Santa Clarita Valley community members are remembering the life and work of Adele Macpherson, a longtime local philanthropist and former “SCV Woman of the Year” honoree, who died after a lifetime of local service and charity.
Prior to moving to the Santa Clarita Valley in 1986, Macpherson had grown up in Sale, England, before marrying and living in various places throughout the world, including Israel, Canada and the state of Washington.
Soon after arriving in the Santa Clarita Valley, Macpherson began her work with the American Red Cross, first as a national disaster volunteer and then ultimately becoming the Santa Clarita branch manager for the organization.
In 1990, Macpherson would become the emergency coordinator for the city of Santa Clarita before being named one year later as the city’s emergency manager.
While working for the city, and being only eight years removed from first settling down in her new hometown, the emergency manager would head up the local response to the 6.7-magnitude Northridge Earthquake in 1994.
After the shaking had concluded on the morning of Jan. 17, 1994, Macpherson and her Emergency Operations Center would be forced out of City Hall and into the parking lot due to extensive damage to the office building. From there she coordinated with multiple agencies and stakeholders and led the city through restoring the electricity, gas, water and shelters.
“It was my earthquake to manage,” said Macpherson in a previous Sunday Signal story. “I was responsible that everyone knew what their jobs were and to coordinate resources that came into town.”
In the 1995 State of the City video that premiered on Jan. 16, 1995, as well as a 1994 installment of local TV show “Out & About with Roger Martin,” Macpherson and her team of emergency responders were heavily featured for their work in the immediate aftermath of the quake.
“She was the driving force behind the emergency preparedness and the response in getting our city back to normal,” City Councilwoman Marsha McLean said Monday, adding that Macpherson’s programs were so effective that they became the model for other cities.
Macpherson’s impact on the community did not end with her job, and by the year 2000 Macpherson had become involved in a number of local charities, including the Samuel Dixon Family Health Center, the Zonta Club of the Santa Clarita Valley, the SCV Committee on Aging, the American Heart Association, the American Red Cross, the SCV Resource Center, the School-to-Business Alliance, the SCV Boys and Girls Club, the United Way and the Daughters of the British Empire.
“The thing about Adele was she was the sweetest, most charming, kindest woman and it’s just really going to be tough without her,” said McLean. “She’s going to be very, very missed.
In recognition of her work, Macpherson was named the “SCV Woman of the Year” in 2002. And in the final meeting before their summer hiatus this year, the Santa Clarita City Council recognized Macpherson’s life of service by honoring her with a key to the city.
“She garnered the respect of everyone from the highest officials, down to the average everyday person,” said Lois Bauccio, a friend and fellow Zontian of Macpherson’s, who praised her years of work in helping local victims of domestic violence and women who needed a court advocate. “She collected friends like a lot of people collect stamps.”
“There are thousands of SCV residents who are safer and better off because of her expertise and dedication,” said Brendie Bandara Heter, who said Macpherson sat on Heter’s Foundations for Children’s Dental Health board. “Adele devoted her life to serving her community and I learned so much from her. As a young professional, I reached out to her frequently for guidance. She was truly a Santa Clarita icon.”
In 2010, Macpherson retired from the city of Santa Clarita but continued to be involved in a number of organizations, encouraging people to get involved in their community.
“I like to help people. Whatever I’ve done has always been to help improve the lives of other people,” said Macpherson in 2019, later adding: “There are still gaps in services, there is lots to be done, lots of people need help and the only way you can do that is to roll up your sleeves and get involved.”
“She was very humble, and I think that’s why perhaps it may not be well known to most of the people in Santa Clarita that she did all this,” said Michele Buttelman, who wrote the 2019 Sunday Signal feature. “She was right at the top of folks who have made a difference for the better in Santa Clarita.”