Beatrice Whittlesey, Traveler, Teacher, Leader, Dies at 90 in Home She Built

Times Staff Writer

Beatrice Whittlesey, 90, who twice traveled around the world and was the first woman to travel upstream on the Colorado River, has died in Laguna Beach.

In 1945, Whittlesey and Harry Aleson, a boatman and explorer from Boulder City, Nev., traveled up the Colorado River on a 16-foot outboard motor boat, setting a record for the longest distance traveled upstream, said Whittlesey’s niece, Audrey Whittlesey. The record has since been broken.

Born on July 6, 1898, in Riverside, Ill., Whittlesey received degrees in physical education from UC Berkeley and Columbia University in New York. She worked as a teacher and administrator in the Los Angeles Unified School District for 32 years, until she retired in 1953.

She died on Dec. 30 at her home, her niece said.


Whittlesey was an expert canoeist, equestrian and mountain climber, having scaled the Swiss Alps, Mt. Fujiyama in Japan and Mt. Whitney in California. She not only built and designed her Laguna Beach home in 1926, but also constructed nine other houses there.

She made excursions to the Soviet Union, South Africa, China, New Zealand, Australia and took a 6-week cruise down the Amazon with natives.

Active in community affairs, Whittlesey belonged to many civic clubs such as the National Retired Teachers’ Assn.; the Business and Professional Women’s Club of Orange County, which in 1960 honored her as the Woman of the Year, and the Laguna Girl Scouting Council, of which she was president. More recently--for 27 years--she was active in the Orange Coast League of Women Voters. She chronicled her life in a 1985 book entitled “Life’s Fulfillment.”

“I don’t mind growing old as long as I can be useful,” Whittlesey said in a 1988 interview with The Times Orange County.

Memorial services will be held at 10 a.m. on Saturday at the Laguna Presbyterian Church, 415 Forest Avenue. She is survived by several nephews, nieces and cousins.