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Kay Haley; GOP and Museum Fund-Raiser

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

She rubbed elbows with presidents, spent three decades on a Ventura hospital board and collected Western art. But what Kay Haley will most be remembered for is raising money, lots of money.

“She was one of the best arm-twisters around. You just didn’t say no to Kay,” said Karen Kurta, past president of the Ventura County Republican Central Committee.

Katherine “Kay” Haley, daughter of one of Ventura County’s pioneer families, died Christmas Day from complications from Alzheimer’s disease at her home overlooking Lake Casitas. She was 80.

Over the years, she raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for the Republican Party and the Ventura County Museum of History and Art. For 30 years, she served on Community Memorial Hospital’s Board of Trustees.

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“What some people describe as work she thought was fun. She loved the hospital and loved the museum. Ventura County was the single most important thing to her, and she wanted what was best for it,” said Andrea Pfister, one of Haley’s two daughters.

In 1964, Haley began fund-raising for Republicans in California, including Ronald Reagan in his bid for governor and president, Presidents Gerald Ford and George Bush, former Gov. George Deukmejian and former Ventura Rep. Robert J. Lagomarsino.

Ed Robings, who retired in September as executive director of the museum, described Haley as its “biggest and best supporter.”

“Each fall, we had the ‘Friends’ campaign. They were actually friends of Katherine Haley. She would write a letter and enclose a self-addressed, stamped envelope and mail it to them. She asked them to support us and that raised tens of thousands of dollars every year,” he said.

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Gary Wolfe, Haley’s friend since high school and longtime accountant, said Haley gave time as well as money. Wolfe and Haley were on the hospital board together for more than 20 years.

“She was very generous to the hospital with contributions, but she also gave a lot of her time to the board. She served on several committees and rarely if ever missed a meeting,” Wolfe said.

Haley was born Aug. 17, 1919, in Oxnard to Walter H. Hoffman Jr. and Edith Hobson Hoffman. Her childhood was spent on her parents’ ranch, Rancho Casitas, a thoroughbred breeding farm. Following in her father’s footsteps, she purchased her first racehorse when she was 14 and began a lifelong passion for racing.

She attended the now-closed St. Catherine’s Academy in 1935. She then attended UCLA and joined Kappa Alpha Theta sorority.

Haley was a businesswoman and rancher, managed her family’s real estate and investments, and raised champion shorthorn cattle and quarter horses on Rancho Mi Solar. Her most famous horse, Mr. Spats, was Reagan’s favorite mount.

Haley was recognized as Woman of the Year in Agriculture in 1970 by the Muses of the California Museum of Science and Industry.

In 1986, she was given the Milton M. Teague Award for Outstanding Volunteerism. She was grand marshal of the Ventura County Fair parade in 1987.

When Reagan was governor, Haley was appointed vice chairwoman of the California State Fair Board, vice president of the board of directors of Cal Expo and served as founding chairwoman of California’s Racing Hall of Fame.

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In addition to Pfister of Newport Beach, Haley is survived by daughter Virginia Deane of Sandpoint, Idaho; sons Robert G. Haley Jr. of Scottsdale, Ariz., and Roger Haley of Ventura; brother Walter Hoffman of Camarillo, nine grandchildren, and former husband Robert G. Haley of Corona del Mar.

Services are scheduled at 1 p.m. Tuesday at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Ventura, with the Rev. Jerome Kahler officiating.

Burial will follow at Ivy Lawn Memorial Park in Ventura.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Ventura County Museum of History and Art in Ventura.

Arrangements are under the direction of Ted Mayr Funeral Home in Ventura.

Times staff member Linda Herron contributed to this story.


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