Local News in Brief : Countywide : Plaque Dedicated to Late Health Official

County health officials in Santa Ana dedicated a plaque Friday to Orange County’s longtime health director, described by some as “unforgettable,” “courageous” and “fiery.”

Dr. Emma B. Wharton, 78, who died Sept. 12 after a prolonged illness, was honored for overseeing for more than 25 years the county’s maternal and child health-care services, according to Len Foster, public health director. The plaque will be displayed at the Health Care Agency’s central clinic in Santa Ana.

Wharton “set up a structure where indigent women and children receive medical services” through the agency, Foster said.

She was a tenacious and strong leader, who “had the personality of a bull terrier,” he said. “She would get an idea and wouldn’t let it go until it succeeded.”


From 1952 until 1977, Wharton served as director of the agency’s maternal and child health services department. After retiring in 1977, she continued to volunteer to work with community groups such as Planned Parenthood-Orange County.

Wharton was “thoroughly dedicated,” Foster said, “to providing good health-care services for people in Orange County.”

The engraving on the plaque said: “An unforgettable woman who fought courageously and with determination to improve the quality of life for all persons in the community.”