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Mora Munroe Reichling Celaya

Lifelong learner, music enthusiast, equestrian

Mora Munroe Reichling Celaya died peacefully at age 96, at midnight between December 1 and 2, 2016 in Claremont, California, with her daughters holding her hands.

She was born in Chicago on October 4,1920 to Mora Alene Poundstone and James Edward Munroe. Her family, including younger brothers James Edward “Ted” and Richard Poundstone, moved to Altadena, California when she was four years old.

The young Ms. Munroe studied at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, and graduated from Claremont’s Pomona College in 1941 with a degree in music, emphasis voice and piano, and a minor in mathematics. 

During World War II she was activities director at Smoke Tree Ranch in Palm Springs, California, and comforted her family after her brother Richard was killed in action while rescuing a wounded comrade on the Pacific island of Okinawa. Her brother Ted survived the war, returning to continue his studies at Stanford. On a spring break, he brought his college friend Harry Reichling to the family vacation home on Balboa Island, and introduced him to his sister, Mora.

The couple married six months later, and after Mr. Reichling finished his studies at Stanford, they began ranching citrus and avocados in North Whittier Heights, just up the road from his parents’ home. They had two daughters, Tracy and Ann.

During the ranch years Ms. Reichling taught piano, sang in the Whittier Light Opera, was president of the local PTA, was a Blue Bird leader, and organized French and bridge clubs, all while earning a master’s degree in audiology at Cal State University, Los Angeles. 

When the couple parted, Ms. Reichling left the ranch and ultimately moved back to Claremont with her daughters. She became executive director of the Pomona Valley Speech and Hearing Society, where she twisted the dials of the audiometers testing hearing for the community. She also earned a second master’s degree in counseling at Azusa Pacific University in Azusa, California.

In the sixties she married Hugo Celaya, and during his sabbatical year, which the family spent in Europe, Ms. Celaya took up dressage at the Benenden School of Riding in Kent, England, discovering a passion she pursued and enjoyed for the rest of her life. 

Returning to Claremont she continued dressage study and practice, and ran a small riding academy at her home, where many eager working pupils went through their training with her, some continuing far beyond the basics. She and her pupils enjoyed riding in several Claremont Fourth of July parades. She was well known in the dressage world, and only stopped riding when her favorite horse Domino died in 2003, in his thirties.

In 2012 a health issue brought her to Pilgrim Place Health Services Center in Claremont, which she had identified years before as the best place, and where she would like to go if needed. At Pilgrim Place she was given loving care by the dedicated, compassionate staff, and the friendship and love of other residents and their families. She outlived her body, gradually withdrawing from, as she said, having been “in charge of a lot.” Her family remarked that “She appreciated soft afternoon air, the warmth of the sun on her face, the smell of flowers and herbs, and especially the mealtime company of her best friend Mike Kriege.”

She is survived by her life companion Mike Kriege; daughters Tracy Reichling O’Reilly and Ann Reichling; granddaughters Imogen Reichling O’Reilly and Ann Elizabeth Salazar; her brother Ted’s wife, Dorothy “Dottie” Rempel Munroe, and his children, Kathy (John) Brittingham, Richard (Karen) Munroe, Connie (Jack) Kraus, and their children and grandchildren. She was preceded in death by her parents, her brothers, and her niece, Barbara Munroe.

Her family describes her as an adventurous free spirit, and a lifelong learner. She liked direct conversation, and her wide interests meant she had friends of all ages, and attracted interesting people. Music and music study were constants, and her life was enriched by riding students, musicales at her home, Claremont politics, family, dinner table conversations and the sharing of opinions. She had a vigorous sense of self.

Her family and all who love her celebrate that “Mora’s soul is dancing in the light, free of the bonds of the body, gone on ahead of and without us. We have to let her go, but we had years with her, and she had a full and long life. We wish her peace and safe transit.” 

Her wishes were for cremation and sprinkling at sea.

Thoughts and reflections may be sent to rememberingmora@gmail.com. Donations in her name may be made to Pilgrim Place Health Services Center, 721 Harrison Ave., Claremont 91711, or online at pilgrimplace.org/online_donations.php, or to an organization of your choice. 

A gathering for family and friends is planned for Sunday, November 5, 2017 from 2 to 5 p.m. at her home in Claremont, with remembrances at 3 p.m. For more information, please call (909) 621-1643 or (406) 207-9424.