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Historical society founder dies

Barbara Dawson, 92, a retired teacher and school principal who co-authored a La Jolla history book and helped start the community’s historical society, died April 6 of complications from Alzheimer’s disease.

She had been living in an elder-care home just outside of La Jolla the last few years. “She was one of the founding leaders who organized La Jolla Historical Society, and at their first meeting she was elected president.” said daughter Diane Dawson.

She added that her mother also organized the historical society’s first fundraiser, a champagne-stop, Rolls Royce-tour of La Jolla that went on for a number of years.

“She was passionate about the preservation of La Jolla’s history,” her daughter added.

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Judy Haxo, current first vice president of La Jolla Historical Society, said the society owes Dawson a debt of gratitude. “She’s an original life member, and highly regarded for all her contributions to preserving La Jolla’s history,” Haxo said. “She started the oral history program here.”

Born Barbara Gaines in London during World War I, Dawson emigrated with her parents to San Diego at age 3. She attended La Jolla Elementary and La Jolla Jr.-Sr. High Schools before earning her master’s degree in School Administration from San Diego State College.

She was a teacher and principal at Carver, Central, Cleveland and Jackson elementary schools before retiring from the San Diego Unified School District.

A schoolmate of Dawson’s, 96-year-old Hiomi Nakamura, remembers Dawson as a diligent scholar.

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“She was always interested in school politics,” he said, adding the school was small back then and “you knew just about every kid.”

Dawson also served on the education committee of the San Diego Zoo. She traveled to 60 foreign countries.

Her number one passion in life was playing tennis, which she did almost daily until she was 87. In the late ‘40s and early ‘50s, she was the San Diego City and County Women’s Singles Champion.

Dawson assisted in writing “La Jolla, A Celebration of Its Past.”

A Celebration of Life will be held for Barbara Dawson from 1 to 3 p.m. Tuesday, April 28, at La Jolla Historical Society’s Wisteria Cottage, 7846 Eads Ave.