May 2013 Meeting – Program: Clara Mason Fox, O.C. Pioneer – Speaker: Lorraine Passero

Clara Mason Fox

Lorraine Passero, author of Clara Mason Fox: Pioneer, Painter, and Poet of Orange County, will present the story of the O.C. pioneer on Thursday, May 9, 2013, 7:30 p.m., at Trinity Episcopal Church, 2400 N. Canal St., in Orange.

More than 50 years after Clara’s death, a box found in an attic helped to piece together the narrative of this remarkable woman. Clara’s story, expressed through her art, poetry, and writings tells us that the Mason family left Illinois in the 1880s and were among the first settlers of Silverado Canyon. A true pioneer of her era, Clara served as perhaps the first schoolteacher in the canyon, and became an early Laguna Beach artist. She eventually travelled alone to New York City to study art at Cooper Union. After marrying local rancher George Fox and moving to El Toro, Clara was the first to write a book chronicling the history of that town.

Lorraine Passero’s book offers readers insights about Orange County’s homesteading days, life during turn-of-the-century New York City, and a young woman’s personal challenges. Excerpts from Clara’s letters and poetry, as well as her art, give us insight into her talents and observations of life.

In 2010, a serendipitous discovery of more than 150 of Clara’s botanical watercolors—some dating back to 1894—were discovered in cabinets filled with plant specimens at the Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden in Claremont, California. These watercolors are currently part of the exhibit “When They Were Wild: Recapturing California’s Wildflower Heritage” (March 9 – July 8) in the MaryLou and George Boone Gallery at the Huntington Library in San Marino. The exhibit also includes work by other artists, including Alice Brown Chittenden (1859–1944), Ethel Wickes (1872–1940), and Milford Zornes (1908–2008).

A native of New York City, Lorraine Passero earned her elementary education degree at Long Island University. While attending San Diego State University she met her future husband, Jon Seeman, a sculptor and a great-great nephew of Clara Mason Fox. Lorraine received a master’s degree at Mount Saint Mary’s College in Los Angeles. During the course of her teaching career, Lorraine was the recipient of numerous awards including the Japan Fulbright Memorial Fund and The New York Historical Society National Teachers Institute Award. The Orange County resident is currently developing a second career as an artist and author.