Maridel Francis Commagère, 95, of Laguna Beach passed away suddenly in her Laguna Beach home of natural causes on Tuesday, December 4, 2012 at 11:23 pm. Known as "Mamie" to her close friends and family, she was a fixture of Laguna Beach for 54 years and could often be seen waving from her beachfront balcony or displaying one of her American flags. We've lost a little piece of history as well as a mother, grandmother, great-grandmother and friend.
Born on February 24, 1917, in Spokane, WA, Maridel was the only child of Mary Loraine (Magee) of Daisy, WA, and Delbert Montanye Francis of Butte, MT. She attended the Bryant Elementary School in Spokane.
In 1930 Maridel and her parents moved to Long Beach, CA where three years later, she and her parents would survive the 1933 Long Beach earthquake. For several months, she had to attend school in outdoor tents.
Maridel graduated early from Long Beach Polytechnic High School in 1933 at age 16. She then attended Long Beach Junior College, graduating in 1935. From there she went to UCLA, majored in mathematics and statistics and received her BA in psychology on February 2, 1938. She played touch football and was president of her sorority Alpha Delta Pi of which she was a lifelong member. She used to walk from her sorority house on Hilgard to class through the woods which are now parking lots and Hershey Hall. After graduation she worked at CBS for a time.
In 1940, though she was engaged to a classmate, Maridel decided to take a solo Caribbean cruise aboard the United Fruit Company ship Sixaola. On that ship Maridel met the love of her life, Robert Anthony Commagère, son of Louis Ernest Commagère of New Orleans, LA, and Martha Elizabeth (Hopkins) of Savannah, GA. Bob was a purser aboard the ship. It truly was love at first sight. She and Bob married as soon as the ship returned to New Orleans on July 29, 1940. They had known each other for two weeks. Four years later their son Robert Francis Commagère was born. Maridel and Bob were married for 37 years until Bob passed away on Saturday, May 13, 1978. Maridel never remarried.
Soon after their New Orleans marriage, the couple decided to live in the San Fernando Valley, as did Maridel’s parents and maternal grandparents. They lived in Sherman Oaks and Encino, CA where they bought and sold a number of different homes. Bob became the first President of the San Fernando Valley Board of Realtors of which he was an honorary member for life. He was also the President of the San Fernando Valley Real Estate Board in 1954 and a Past Chairman of the Los Angeles County Council of Real Estate Boards.
After having visited the beach community of Laguna Beach numerous times since the early 1940s, they made the decision to settle there in 1958. They made the winding drive down to Laguna on Sepulveda Blvd., as the 405 had not yet been built. They became avid golfers and were members of Irvine Country Club and Indian Wells Country Club (where they had a second home). In 1962 they purchased one of the few beachfront vacant lots next to the sand and built their dream home. Forty years later, Maridel’s beach-loving granddaughter, Carla, moved into the bottom floor. With partner Hans Hagen, Carla soon had two children, who became the light of Maridel's life, and with Maridel's son and daughter-in-law often visiting, there were four generations under one roof. Truly unusual for 2012!
Maridel loved playing golf, doing needlepoint and petit point projects, collecting antiques and decorating her homes. She was also a huge sports fan—always excited to watch UCLA football and basketball, Monday night football, and boxing. She couldn't wait for the December 8 Pacquiao fight and missed seeing the excitement by four days. She loved her dogs, and loved her bourbon. She even had her drink the night she passed away. She called everyone “honey,” had a Christmas card list a mile long, and never forgot anybody. She did things her way up until her last day and never complained about anything. At age 70 she became proficient on the computer and enjoyed web surfing, emailing friends, and Facebook even in her 95th year. She was an inspiration to everyone who met her.
Maridel passes on her stubbornness, charm, good looks, and love of 5 p.m. to her only son Robert Francis Commagère and his wife Ramira (Romero Arellano) Commagère of Los Angeles; five grandchildren, Kerstin Alice (Commagère) Seufert (Dan) of South Lake Tahoe, CA, Anton Robert Commagère of Redmond, WA, Carla María Commagère (Hans Hagen) of Laguna Beach, Juliette Monique Commagère (Joachim Cooder) of Mt. Washington, Los Angeles, and Robert Anthony Commagère, II also of Mt. Washington; two Great grandchildren, Hana Commagère Hagen, 7 and Lyric Commagère Hagen, 5 both of Laguna Beach.
Maridel was preceded in death by four grandparents, Samuel Lightner Magee of North Liberty, PA (1935), Lorena Etta (Miles) Magee of Litchfield, IL (1950), Delbert Morton Francis of Pontiac, MI (1941), and Margarette Refus (Bishop) Francis of Germantown, PA (1957).
A private service was held at Pacific View Memorial Park on December 13, 2012.
She passed away in her bed with her wits about her, son and daughter-in-law at her side, the sound of the waves crashing in her ears.
We should all be so lucky.