Leota Austin Lambert Duarte
August 22, 1920- June 28, 2013
In lieu of flowers, you may express your appreciative thoughts with donations to
the American Red Cross, Rio Hondo Chapter or the Veterans.
Thank you for your thoughtfulness.
Leota Austin Lambert Duarte was born on August 22, 1920 in the remote desert
city of Estancia, New Mexico which she described as a "wide spot in the road". The
youngest child of four, Leota was raised during the Great Depression by a hardworking
single mother, Ruie (Mumsie) Haddox Lambert. She was unaware how poor they
were until it became apparent they would've starved to death had it not been for a
generous neighbor who daily provided them with his cow's milk, right from the udder!
Leota adored her grandfather, Thomas Haddox who babysat her while her mom
attended Teachers' College. She learned to read at 4 thanks to her early education
in the 1 room schoolhouse where her mom taught. Leota's terrific vocabulary and
grammatical skills were legendary. She majored in English at East LA City College and
later Whittier College.
A highlight of her childhood was going to the "big" town of Moriarty with big sis Marie
and her boyfriend (later husband) Roy to roller-skate and eat ice cream.
When Leota's older sister married, brothers Leo and TC looked out for her. Leota was
especially fond of Leo, who worked his way up to a high ranking position in the postal
service. Leota was grateful to both brothers for contributing to the family income while
still youngsters themselves.
Leo called her every Sunday from Denver for many years until his death in his 90's. He
died l8 hours after their older sister Marie, at 95. Leota was intrigued by the idea that
their deaths-so close together, may not have been coincidence.
During the Great Depression era, Leota's mother moved the family to Tempe, Arizona
when she got work at the State Hospital. Leota and her dear life-long friend, Jean
Foster, were free to wander about (daycare was nonexistent) after school. Leota's eyes
would sparkle telling how they took advantage of the generous shop owners who took
pity on them, never failing to give them a treat.
During this time Leota had a friend whose mom owned La Casa Viejo Restaurant
(still exists) where she "practiced" on their piano. This mom befriended Leota, paying
for lessons and hosting her l0 year birthday party. Although she dismissed her
piano playing as amateurish, she played beautifully and was humble that way. Some
of her favorites were "Glow Little Glow Worm", "Darktown Strutters' Ball", "Love
Story, "Harbor Lights" and "Autumn Leaves". She played almost to the end of her days
which helped the pain in her arthritic fingers and soothed her.
In her mid-teens, Leota and her mom moved to Los Angeles where she made headlines
playing the lead in her Hollywood High School play "Cleopatra". Eleanor Smith
another "life-long" friend followed her to LA and would later play a role in Leota marrying
the love of her life, Joseph Simoes Duarte.
Leota met Joe when she was only l7. Joe was working as a baker over the summer and
Leota's mother, Ruie was his boss at the restaurant in Sequoia National Park. They
started dating but broke up just before WWII began.
After Pearl Harbor, Joe enlisted in the Army at which time Eleanor encouraged Leota
to correspond with him. It was these eloquent "love letters" that brought them back
together Leota said and resulted in her falling in love with him.
Leota enjoyed her first job as a telephone operator. In l942 she began her Naval
Career with the Waves and was most proud of serving her country as a "Link Trainer"
helping pilots learn to navigate in simulated flight. It was her close Navy friends who
nicknamed her "Lambie".
In 1945, not long after the war ended, Leota and Joe were married. Fiercely patriotic,
they both wore their military uniforms. They settled in Montebello, CA in their first home,
where they started their family. Leota gave birth to Philip Anthony Duarte in 1947 and
shortly after to Linda Leota Duarte in 1948. Lourdes Diana Duarte followed in l959.
In the early years of their marriage, Leota was very busy caring for her young children
and helping her husband. She was Joe's 'right hand', providing administrative support to
his businesses (Duarte International Sales Co. and later Delta Billiards). .
In l960 the family moved to Whittier where all 3 children were raised. Leota always
made time for her children and was a doting mother. Impressively she still made time
to contribute to the community through volunteer work. She found it rewarding to help
those in need and began volunteering for The American Red Cross where she served
for 30 years as a Disaster Relief Volunteer, helping during and after natural disasters.
Her Red Cross duties also included Service to Military Families, contacting military
personal abroad to inform them about family emergencies at home.
Leota traveled the globe through her Red Cross work, helping the homeless find shelter,
working in the Gulf States and Kauai, Hawaii with hurricane victims as well as more
local victims of flood and fire. Her work for the Rio Hondo Chapter of the Red Cross
earned her many accolades from her peers, testimonials of gratitude from the people
she helped as well as recognition in newspaper articles.
Leota was dedicated to serving those in need. She had a comforting way about her that
put people at ease. She was fulfilled through her service with the Red Cross, but by age
75 could no longer endure the stress of traveling and hardships involved with disasters.
She therefore began to undertake more local volunteer activities continuing to help the
community well into her later years. She even became involved in politics for a time and
served on what is akin to the City Council for the unincorporated area of Whittier.
Leota served as a volunteer at Whittier Presbyterian Hospital where she assisted for
some l5 years in various helpful capacities. Her most recent position was on the "phone
tree", where she called recently released patients to check in and make sure they were
OK and taking their medications. Her volunteer work earned her the title "Lifetime
Member" of the Presbyterian Hospital Auxiliary.
Leota was a loving wife, mother, grandmother and great-grandmother. She most
enjoyed spending time with close family and friends. She will be remembered as a
patient and empathetic listener, a loyal and devoted friend, a woman of strong moral
and political conviction, and a person of magnanimous spirit and generous actions. She
appreciated the simple things in life; the beauties of nature-feeding the birds outside
her porch, tending to her plants, bouquets of roses cut fresh from Joe's garden, music,
a good game of Rummy Tile, an engaging conversation, Ingrid Bergman movies,
and the smiles of joy on the faces of her grandchildren and more recently her great
Leota's generous spirit and kindness will be greatly missed by her surviving children
and their spouses (Phil and Debra Duarte, Linda and Jerry Wolf, and Lourdes and Ken
Hunt), as well as her 7 grandchildren (Alysha and Richard Calderon, Lorika Leota and
Joseph Archibald, Joshua and Melissa Hunt, Nathan Hunt, Daniel Hunt, James Hunt,
and Gavin Duarte), and her 7 great grandchildren (Richard Calderon III, Siera Calderon,
Melina Calderon, Avalon Hunt, Cainan Hunt, Laila Leota Archibald, and Aubriele