Obituary: Arlene Chloe Warhurst

Beloved free-spirited mother of nine, artist, was 100 years old

Arlene Chloe Warhurst died quietly in her sleep on January 26. She lived in Claremont for 63 of her 100 years. 

Arlene was an artist and a free spirit. She threw her whole self into projects and never took no for an answer. She was a talented sketch artist, painter and photographer, but she always considered children to be the greatest artistic expression.

She was born in South Dakota in 1920. Her parents and two sisters moved to Pomona in 1927. The family faced some hard times during the Depression; they lost their home to foreclosure and struggled to pay for food and rent. Both parents worked, and young Arlene was left at home to care for her two younger sisters. She recalled biking from Pomona to Claremont during that time, but if they went down the wrong lane in the orange grove, they would miss the town!

The family eventually settled in Santa Ana, and it was at Santa Ana High that she met her future husband, Don Warhurst, during geometry class. 

“Arlene says she closed her eyes and willed the handsome boy to sit next to her,” her family shared. “That handsome boy and Arlene were married for 63 years and raised nine children together.”

In high school, she was a drum majorette (one of the first in the country), and drew all the illustrations in the yearbook. She was an excellent student, but chose to forego a scholarship to Stanford and instead marry and follow her husband to Cal, where he played football and they started their family.

During World War II, she was home with three young children while Don was in the U.S. Navy.  

“When the war ended, Arlene picked up from hints in Don’s letters about when his ship would return to San Diego,” her family related. “She was at the dock before dawn waiting. The guard would not let her into the restricted area. She kept talking (she was a very determined woman), and as the ship pulled in the guard said, ‘If you run, I probably can’t catch you.’ So it was that she stood alone on the pier when the ship docked. Don ran down the gangplank and swooped her into a dramatic kiss as all the sailors on deck cheered!”

In 1957, the Warhurst clan moved to Claremont. All nine of the children enrolled in Claremont schools. She found the time to take art classes at the Claremont Colleges, frequently pulling all-nighters to complete her projects while her children were sleeping.

The couple shared their love of the outdoors with their children, spending months every summer camping and hiking in the Sierra Nevada mountains. She cooked over camp stoves and washed cloth baby diapers in water heated over the fire. She was a determined fisherwoman who hated to stop fishing at dusk because that’s when the fish were biting. They often found themselves hiking back down the trail in the dark—with a failing flashlight! 

At the end of the Vietnam war in 1975, she was touched by the plight of the Vietnamese refugees, and took in a family of eight to live in her home. She found jobs for the older family members, and battled the bureaucracies to enroll the younger members in high school and college. The family lived with the Warhursts for two years, until they could afford a home of their own.

Mr. and Mrs. Warhurst spent their later years navigating their Cabin Cruiser up the west coast to Alaska. After becoming a widow, she swam with dolphins in the Caribbean and in natural hot springs in Antarctica. She always had a new passion to pursue and a zest for life.

She is survived by her sister Jeannie Naylor; her nine children and their spouses and partners,   Karen and Bruce Beatty, Tamara Achauer and Terry Hodel, Renee and Roger Scriven, Don and Liz Warhurst, Janine and David Slucter, Nanine and Booker Jones, Blane and Missey Warhurst, Margot and Michael Crofts, Grant and Heidi Warhurst; twenty-five grandchildren; and 26 great grandchildren.

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