Myrbeth Frances Southwood

Mother, animal-lover, friend to all

Myrbeth Frances Southwood, a longtime Claremont resident, died on February 15, 2013 in Claremont. She was 84.

Mrs. Southwood was born on October 18, 1928 in San Jose, California to Oscar and Anne Oliver. Her unusual name was invented by her parents, who came up with Myrbeth by combining the name of 2 of her aunts, Myrtle and Elizabeth.

At age 19, she married Leo G. Cheim, Jr. and they settled in the Willow Glen neighborhood of San Jose. They had 2 sons, Leo Gregory Cheim, better known as Greg, and John Eric Cheim. She later married Robert Harold Southwood, an employee for Weyerhaeuser Lumber Company, and had a daughter, Darcy.

Weyerhaeuser took the couple and 3 children to Tacoma, Washington in 1959, where they lived on 40 acres in a home that is now a historic site. Naturally, Mrs. Southwood, a lifelong animal-lover, moved her pets, one being her horse Dice, with the family.

Living in Washington, Mrs. Southwood took on the task of boarding horses on their 40 acres. Riding was a great passion for Greg, who belonged to a riding club called the Colts and Phillies, and the Southwoods were strong supporters. They also adopted a pony for John. Mrs. Southwood did all the work herself, and relished feeding and caring for the horses she boarded.

In 1961, Weyerhaeuser again moved the family to Denver, Colorado, animals and all. They resided in Denver for 10 years, where Mrs. Southwood concentrated on motherhood. For some years, she was also a stalwart of the Denver Art Museum.

The horse and pony lived on the property with the family along with many pets, including a Collie named Lassie, cats and a magpie named Maggy. While living in Denver, Mrs. Southwood awoke one morning to find the pony in the stable with a broken leg. Rather than putting the pony down, she insisted that they put a cast on the leg and let the pony live in the garage. The garage was a makeshift stable for weeks. The procedure was unsuccessful but, as usual, Mrs. Southwood had gone to every length to save the pony.

In 1971, the Southwoods were transferred with Weyerhaeuser Company to Hot Springs, Arkansas, which was an adjustment for the family. Mrs. Southwood made the best of this move by starting what was to become a very successful career in real estate during the ‘70s. Being a people person, she was excellent at this. Her sense of style was another asset, helping people visualize a life in the homes they were buying. 

Mr. Southwood retired from Weyerhaeuser and moved back to California in 1980, relocating to Upland and eventually Claremont. In the years following, Mrs. Southwood was an active member of the Scripps College Fine Arts Foundation. She also worked at Graber Olive House in Ontario and locally at Raku.

Known for never being able to resist a pretty flower, she enjoyed gardening and always had fresh flowers in her house. She delighted in cooking for others, whether for her children or people in the neighborhood. Mrs. Southwood got many calls from her children and grandchildren wanting her recipes, especially her delicious pound cake and savory pot roast.

Mrs. Southwood loved the beach and poolside. Her husband used to call her “Brownie” for her rich tan. She was a longtime member of the Claremont Tennis Club, playing tennis actively, and later in life switched to Aqua Fit.

She became close with the other members of the Aqua Fit group, which was characteristic of Mrs. Southwood, who was known for developing close personal relationships everywhere she went. This included her entire neighborhood, where she befriended everyone on the block while walking her beloved dog Snowball. Some knew her only as “the white-haired lady with the little white dog.” In the last year of her life, she made new friends when she started walking Father Charles’ 2 dogs. It was her joy after losing Snowball.

It was all about the people and the dogs for Mrs. Southwood, who was an ardent advocate for all animals. She was a supporter of many animal agencies, often paying the expenses for the spaying and neutering of other people’s pets or for the strays she rescued from the streets.

“Mom had many accomplishments, but I think the way she did her part for the world was as a thoughtful, kind listener and faithful friend,” Mrs. Southwood’s daughter said. “She was devoted and nurturing to all she befriended. Her concern for others was always genuine.”

Mrs. Southwood is survived by her sons, her daughter and 2 grandchildren, Nathalie Contat and Taylor Cheim. She is also survived by nieces Debbie Woods, Judy Quigley and Karee Oliver and by nephews Robert Boldig and David and Michael Oliver.

An intimate celebration of the life of Mrs. Southwood, or “Brownie,” was held at the home of her nephew Robert and his wife Kelley, with family and close personal friends in attendance.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made in the name of Myrbeth Southwood to the Inland Valley Humane Society, 500 Humane Way, Pomona, CA 91766.

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