In Memory

Lorraine Lawton

Tragically Lorraine Lawton was severely injured in a traffic accident on Highway 17 between Santa Cruz and Los Gatos in November, 1964.  She succombed to her injuries two weeks later.  When all of this happened, she was still in her senior year at Westmont High School.

Lorraine was a bright, lively young woman who was liked and loved by all who knew her.  May she rest in peace.

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06/24/15 12:53 AM #1    

Dennis C. Johnson

If you will kindly indulge me, I have some things I would like to share about Lorraine Lawton. She and I were very close for a while. We became friends at Campbell in 1963 from being in a math class together, where she sat a row over from me. When JFK was shot and so many people were in tears, I remember being surprised that she wasn’t crying, although she was sad. A year later, for me it was difficult to escape the parallels; intense loss through death at a distance, and an even more intense loss through death up close. It was November, always a scary month after those two years, in 1964 at Westmont and I was just coming in for a morning class when someone, I believe it was Nancy Unger, said something to me and I jokingly replied back. I could tell by the look on her face that I had misinterpreted what she was saying. “What are you talking about?” I asked. “Didn’t you hear?” she said. "Lorraine was in an accident.” I can still feel the plummeting sensation that pulled me down through the floor at that moment. The last time I had seen her was at our football game a couple of days before. For some reason, I had really wanted to talk to her, but after getting out of uniform and looking for her, she was already gone. I wanted to call her that night, but I didn't. Her mother told me later that she seemed very pensive and went out walking that evening by herself, in the rain. I often wondered afterward if she had had a premonition about her exceptional life coming to an end. I had had my own premonition of sorts, as I had for some reason been looking in the obituary column of the newspaper for a couple of weeks, looking for her name. Of course usually such things are rationalized as foolishness and not taken seriously, and such was the case with me. When I found out about the accident, for the rest of the school day I was in a daze. After school I called her folks and asked if I could go to the hospital to see her. She was unconscious they said, but I still wanted to go. Her dad took me in to her room. There she lay on the hospital bed with her head bandaged, eyes closed, almost serene, looking as if she could wake up at any moment and turn her head and smile at me. “There’s no hope,” her father said. Being raised in a metaphysical household I replied, “That’s not true, hope is God. Are you saying there’s no God?” I recall he just looked at me strangely. She remained in a coma for two weeks or so. Each day I rehearsed in my mind what I was going to say to her when she came out of it, and how I would tell her all about what had happened at school and in the neighborhood while she was away. She can’t die, I reasoned to myself, too many people need her. It was her father who called on the day she died to tell me. I remember his voice being emotionless. I was not, and am not. It’s strange how events from 50 years ago can still cause tears today. I’ve seen it before in soldiers, even 90 year old soldiers from WWII, as they recalled their experiences with death. I was never a soldier, but Lorraine’s death wounded me badly. Hers was the last funeral I could ever manage to go to until that of my longtime best friend Gene McDaniels in 2011. After she died, our families became closer, although her death split up her mother and father. I often took care of her little sister Kelly, who wasn’t even 2 when Lorraine died. She was, as they say, the spitting image of her big sister. I sought out and made friends with the young college man John who was driving the night of the accident. He was riddled with guilt. “I don’t know what happened," he said. "It was raining and we were coming over the mountains from Santa Cruz and suddenly we skidded and rolled over. I was thrown clear from the car. She hit the windshield. I lay there in the middle of the road, and no one ran over me. I was fine and she was not. Why couldn’t it have been me?” John and I remained friends for several years, often playing basketball and surfing together, before we drifted apart. I think I initially felt that being close to the last person Lorraine was consciously with, someone she was fond of, made me feel closer to her. A year or two afterwards, I visited another friend of hers who made me feel closer to her, Helene, who was living outside Philadelphia at the time. She had been struck blind because of Lorraine’s passing, but recovered her sight over time. For decades I kept Lorraine's senior picture on my desk. I didn’t want her to be forgotten. I didn’t want the world to go on without someone continuing to acknowledge the special life of a lovely young woman who never got to live more than a small part of it. I designated myself as that someone. I used to watch some 8mm film clips of the Song Girls during a football game that Lorraine was in, dancing. I was in the film too, on the football team. There was always some joy in being on the same field again with her, even if only on a piece of celluloid. She told me once with a chuckle that one of the other Song Girls, Lynn Igoe, had a dear grandmother who was kindly helping to make their uniforms, and that she had told her sweetly earlier in the year, “You Song Girls are going to sing good.” Of course, the Song Girls didn’t sing, but danced. For years, traveling to work with my dad on weekends in his mechanic shop at Peninsula Creamery in Palo Alto, I would pass the cemetery where she was buried, but I could never bring myself to stop and visit the grave. I wanted to remember her life, not the remains of the end of it. I wanted to remember seeing A Shot In the Dark with her, going to the beach with her, meeting her in the little schoolyard close to her Saratoga home, playing the piano with her, taking care of Kelly with her. Not what came afterwards... So... that is as much of my story of Lorraine that I care to tell, friends and school mates from a half century ago, a story of events that came back full on to me after seeing the wonderful picture Michael posted of her. If there are those of you who find my remembrances offensively maudlin or pathetic, or think this an inappropriate forum for such ancient sentimentality, please understand that for almost fifty years I have not been able to speak about her with anyone who knew her, outside of our families. Now, because of technology and social media, I can, and have. It’s really just my way of affirming her life again, in spite of its brevity; of saying to her in the presence of others who knew her, wherever in the universe that beautiful life essence that was her might be: Lorraine, we, your friends, have never forgotten you, and we still love you very much.

