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Kay Sandra Ceniceros

Trailblazing female politician, college dean, art lover

Kay Sandra Ceniceros, beloved wife, mother, grandmother, sister, public servant and friend, died July 26 at the age of 81 from Alzheimer’s disease.

Born to Ross and Eunice McPherson in 1938, Kay and her family moved to Long Beach from Los Angeles at the beginning of World War II. She read voraciously and excelled in school. She graduated from Long Beach Poly High and entered Occidental College on a scholarship. There, she met Blair Ceniceros. They were married in 1958. 

Kay and Blair loved attending the opera, theater and the arts, and participating in community theater productions. She passed on her love of the natural world to her children through family camping trips in many of California’s mountain, redwood and coastal state parks.

She was esteemed and loved by all for the kindness, respect and fairness with which she approached people from all backgrounds and for her genuine interest in them as individuals having their own unique qualities, her family shared.

She earned a bachelor’s degree in urban studies and a master’s degree in public administration with honors from UC Riverside, all while raising three children and serving as the first female planning commissioner in Riverside County history.

In 1980 she was elected the first female Riverside County Supervisor, representing the third district for 16 years, and paving the way for a female majority on the board soon thereafter. She served in a number of high profile leadership positions up and down California, as well as on federal committees.

She garnered widespread awards and recognition from local community groups to the White House. Her deep policy and technical knowledge, collaborative talents, and passionate leadership led to improvements in social services, cleaner air and water quality, and a more balanced use of land and natural spaces that will be enjoyed by future generations. She then served as dean of advancement at Mt. San Jacinto College, where Mr. Ceniceros had taught previously.

She retired permanently in 1998 and moved to Idyllwild, where the couple was active in the community. They moved to Claremont in 2011. 

Her mother, Eunice, father, Ross and sister, Janice, preceded her in death.

She is survived by her husband, Blair; daughter, Lara; sons, Bruce and Kevin; sister, Christine;  and six grandchildren.

A memorial service is planned for 1 p.m. Sunday, September 15 in Claremont Manor’s Manor Hall, 650 Harrison Ave., Claremont.