Red, white and blue balloons, flowers and flags — for both the United States and the United Kingdom — decorated The Centre for Adele Macpherson’s celebration of life Saturday afternoon.
Adele’s husband, Iain Macpherson, greeted more than 150 people to the celebration before helping to fill the room with laughter as he shared memories of his wife.
“We all know she was known as ‘the Disaster Lady,’” he said to an amused audience who knew well Adele Macpherson’s contributions in the aftermath of the 1994 Northridge Earthquake as the city’s community services superintendent and emergency coordinator. “But there is no truth to the rumor that — that was started by a rumor by the people at City Hall — (it was) because she married me.”
“Adele, you did become a legend in your own lifetime,” Macpherson said of his wife, who died on Aug. 8 after a battle with cancer. “You are truly loved and you will be eternally missed.”
Adele’s daughter Fiona Bracco said she and her sister Kirstie Boyett always wanted their parents to move closer to them in Modesto.
“Well, that never happened. But it wasn’t until last week that I fully comprehended why, she couldn’t leave her Santa Clarita family,” she said.
Remembering one rough morning last week when her young daughter didn’t want to go to school, Bracco said she instinctively picked up the phone to call her mom.
“Mom taught me a lot of things in life. How to be the best mom I can be, how to be strong and passionate towards other people,” she said. “But the one thing that she didn’t teach me is how to get through life without her. It doesn’t matter how old you are or what you do in your life, you never stop needing your mom.”
Bracco said she hoped every one of the more than 150 people attending knew that her mom loved them.
“Mom taught us all what is really important in life, to love, support and care for family and friends,” she said.
Boyett shared the recent memory of her mom at her wedding a few weeks ago.
“It was amazing,” she said. “I’m so happy that she was there for that. That was a special moment.”
Boyett said Adele Macpherson loved her four grandchildren, who she would often visit.
“She loved those moments,” Boyett said. “Reading to them, teaching them how to brush their teeth. Those moments were super important to her.”
Macpherson, Boyett said, taught her and her sister to volunteer and give back at an early age.
“She empowered that into us to give back to the community. She lived to serve others,” she said.
Susie Huffman agreed.
“Adele was my best friend,” she said. “Adele never hesitated to do anything for anyone.”
Huffman shared the story of the day when she first met Macpherson in a small park in Washington as their children played.
“I knew then that we were going to be fast friends,” said Huffman. “Adele, one day we’re going to meet in a big park in heaven.”
Macpherson committed to volunteering for several organizations, including the Daughters of the British Empire, American Red Cross, Samuel Dixon Family Health Center, SCV Boys & Girls Club, School-to-Business Alliance, United Way, and the Zonta Club of the Santa Clarita Valley.
Barbara Cochran, like Macpherson, has spent more than 30 years in Zonta advocating for women and girls. She shared memories of Macpherson before a judge advocating for women who had been abused.
“Seeing her up there in front of the judge, advocating for those women, was wonderful to see, and that’s what she really loved to do,” she said.
Macpherson also committed herself to the Santa Clarita Child and Family Center. Krysta Warfield, the center’s domestic violence director, said Macpherson was “a genuine hero.”
“If Adele was going to be there, we had the confidence to face whatever was going to come our way,” she said, noting that Macpherson was kind, patient and created a safe space for the people she served. “She picked us up when we felt defeated.”
Last month, the Santa Clarita City Council awarded Macpherson with a key to the city. Councilwoman Marsha McLean and Mayor Pro Tem Laurene Weste joined Macpherson’s celebration of life as both representatives of the city and as friends.
“Because someone is really nice and sweet and caring doesn’t mean that they’re weak. When Adele wanted something done, she made sure that it got done no matter what,” said McLean, noting how Macpherson “set things right” for the city after the 1994 Northridge earthquake.
McLean, who first met Macpherson at the local Red Cross office, said Macpherson helped prepare her and countless others to be safe in the event of an earthquake.
“What she did to the city for emergency services is we became a model for other cities because of her programs,” she said.
Weste agreed, noting Macpherson set the standard for emergency coordination.
“If you knew her, she was your friend,” she said of Macpherson, who she called valiant, strong and consistent. “No matter how long she was with us, it would never be long enough.”
The Rev. James Seipel led the audience in prayer during the celebration of life. He remembered Macpherson as a kind, thoughtful and busy person.
“Adele was a lovely example of everything that anyone could be asked to do,” he said. “She loved her husband, her children, her community, her sisters in the Zonta organization (and) all the various charities that were working for the welfare of the community.”