“Orrilla rhymes with vanilla,” my host states, welcoming me into her home with a twinkle in her eye. “It’s hard for people to pronounce it when they first meet me, so that’s what I always start with,” she says.
With introductions out of the way, we start by talking about Orrilla’s history. She was born and raised in Pasadena, California, and attended UCLA to study art and business. While at college, she met her husband, Lloyd, who had just returned from WWII.
“He decided that he wanted to go to law school, and as thanks for his service, the U.S. government would pay tuition for any university he qualified to attend. He set his sights on Stanford and began studying all summer to get in.”
Sure enough, Lloyd was accepted to Stanford and began studying law. While tuition was covered, it was up to the newlyweds to pay for food, clothing, and housing. As temporary sole breadwinner, Orrilla began teaching elementary school, a career that spanned 31 years. “I liked teaching kindergarten, first, and second grades the best,” she recalls, “and running my computer lab for 3 years.”
“One thing that I was particularly interested in was computers. When my school offered to send teachers to early computer classes, I was one of the first to volunteer. I enjoyed them so much and thought they would be so important to our future that I asked my school to fund a computer lab. In 1984, I had 15 computers delivered to the school and made sure that each student, even the kindergarteners, had dedicated computer time every week.”
To keep up with her students, Orrilla bought her own Macintosh computer to use at home. When I ask if she’s kept up with technology, she points to a nearby desk with a widescreen iMac on it (a current model, I note) and holds up her iPhone (a newer version than my own). “Yes, I try to keep up,” she says.
We continue to talk about her career and family. Orrilla and her husband had two children, Carol and John, and, after practicing law for nearly two decades, Lloyd had the honor of being appointed as a California Superior Court judge by then-California Governor Ronald Reagan.
Orrilla goes on to recount many fun family memories, fishing trips, treks to Alaska, and various visits to countries abroad. She even lived in Paris briefly after her retirement, and spent 11 years studying bridge with a great partner, Mark Itabashi, a bridge professional. Now, at 91, she prefers to spend her time playing bridge, reading, and staying in touch with John and his wife Eva, Carol and her husband Larry, and granddaughter, Laura, via phone and email.
As we’re wrapping up, Orrilla recounts one last story about her husband’s military service and wants to tell me the acronym for the type of ship he served on. When it doesn’t immediately come to mind, she goes back to her tech-savvy roots and simply states, “I’ll just have to Google it later.”
Read this article and more in our December newsletter.
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