'Kit' worked to help others

Gertrude "Kit" Drollinger, who spent her life working to better the lives of others, died Oct. 9, two days shy of her 84th birthday.

"Our community has been enriched by the active participation of Kit Drollinger over the last third of a century," said Jean Raun, a friend and fellow member of the League of Women Voters. "Kit held deep convictions about civil liberties, equal rights, protection of the environment and social justice. She spent her life acting on those convictions."

Kit dove into community activities as soon as she and her husband, Ed, moved to Laguna in 1976, continuing her participation in the League of Women Voters begun when the couple and their two daughters moved to Orange County in 1968.

A past president of the Coast League, she continued to devote time to the larger group as well as the Laguna Beach unit. Her husband is a member of the league. Both were devoted to league goals.

"When the [1993] fire destroyed much of Mystic Hills, as a last act when they were leaving their home, she returned to pick up the League Records she was keeping for her job as dues secretary," Raun said.

"She was involved in two important studies for Laguna Beach. One was the study which resulted in a voluntary spending-limit for council elections — a decision which was gutted by a later board. The second was a detailed study of Treasure Island and its conversion from a Trailer Park to its present state, a combination of public space and hotel use."

Soon after moving to Laguna, Kit volunteered her services to the Laguna Beach Library, which was converting its card catalogue to computers. She worked in the Friends of the Library book store as long as her health allowed.

The Drollingers were founding members of the Great Parks Conservancy and belonged to the Orange County Community Foundation, American Civil Liberties Union, the National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People, the Laguna Canyon Conservancy, Laguna Beach Democratic Club, as well as the league.

Gertrude Elseroad Drollinger was born Oct. 11, 1926 in Elizabeth, New Jersey, the eldest child and only daughter in the family. She had three younger brothers, one of whom died at age 6.

She became "Kit" when just a baby.

Her father looked at her and said she looks like a little kitten, and "Kit" she was from then on.

Even close friends like Raun didn't know her real first name.

"Her father managed the very elegant Point O'Woods resort on Fire Island, New York, near Long Island," Raun said. "In the summer of 1948, Kit worked there as the post-mistress."

She had graduated from Wilson College in Pennsylvania with a degree in Spanish. She considered her major a waste and wondered she had chosen it.

While she was employed at the post office, a Columbia University graduate was working at a nearby soda fountain. He was destined to be her husband and they married May 21, 1949.

Kit plunged into social justice activism after the couple moved to Plainfield, N.J., which was rewarded with honorary life membership in the NAACP.

"Her older daughter remembers marching and carrying banners demanding civil rights," Raun said. "Her younger daughter remembers having toys to play with in the NAACP offices while her mother worked there."

When Ed's employer, Princeton Applied Research, offered transfers to Maine, Europe, or California, the Drollingers chose California and moved with their daughters to Lake Forest on Nov. 8, 1968.

Kit immediately became involved in the affairs of her new community, active in the League of Women Voters, serving as president of the Coast League from 1971-1973.

After her term as president, she volunteered in 5th District Sup. Tom Riley's office. She refused as a matter of principle to accept pay, wanting to be sure of maintaining her independence. She was appointed by the Board of Supervisors to the Orange County Cemetery Board, and served for some time in that capacity.

The Drollingers moved to Laguna Beach after their daughters had set up their own households. When their dream home in Mystic Hills was destroyed by fire, they built a new house as close as possible to the original.

"They even looked for the same wallpaper," Raun said.

Kit is survived by her husband, daughters Ruth Hart and Susan Conner, younger brothers Albert and Tom Elseroad of Florida, son-in-law Ben Conner, grandsons Brian Conner and Eric Conner, granddaughter-in-law Denise Conner, and great granddaughter, Amy Conner.

"A celebration of the life of this strong, caring woman will be held at 2:30 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 13, at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Laguna Beach," Raun said.

The fellowship is at 429 Cypress St.

In lieu of flowers, the family has asked that donations be made to the donor's choice of the following organizations: NAACP, The Orange Coast League of Women Voters, or the Braille Institute.

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