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Gania Demaree Trotter

Choral director, arts development administrator, political activist, devoted friend

Gania Demaree Trotter died peacefully Monday, April 19 at Mount San Antonio Gardens in  Pomona, in the loving presence of members of her family. She was 94 years of age.

As a musician and choral director, an arts development administrator, a political activist, and a devoted friend to many, Gania’s energetic intellect and vibrant personality enriched the lives of every person and community she encountered.

She grew up in Southern California and earned a degree in choral music from Occidental College in 1949 and an MA in education from Columbia Teachers College in 1952.

She married the Reverend F. Thomas Trotter in 1953 and helped him establish Montclair Methodist Church in 1956. In their 66 years of marriage, they supported one another through a wide array of professional and volunteer service to many communities and callings.

They were a loving, supportive and inspiring presence to their children and many extended family members. Travel lovers, they also journeyed widely throughout their lives for work and pleasure across North America, Europe, Africa and Asia.

A gifted musician and choral conductor, Ms. Trotter was mentored by Howard Swan at Occidental, and later became a member of the Robert Shaw Collegiate Chorale in New York City. After she finished her degree, she served as the choral director at Anaheim High School and director of choral music at John Muir College in Pasadena.

She also directed other choral groups throughout the 1960s and early 1970s, including the Claremont School of Theology Chorale, and the adult and youth choirs at Claremont United Methodist Church. A beloved and highly respected leader in her community and church, she  produced several musical theater productions with local youth in the early 1970s that were wildly popular in the community and inspired the professional music careers of several participants.

After moving to Nashville, Tennessee in 1973 she was an active member at West End United Methodist Church, singing in the chancel choir and serving on numerous committees that shaped the congregational life.

Ms. Trotter devoted much of her energy to volunteer work in education and social services, including membership in the League of Women Voters. She was a principal architect of an extensive study and action group in Nashville that led to significant system-wide reforms in public education in the Metro Nashville system, helping create greater equity in the recently integrated public schools. She also played a leading role in the development of a battered women’s shelter through the Nashville YWCA that has since saved thousands of lives.

Professionally, she was the registrar and later the director of development at the Blair School of Music at Vanderbilt University. Her work as director of development enabled her to merge her love of the arts, education and community outreach.

In 1988, she and her husband moved to Anchorage, Alaska, where he became president of Alaska Pacific University, and she built up a very successful development program for the university.

During this period, the couple were also deeply engaged in the founding and development of Africa University, a private, Pan-African and United Methodist-related institution of higher learning in Mutare, Zimbabwe.

After a brief retirement in 1995, she returned to her work in higher educational development, becoming the director of development for Claremont School of Theology from 1999 to 2001.

In her post-retirement years, she continued to serve her community as an active member and volunteer for several groups and causes, and held leadership and service positions at Mount San Antonio Gardens.

She was passionate about the natural beauty of the earth and supported efforts to protect the environment from overdevelopment. She regularly attended L.A. Philharmonic concerts and other arts events, and actively engaged with societal and cultural issues of the day.

She remained a proud member of the Anaheim High School Alumni Association and was a guest speaker at Anaheim Union High School District’s Poston Experience in 2019. In the summer and fall of 2020, she wrote hundreds of letters and made scores of telephone calls encouraging Americans to vote in the November 2020 election.

In 2017, she published her memoirs, “Reflections: My Life in Hardcover,” a book cherished by her many family members and friends.

Ms. Trotter is survived by her children, Ruth Elizabeth Trotter (Brett Watterson), Tania Trotter Batson (Greg Batson) and Mary Kathleen Trotter (Robert Kaufman); grandchildren Thomas, Daniel and Wesley Batson; step-grandchildren Travis Watterson (Meetra), Ryan Watterson and Rachel Azevedo (Lucas); and numerous beloved sisters and brothers-in- law, nieces and nephews.

She is profoundly missed by them and by her many other relatives and friends.

She was predeceased by her husband Tom, siblings Kay Bean, Ruth Preston and Daniel Demaree, and daughter Paula Anne.

A memorial celebration of Gania Demaree Trotter’s life will be scheduled for this summer.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent to the Claremont School of Theology at https://cst.networkforgood.com, or by check, with “F. Thomas Trotter Scholarship” in the memo line, to Claremont School of Theology, Office of Advancement, 1325 N. College Avenue, Claremont, CA 91711; or to the Africa University Development Fund at https://www.support-africauniversity.org/2014/giving-opportunities/make-a-gift, or by check to the Africa University Development Office, P.O. Box 340007, Nashville, TN 37203-0007.

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