Trailblazing Kiwanian, tireless volunteer, longtime Claremonter
Claremont resident Katherine Jane Ables died May 7 at Claremont Place, where she had been living for the past four years. She was 91.
She was born in 1928 in El Monte to Thomas and Florence Conrow. Kathy showed an early interest in ballet and dance, taking lessons from Lillian Haughten, an instructor who would forever go by the name “Teacher.” She worked as an instructor and director for the Lillian Haughton School of Dance from 1943 to 1953.
Shortly after graduating from high school she met Ray Ables. They were married in 1949 and had four children, Pam, Penny, Mike and Priscilla. The family moved to Claremont in 1956.
In 1959 she was hired by the Claremont Parks and Recreation Department (now human services) as the youth center director in Memorial Park, beginning a 32 year career with the city. She retired in December 1991.
Outside of her employment with Claremont, Ms. Ables was the consummate volunteer. Her efforts included Meals on Wheels, Cub Scouts, Girl Scouts, Junior Women’s Club and The Red Cross, where she served as chapter chairperson.
In March 2000, the 51 statewide American Red Cross chapters awarded her with the California Red Cross Outstanding Volunteer of the Year award.
In 1987, she became the first female member of the Claremont Kiwanis Club and later served as the club’s first woman president. In 1991 she received the Rotary Club’s Service Above Self honor (The Paul Harris Fellow). In 1999 The Claremont Kiwanis and Kiwanis International honored her with the Hixon Award, which recognizes Kiwanians for their community work.
Ms. Ables was also involved with Claremont’s Independence Day Committee, where each Fourth of July her day started at 5 a.m. and ended about 10 p.m. She was a member of the Claremont Presbyterian Church where she served on the Board of Deacons, and of the Liturgical Dance Group at Claremont United Methodist Church.
She was preceded in death by her husband Ray; sister Mary; brother-in-law Ralph; and nephew Tim.
Ms. Ables is survived by her children Pam (Rob), Penny (Ron), Mike (Pam) and Priscilla (Stan); brother Bud (Mary); nine grandchildren; 13 great-grandchildren; three great-great-grandchildren; and eight nieces and nephews.
Her family would like to thank the employees at Claremont Place for the loving and gentle care provided to their mother for the past four years, and the staff at VNA Hospice and Palliative Care of Southern California for their thoughtful support near the end of her life.
In lieu of flowers, her family suggests donations to the Claremont Kiwanis Club at claremontkiwanis.org, “so that mom’s legacy may live on in the many charities that Kiwanis is involved in,” they said.
Ms. Ables’ memorial service will take place at 2 p.m. Monday, May 20, at La Verne Heights Presbyterian Church, 1040 Base Line Rd., La Verne. A celebration of life will follow at the DoubleTree Hotel, 555 W. Foothill Blvd., Claremont.
“Bring your Kathy Ables stories,” her family shared. “She is now dancing with the angels.”