Neighbor remembers Dora Verdugo's final days

Dora Verdugo was an important figure in Glendale’s history. She was a living link to Jose Maria Verdugo, the man who owned the land stretching from present day Glendale to the arroyo in Pasadena and to the Los Angeles River.

But she also is remembered by some simply as the woman who lived down the street. Roy Tomlin, who has lived on West Elk Avenue most of his life, is one of them.

“Dora moved here in 1936, when she was 54 years old,” he said. “She moved from her home on Verdugo Avenue into a house owned by George Hutchinson, who had worked for her in earlier years.”

The Tomlin family became very close to Verdugo.

“My mother considered Dora her West Coast mother,” Tomlin said.

When Roy and his sister were young, they went to Verdugo’s house after school, staying until their mother came home from work.

As Roy Tomlin got older, he sometimes drove Verdugo to services at Holy Family Catholic Church at Elk and Louise streets.

“In the 1950s and ’60s she was a regular attendee,” Tomlin said, “but as she got older she couldn’t walk very far and only went on special occasions or when she felt up to it.

“When I graduated from Glendale High in 1970 and went into the Air Force, she had no one to take her, so she didn’t attend very often.”

Tomlin’s mother, Norma, took Verdugo to medical appointments in later years.

“Dora stayed in her house as long as she could, then she went to Chandler Convalescent Hospital,” Tomlin said. “She was there for a year and a half. She kept her memories nearly to the last; her body wore out before her brain.”

Verdugo died at age 102, according to her obituary in the Los Angeles Times, published on April 15, 1984.

Verdugo lies in a family plot at Calvary Cemetery in Los Angeles.

“She was buried next to her father,” said Tomlin, one of the pallbearers at her funeral. “There were lots of people at the service—dignitaries, her family, my extended family, the mayor and most of the city council.”

Tomlin’s father, James, was appointed executor of Verdugo’s estate, a complex affair. He had previously been appointed executor of Hutchinson’s estate. Verdugo had inherited one half of the house she lived in from Hutchinson, who died before she did. The other half was to be divided between his nine brothers.

“It was a long, drawn-out process,” Tomlin said. “Nothing was changed until after Dora died.” After Verdugo died, the Tomlins organized estate sales. “We took a couple of pieces of furniture but sold the other things.”

Since the house was vacant, his father suggested that Roy and his wife, Pat, move in.

The young couple lived in Verdugo’s house a year before it was sold to a man who already owned the adjoining property. The two houses shared a common driveway.

“The buyer said he was going to put up an office building, but he eventually sold the two properties to Midas,” he said.

When the sale was finalized, Roy and Pat Tomlin moved in to his childhood home up the street.

“Verdugo’s house was torn down immediately and then sat there as an empty lot for a year,” Tomlin said.

Although Tomlin values the items that once belonged to Verdugo, he cherishes other gifts from her more.

“She gave me a lot. She taught me to be honest and she gave me a love of the Spanish-American history of this area,” he said.

In 1984, to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Jose Maria Verdugo’s settling of the area, the late historian Ellen Perry presented several Verdugo family heirlooms to the city. Among those standing at the podium with Perry were Bob and Norma Tomlin, according to the Glendale News-Press, Oct. 25, 1984.


If you have questions, comments or memories to share, please write to Verdugo Views, c/o News-Press, 221 N. Brand Blvd., 2nd Floor, Glendale, CA 91203. Please include your name, address and phone number.

Readers Write

Nick Friesen notes that the 100th anniversary of the Indianapolis 500 is being celebrated this month (the race is on May 29) and that two local men built some of the cars that have won the 500 race over the years.

“Frank Kurtis and A.J. Watson were car builders who each produced several ‘500’ winners after World War II. Kurtis’ shop was on West Colorado,” Friesen wrote. “Kurtis also built a car which was purchased by ‘Madman Muntz’ and sold as the ‘Muntz Jet.’ “

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway opened in 1909 and the first Indianapolis 500 race was run in 1911. The United States Postal Service issued a commemorative stamp earlier this month in honor of this significant anniversary.

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