Florence Audrey Davidson Detlor died peacefully in her beloved Menlo Park home on January 4, 2017, at the ripe young age of 105 years old — just one month shy of her 106th birthday. With a lifespan that bore witness to the sinking of the Titanic, women’s suffrage, World Wars I and II as well as the Korean and Vietnam Wars, the Great Depression, and the abolishment of racial segregation, Florence continued a family tradition of longevity. Her mother lived to be 92-years-old and her maternal grandparents both lived to be 99-years-old.
Florence was born on February 20, 1911, in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada to Florence Enid Whately Davidson, an Ontario Ladies College graduate with ambitions to become a concert pianist, and Herbert Clarence Davidson, a building contractor. Florence spent her early years in Winnipeg until her family moved to the prairies of Saskatchewan to grow wheat in support of Canada’s World War I war effort.
In 1922, her family relocated to Los Angeles as her father moved from farming to the construction business. The oldest of four children with two sisters and one brother, Florence graduated from Los Angeles High School at the start of the Great Depression, but not before meeting her eventual husband, John William Detlor, during her senior year. Florence proceeded to earn her B.A. from Occidental College in 1932, which proved to be only the beginning of a lifelong love of learning. At Occidental she was awarded a Phi Beta Kappa key, a universally recognized mark of academic achievement in the liberal arts and sciences.
Florence and John married in 1933 after her graduation from Occidental and his from UCLA. Although she had trained to become a teacher,, Florence could not obtain a government job during the Depression until gaining her citizenship. Florence and John had two daughters, Donna and Janice, while living in Hollywood. They spent the majority of those years in a new home that Florence had won for the family in a twenty-five word advertising writing contest.
When John was transferred to San Francisco in 1955 to take charge of the training program for Southern Pacific Railway, the family moved to Northern California and settled in Menlo Park due to its proximity to the Presbyterian Church where they knew the minister and his wife from a church in Los Angeles.
At 50-years-old, and with her daughters approaching college, Florence finally began an elementary school teaching career in East Palo Alto that lasted 15 years. There she was selected as a Miller-Unruh Program Specialist for the diagnosis and treatment of student reading disabilities. If a parent did not show up at school for a parent-teacher conference with her, Florence was known for going to the student’s home and ringing the front door bell to conference with the parent there.
Florence provided loving care for her husband after his stroke until his passing in December of 1985, one month after celebrating their 52nd wedding anniversary. She and John had loved to travel together. True to her independent, strong and adventurous spirit, Florence continued her globe-trotting after her husband’s passing well into her seventies on journeys from the deserts of Africa to the Great Wall of China.
An avid gardener, Florence tended to her diverse garden with dedication and expert care. When limited mobility ultimately prevented her from personally maintaining her beloved garden, Florence traded in her trowel for her favorite dining room chair in the corner window where she could observe her roses.
Motivated by an unquenchable thirst for learning, Florence eagerly enrolled in computer and Spanish classes into her late nineties and even continued to pursue her reading passion in her later years on an Amazon Kindle. After being recognized as the world’s oldest registered Facebook user at 101-years-old, Florence was given a personal tour of Facebook facilities in 2012 by Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg.
She was also a devoted PBS and Charlie Rose viewer, bridge player, investment club member and election polling site volunteer. She loved cooking and entertaining and was known for her collection of over 100 cookbooks! Florence was very active in the Menlo Park Presbyterian Church, participating in Bible study, women’s groups and other church events. She served as President of United Presbyterian Women from 1959 to 1960.
She peacefully passed away in the same residence on Wallea Drive that she has called home for the last 62 years. Florence was the matriarch of the neighborhood, an honor that she has now passed on to her friend and neighbor, Teresa.
Florence is survived by: daughters, Donna Detlor Talley of Palm Springs, CA and Jan (Jack) Scripps of Boise, ID; grandchildren, Boyd (Marsha) Quinn, Stephanie Quinn, Bryan Quinn, John (Julia) Scripps V and Justin (Jamie) Scripps; and great-grandchildren, Camden Quinn, Cole Quinn, John (Jack) Scripps VI, Penelope Scripps, Cyrus Scripps, Luke Scripps, Ryan Scripps and Taylor Scripps. Florence is preceded in death by her husband, John William Detlor; siblings, Helen Ellis, Albert Davidson and Dorothy Macklin (Glenn); nephews, Michael Pendleton and John Davidson; and parents, Florence Enid Whately Davidson and Herbert Clarence Davidson.
In lieu of flowers, contributions in Florence’s memory may be made to Project Open Hand S.F. at 330 Polk St., San Francisco, CA 94109, KQED at 2601 Mariposa St., San Francisco, CA 94110 or to the charity of your choice. A memorial service in her honor will be held on Friday, March 10, at 2:00 PM at Menlo Church, 950 Santa Cruz Avenue, Menlo Park.
InMenlo visited with Florence in 2010 when the accompanying photo was taken by Chris Gulker