College Avenue on the way to the Village, with her simple clothes accented by long silver-grey hair.

She never drove a car, and never had a driver’s license. She lived a very simple life and didn’t need anything extravagant. In fact, her sewing machine—on which she made quilts for family members and the homeless, and her original design dolls which she sold at church fundraisers—was the same one she bought new in the 1950s to sew her children’s school uniforms; It still worked, so she didn’t need a new one. Same went with her Filter-Queen vacuum cleaner, a relic from the ‘50s that still worked just fine.

But this simple life she lived also included two great passions. She was a dedicated—some might say even fanatical—scholar of Geoffrey Chaucer and The Canterbury Tales. She received her master’s degree in English literature at about 50 years of age. And by the time she left Cal Poly Pomona she was well on her way to unfolding the amazing insights of Chaucer’s allegorical writing.

“In fact, when academia finally catches up, Dolores will be recognized as the first person to point readers toward the many allegorical meanings woven into Chaucer’s work,” her family shared.

And this is the heart of the five books she wrote during her in her sixties, seventies and eighties. But she didn’t just write, she also spoke at schools and at the Claremont Library. Many would  recognize Mrs. Cullen as ‘the Chaucer Lady,’ who always had a table near the library entrance during the Claremont’s annual Village Venture festival.

Her other great passion was the Secular Franciscan Order, a religious sect founded for lay people more than 800 years ago by St. Francis of Assisi. In fact, she and her husband for 48 years, Ted, met in Chicago at gatherings for young people who were members of this Franciscan order.

Later her husband would start the Secular Franciscan Fraternity, which has thrived for more 40 years at their Claremont parish, Our Lady of the Assumption Catholic Church. The order’s focus on the simple life, help for the poor, and concern for the environment meshed perfectly with Mrs. Cullen’s own life view.

“Dolores Cullen led a simple but passionate life,” her family shared. “She worked, taught and encouraged everyone around her. People who never knew her name will miss seeing her walking up College Avenue or standing at a bus stop on Indian Hill. Her family, will miss her presence at all those gatherings for baptisms, first communions, graduations, Thanksgivings and Christmases.”

She was a warm and charming great-grandmother who never tired of delighting in the pursuits and accomplishment of her family.”

A viewing from 4 to 8 p.m., with a rosary at 6:30 p.m., will take place this Sunday, October 20, at Todd’s Memorial Chapel, 325 N. Indian Hill Blvd, Claremont.

A funeral mass is scheduled for 10 a.m. Monday, October 21 at Our Lady of the Assumption Catholic Church, 435 N. Berkeley Ave., Claremont, with a reception to follow in the convent. 

Interment will follow at 1:30 p.m. at Oak Park Cemetery, 410 Sycamore Ave., Claremont.

In lieu of flowers the family asks that donations be made to Covenant House at  covenanthouse.org/donation-options, or by check to 461 Eighth Avenue, New York, NY 10001.

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