06/24/15 04:55 PM #2    

Nancy E. Unger

Thank you so much, Dennis, for that beautiful and moving remembrance of Lorraine.  Her death hit me hard at the time, and still evokes much sadness.  Nancy Unger

06/24/15 07:12 PM #3    

Richard L. "Rich" Dawson

Yes, Dennis, this was a fitting tribute to a wonderful young woman. I am sure that she would have been proud of what you said.


06/25/15 03:13 PM #4    

Gloria M. Cheney (Hernandez)

I first met Lorraine in 7th grade at Isaac Newton Graham Junior High School in Mountain View. Even then she was a beautiful person inside and out, always kind to everyone in what was often the very unkind adolescent subculture of junior high school. Lorraine danced to her own beat (literally and figuratively) from a very young age. In dance class while the rest of us plodded along in pairs to devise predictable routines to the strains of Peter Gunn, Lorraine chose to work solo and dazzled us with a remarkably creative and unique performance that I can still see clearly these 50 plus years later.

06/25/15 06:11 PM #5    

Rhonda S. Ruick (O'Brien)

I would like to add this news clipping from the Saratoga News, from September 2, 1964, when Lorraine was with a group of us acting as guides at an open house for our new high school.  Fond memories!

06/25/15 06:38 PM #6    

Rhonda S. Ruick (O'Brien)

My first attempt at posting that article didn't work; here's another try:  aaannnnnd.....

It worked!

06/25/15 08:47 PM #7    

Michael R. Broschat

Taken summer, 1964. A couple others are at:




06/26/15 10:59 AM #8    

Paul Meyer

Lorraine had a terrific fun-loving spirit.  In the spring of 1964 Lorraine and I competed against a bunch of other student pairs in a school-sponsored raw egg tossing contest out on the Campbell High School football field.  The pair that completed the longest successful throw would win.  A week before the competition Lorraine and I actually practiced, and it paid off.  On game day we came in second.  Our participation ended, when Lorraine tossed a long one, and then I--while backpeddling--tried to catch it up high, which did not work at all.  The egg splattered on my face, an outcome which the students in the stands thought was just great.

06/28/15 12:44 AM #9    

Barbara Meyers (Meyers)

I sat next to Lorraine in History during Senior year, as we were seated alphabetically and my last name started with K and hers with L.  I didn't know her well, but I was horrified and saddened when she died.  To this day, I always think about her when driving over the hill to Santa Cruz.

Barbara Kolsky Meyers

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