Lou Ellen (Gatlin) Grubaugh, a Davis resident for more than 40 years, died Sunday, Aug. 23, 2020, at Sutter Davis Hospital from the effects of a cerebral hemorrhage. She was 87.
Born Oct. 30, 1932, she was the eldest of two daughters of an Arizona pioneer family. She grew up in Gila Bend and attended local schools in that small desert town where her father was a railroad engineer and owned a cattle ranch. Her parents, now deceased, were Homer and Marjorie Gatlin.
She was married to the love of her life, the late Kenneth Grubaugh (Col., USAF, retired), for 59 years until his death in 2015. They met in Phoenix shortly after Ken returned from duty in Korea.
She is survived by her son and daughter-in-law Karl and Tanya Grubaugh of Cameron Park, her daughter Anna Grubaugh of Windsor and her son James Grubaugh of Natomas.
She loved her five grandchildren to the moon and back — Lauren Grubaugh (and her fiance Kurian Thomas) of Littleton, Colo.; Connor Grubaugh (and his wife Melody) of South Bend, Ind.; Garrett Grubaugh (and his wife Jenna) of Rocklin; Kerry Baker of Windsor; and Kyle Baker of Windsor.
She also leaves behind her sister Janice Hurst, of Scottsdale, Ariz., and a first cousin, Susie Miccia, of Buckeye, Ariz., as well as numerous nieces and nephews and extended family members.
She was predeceased by her son Kyle (1981) and her son-in-law Neal Baker (2018).
After graduating from Gila Bend High as the valedictorian — in a class of five — she attended the University of Arizona, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism in 1954. She went to work as a reporter at the Arizona Republic newspaper in Phoenix.
In July 1955, she went on a group blind date with some of her college sorority sisters, who were all randomly paired up with a batch of New Mexico-based Air Force pilots doing a temporary duty assignment at Luke Air Force Base outside Phoenix. At the end of the evening, one of the young officers, Ken Grubaugh — who had been paired with someone else on the blind date — asked Lou if she would like to go out with him the next night. Yes, she said — and when Lou got home after that first date, she phoned her mother and told her she didn’t know if Ken Grubaugh would ever call on her again, but if he did, and if he ever asked her to marry him, she was going to do it.
Her mother was utterly appalled (although Ken eventually utterly charmed her).
On Jan. 14, 1956 — on what would have been, according to family lore, their 13th date — they were married in a little church in Gila Bend.
She became an Air Force wife, starting in Clovis, N.M., at Cannon AFB and then moving every two or three years — Southern California; Utah; Northern California; Michigan; South Carolina; a year in the home next door to her parents in Yuma, Arizona, while Ken served in Vietnam; Oklahoma; and Northern California again. Ken’s final Air Force assignment was at McClellan AFB in Sacramento, and the family lived in Carmichael before moving to Davis upon Ken’s military retirement in 1978.
Along the way, Karl was born in 1958, Kyle in 1960, Annie in 1963 and Jim in 1965.
Lou enjoyed the Air Force years and the opportunity to discover other parts of the country. She was proud to be a partner with her husband in his military service to the United States, and her greatest joy was in being a mother of four.
Lou poured herself into her family. She was always ready to help and support her children with whatever they wanted to pursue, and she was always encouraging and never overbearing. She continued to enjoy writing and other creative and artistic pursuits throughout her life — her gardening knowledge and skill was encyclopedic and her talents as a cook and hostess were legendary. Since moving to Davis, she was a member of the former Davis Family Service League and for many years was a volunteer with the Friends of the Davis Arboretum and the Sacramento Cactus and Succulent Society. She was also, for many years, a dedicated member of the Aqua Class group at the Davis Athletic Club.
Her family honors her for her deep and selfless love and for the way her home was always a safe haven and a respite. She was so often the glue who helped link people together, a “connector” of those she loved as she nurtured her children and their spouses, her grandchildren, her extended family, her friends and her neighbors.
Family and friends are invited to attend a graveside service that will follow pandemic protocols, including masks, to be held at 10 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 29, at Davis Cemetery, 820 Pole Line Road, where she will be buried next to her husband and son. In lieu of flowers, the family requests memorial gifts in her honor be made to the charity of the donor’s choice. The family plans to host a reception to honor Lou’s life and legacy when public health guidelines allow such a gathering.
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