‘A BELOVED FRIEND’
There are hundreds and hundreds of nonprofit organizations in Santa Barbara, and Lorraine D. Wilson probably wrote about every one of them — more than once — in her On the Town column that she wrote for nearly 25 years for the Santa Barbara News-Press.
CALM, Santa Barbara Yacht Club, Community Arts Music Association, Visiting Nurse and Hospice Care, Hospice of Santa Barbara, Girls Inc. of Santa Barbara and Carpinteria — if they had a fundraiser or some other event, she wrote about it.
The petite, stylish and vivacious writer died Sept. 29, 2019, at age 87 in Santa Barbara.
“Lorraine Wilson, in a stylish ensemble equipped with a spiral note pad, pen, and camera, was a beloved friend and partner to many nonprofit organizations and their PR spokespersons. I am one those spokespersons, and Lorraine was my communications partner to help tell our story about our events,” said Easter Moorman, director of marketing for VNA Health, formerly Visiting Nurse and Hospice Care.
“Lorraine understood that signature community events have quite a few people managing many details to achieve success who deserve to be recognized, and she always did this with grace and authority.
“Lorraine also recognized the power of her pen and camera, as her calendar started filling up with more and more events to cover. So one day she shared her very full schedule with me and asked if there was any way nonprofits could not triple book her in a weekend. She shared that there are so many nonprofits doing great work, and much needed work, for our community; but she couldn’t be at two events at the same time.
“ ‘Is it possible for you to plan ahead and not double book events?’ Lorraine asked. So a group of us PR mavens put our calendars together to see if were scheduling our signature events on the same day or weekend. Thanks to Lorraine’s simple request, we were able to better plan ahead, collaborate and share the power of Lorraine and her On The Town column.”
Sansum Clinic recognized Mrs. Wilson when they gave her the Community Leadership Award at a Go Red for Women luncheon on March 10, 2012. She received her award from Dr. Kurt N. Ransohoff, Sansum’s CEO, president and medical director, for her 20 years of covering the clinic, the Heart Association and other nonprofits.
In a News-Press article — not written by Mrs. Wilson — Dr. Ransohoff praised her for her energetic presentation of the nonprofit community to the rest of Santa Barbara.
“Few people match her enthusiasm,” he said and read comments from other community leaders who agreed.
Dr. Ransohoff also explained how Mrs. Wilson taught him not to blink at the flash when she took his photo at an event.
“I felt like I had just been advised by Shakespeare how to write a sonnet,” he said.
Girls Inc. of Greater Santa Barbara honored her with its “Strong, Smart and Bold” award in November 2012.
“Lorraine and her daughter, Stephanie Wilson, edited ‘Letters From the Heart,’ to celebrate outstanding women, which was the impetus for the Girls Inc. Celebration Luncheon which continues to this day. She did many things to support Girls Inc. over the years,” said Pat Jones, past president and current board member. “The letters told of powerful women’s dreams and aspirations and how they achieved their goals.”
Mary Howe Grant, a past president of Girls Inc., remembers Mrs. Wilson as someone who cared deeply for Girls Inc as well as many other organizations and was generous with her time.
“She had a strong commitment to the work Girls Inc. does. She provided exceptional news reporting about our activities and participated in many ways.”
Added Barbara Ben-Horin, Girls Inc. CEO, “Lorraine was truly a great story teller. She created awareness of community needs, services and the good deeds of many. Far more than providing terrific coverage of nonprofit events, she deeply cared and supported numerous organizations.”
“As former executive director of Girls Inc. of Greater Santa Barbara, I had the honor of working with Lorraine Wilson for more than 20 years,” said Monica Spear. “In that time, it was very early on that I came know her as a passionate advocate for many under-and non-represented communities, particularly girls and women.
“She served as a role model and gave generously of herself in every way to support and advance equity and inclusion. In addition to her extensive volunteerism and vast contributions to Girls Inc. of GSB, she co-edited (with daughter Stephanie), and contributed to the Girls Inc. of Greater Santa Barbara ‘Letters from the Heart’ books, which now serve as an everlasting and memorialized legacy of her commitment to inspiring all girls to be strong, smart and bold. Lorraine will be dearly missed and forever remembered for all she did for so many, and for the amazing, witty, compassionate, smart, funny, and loving woman she was.”
Rafael Maldonado, photo editor for the News-Press, worked with Mrs. Wilson on many of her assignments.
“She was very meticulous and always concerned about how her pictures turned out. She was a sweet person and worked very, very hard, and she had a heart of gold, never said a mean thing about anyone. She was very devoted to her husband who passed away earlier. It saddens me that we have a lost a great colleague,” he said.
When Mrs. Wilson, who retired officially in August, 2014, wasn’t covering social events and writing about them she doted on her family, especially her twin grandsons, Mark and Andrew Ungerer, sons of Stephanie Wilson and Dr. Ron Ungerer of Santa Barbara. She taught them to play bridge when they were 7 years old so she and their grandfather would have bridge partners.
“They had a Sunday night ritual of eating Chinese takeout and playing bridge,” said Stephanie Wilson. “It ended when Mark went to Princeton and Andrew went to Yale.”
The men are 32 years old now.”
“My grandmother filled the lives of her family and friends with warmth and positivity. She had a bright smile, big hug, and a list of questions every time I arrived at her house. For those who knew her, they appreciated how truly engaged she was with you, your life, and the conversation she was having with you. She listened, she remembered, she cared, she helped and she loved her family and friends unendingly. She will be missed by all of us,” said Mark, an engineer who lives in San Francisco with his wife Sophie and their 6-month-old son, Ryan.
His brother, Andrew is an economist who lives in Denver.
Lorraine Duffy Wilson was born in Ontario, Canada, on Dec. 22, 1931, and moved to Los Angeles in 1943, where she graduated from high school and entered Pasadena City College. She married Lawrence Devon Wilson in February 1950.
While raising two daughters, Stephanie and Leslie, in San Marino, she was very active in numerous nonprofits in the Pasadena area, including the St. Luke Hospital Guild, as well as serving as an elder and a deacon of the San Marino Community Church. During several summers she wrote for the local weekly paper, the San Marino Tribune.
When her daughters were grown, Mrs. Wilson became editor/writer of newsletters for the Mental Health Association of Los Angeles and the Los Angeles Child Guidance Clinic and then executive director of the Los Angeles chapter of the American Diabetes Association.
Soon after moving to Santa Barbara in 1990, Mrs. Wilson began the On the Town column for the News-Press, covering three or four fundraisers a week and writing about them.
Mrs. Wilson was preceded in death by her husband, Larry, and daughter, Leslie, as well as her sister, Marlene. Besides her daughter, Stephanie Wilson, and son-in-law, Dr. Ron Ungerer; grandsons Andrew and Mark; and great-grandson Ryan, she is survived by siblings Sheila Lagomarsino, Claudette Duffy and Gerald Duffy, and numerous nieces and nephews.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to Girls Inc., Planned Parenthood of Santa Barbara, Family Service Agency or a charity of your choice.