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Winifred Ross

Mother, mentor, lover of the great outdoors

Winifred Ross, a longtime Claremont resident, died on October 13, 2012. She was 89.

Ms. Ross was born May 23, 1923 in Staten Island, New York to Marjorie and Frank Reddall Sr. and spent her earliest years on Long Island. During the Depression, Ms. Ross moved with her family, which included older brothers Frank Jr. and Gordon, to the Los Angeles area to live with her maternal grandmother.

The family later returned to New York City, where Ms. Ross finished high school. They moved to the Los Angeles area for good during World War II, settling in Glendale. Ms. Ross thrived in southern California, marrying Douglas Ross, whom she met at the Christian Science Church, in 1948 and graduating with an associate’s degree from Glendale College in 1951. During the course of her studies, she was awarded a number of scholarships and was selected in 1950 to represent Glendale College at a Model United Nations session in New York City.

The Rosses moved to Pomona in 1960 and Claremont in 1964. Ms. Ross worked briefly as an administrative assistant after college but after having her children, son Douglas Jr. and daughter Heather, she devoted most of her time to family, only returning to secretarial work after they were grown. She was an energetic homemaker who was very involved in her kids’ activities and enjoyed sewing, cooking and making preserves, jams and jellies.

Longtime friend Sue Quaney said Ms. Ross was exceptionally generous with her time, driving Ms. Quaney and her children wherever they needed to go when Mr. Quaney took the family car to work, as well as with her expertise. Ms. Ross taught her a lot about cooking, she noted, and was even free with beauty tips. Ms. Quaney recalled that, when she was in her early 30s, she never wore makeup. Ms. Ross gamely taught her how to use cosmetics, “And to this day, I won’t go anywhere without makeup.”

Even after Ms. Quaney relocated to Carlsbad, she and Ms. Ross kept in touch.

“Winifred had many, many a true friend,” Ms. Quaney said. “She was also a wonderful mother, instilling beautiful character traits that she had in her children.”

Ms. Ross had played field hockey and basketball at school and enjoyed horseback riding, tennis and skiing, both cross-country and downhill. She was also quite creative, making useful gear like backpacks, tents, sleeping bags and even the sail for a small sailboat.

An active member of the Sierra Club who took many Wilderness Training classes, Ms. Ross was always eager to impart her affinity for outdoor activity to the next generation. As a young woman, she had led a Girl Scout Mariner troop. Later, when her own daughter became involved in scouting, she led several Girl Scout troops in Claremont and Ontario, including 467 and 1080.

Under Ms. Ross’ vigorous leadership, Girl Scouts had to be prepared to get up and move. She used what she’d learned in the Sierra Club to train girls in outdoor skills, and led extended backpacking trips in the Sierra Nevadas for her troop as well as for the Spanish Trails Girl Scout Council. She organized bike rides from the Claremont area to San Diego and taught Sea Scout skills like sailing, canoeing and swimming. At the adult level of Girl Scouting, she also trained leaders in outdoors skills so they would be able to take their girls camping and backpacking. Her tireless efforts eventually earned her the highest volunteer honor awarded by Girl Scout councils, the Thanks Badge.

Her daughter Heather shared a story underlining how well Ms. Ross succeeded in her aim of making girls self-sufficient. When Heather’s best friend from childhood, Tana Sergio, became a young adult, she hatched a plan for a solo motorcycle ride across the United States. As can be expected, Ms. Sergio’s mother was none too pleased with the idea, and questioned her as to how she would manage such an undertaking. Ms. Sergio confidently replied that she had learned all about camping from Ms. Ross in Girl Scouts and soon after set off on her journey.

Ms. Ross was tough when it came to the outdoors, but she also had a soft side. She was quite a dance enthusiast, as evinced by many old photographs of her as a girl in various dance costumes. She was also a theater aficionado and had worked as an usher on Broadway as a teen, trading jobs with her friends so they could all see more shows.  Throughout her life, Ms. Ross delighted in classical music, especially opera, and sang in several community choirs, most recently at Claremont Manor.

“She was just full of energy, always cheerful and upbeat,” Ms. Quaney said.

Ms. Ross was predeceased by her son, Douglas Ross Jr. She is survived by her husband of 64 years, Douglas Ross Sr., of Claremont; by her brother, Lt. Col. Gordon Reddall, USAF (retired) of Albuquerque, New Mexico; by her daughter and son-in-law, Heather and Mike White of Rancho Palos Verdes; and by 2 grandchildren, Alyssa White of Elizabeth, New Jersey and Eric White of Westchester, California.

A celebration of Ms. Ross’ life will be held on Saturday, November 10 at 2 p.m. in Manor Hall at Claremont Manor, 650 Harrison Ave., Claremont, CA 91711.

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