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Our Laguna: Flip through the pages of Connie Morthland's life

August 11, 2011|By Barbara Diamond

Connie Morthland celebrated her 100th birthday this year, and the milestone was commemorated in a book by her younger daughter, Joan Hutchins.

The Grand Dame of Moss Point lives now at Crown Cove in Corona del Mar, but during her decades in Laguna Beach, local newspapers were filled with stories by and about her.

Her friends read like a "Who's Who," from Brooke Astor in New York to Athalie Clarke in California, and her accomplishments like "Who Did What," from working in a Hollywood studio to reviewing Laguna Playhouse productions.

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Starting in 1958 after Hutchins went off to college on the East Coast, Morthland became more active in Laguna's community affairs, for which she was honored in 1999 as the Patriots Day Parade Citizen of the Year.

The Laguna Playhouse was Morthland's first love, according to Hutchins, who chronicled her mother's life in "The First One Hundred Years of Constance Gordon Grant Morthland."

Morthland edited the Playhouse newsletter, "Callboard," for more than 40 years, reviewing every play and profiling visiting actors. She encouraged Nellie Gail Moulton to donate funds to build the theater next to the Festival of Arts.

Her contributions were honored in 1992 at a high tea at the Ritz-Carlton that included tributes from the elder President George Bush, Gov. Pete Wilson and the British consul–general. Christine Rhoades chaired the event.

Morthland was a founder with Muriel Reynolds of Designing Women, for many years the only support group of the then-new Laguna College of Art & Design. Designing Women hosted the official opening ball held at the Ritz-Carlton.

Athalie Clark, Joan Irvine Smith's mother, encouraged Morthland to take an interest in the House Ear Institute and UC Irvine Medical School research associates, for which Morthland served as secretary and president. She also was a board member of South Coast Hospital and its first woman president in the hospital's then 24-year history in 1983.

Pitzer College, which began as women' college in the Claremont Colleges group but soon expanded, was another beneficiary of Morthland's time and energy. She was elected with her friend Jane Ward to the board in 1964.

Her name was listed in the 1981-82 "Who's Who of American Women."

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