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Community activist passes away

Posted: May 19, 2009 4:36 p.m.
Updated: May 20, 2009 4:55 a.m.
Juanita Heinly, the 1978 Santa Clarita Valley Woman of the Year, died earlier this month at her Agua Dulce home. She was 88.

Heinly became a local civic leader shortly after she moved to Agua Dulce from Kansas in 1950, helping found and lead a long list of local groups and committees, including the Soledad-Agua Dulce Parent Teachers Association and the Santa Clarita Valley Committee on Aging.

Her daughter, 65-year-old Barbara Kelly of Agua Dulce, remembered Heinly as an outgoing and generous woman with a big personality and an even bigger smile.

At times, she would act in small school productions or perform in community theater for charity.

“She should have been an actress or something, because she was great on the stage,” Kelly said. “She had so much energy, I tell you. She would run circles around me, I’m not kidding.”

Heinly had a deep love for Disneyland and would often take her two daughters there when they were young. After they grew up, Heinly would continue to go with friends or with a busload of underprivileged youth as part of a county program, Kelly said.

Her favorite ride at the amusement park was the PeopleMover.

“She was a character,” Kelly said.

“Even though she had a very busy social life, she always gave her family much care and love,” Kelly added. “And somehow, she found time to make us the best strawberry pie ever in the summer.”

Heinly donated frequently to charities including the World Wildlife Fund and Disabled American Veterans, she said.

By 1956, she had become president of the Soledad-Agua Dulce Parent Teachers Association, and later served to lead the Agua Dulce Women’s Club. In more recent years, she helped organize the Santa Clarita Valley Committee on Aging.

In 1982, Heinly was selected to attend Washington D.C. functions as a senior intern for the late U.S. Senator Barry Goldwater, R-Ariz., one of the nation’s most influential conservative politicians. She was especially proud of the honor.

Heinly died peacefully at home of congestive heart failure, Kelly said.

“She passed away on Mother’s Day morning, at home, quietly, peacefully,” Kelly said. “She went to sleep in my arms.”

She is survived by Kelly, her grandchildren — Rhonda Wiltz, of Sonora, Calif., and Donna Kelly, of Saugus — along with two great-grandchildren and one great-great grandchild.

Heinly requested that no services be held for her.


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