Gladyce Blunden worked as a waitress in the Great Depression, accountant in World War II, and businesswoman and real estate agent after the death of her husband.

Obituary: Gladyce Blunden, 94, urged daughter Joan Lunden to aim high in life

Published: Thursday, Aug. 29, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 5B

Gladyce L. Blunden, a longtime Sacramento area resident who encouraged wider vistas for her daughter, TV journalist and host Joan Lunden, died Saturday at 94.

The cause was congestive heart failure, said Lunden, who dropped the "B" in her last name early in her career for professional reasons.

Born on Jan. 15, 1919, in Chesley, N.D., Gladyce Lorraine Somerville was 16 when her family moved to San Francisco. A smart woman with enthusiasm for life, she made her way to Sacramento in 1939 and took a job as a waitress at the Hotel Clunie, a popular watering hole for lawmakers and lobbyists who tipped well during the Great Depression.

Between lunch and dinner shifts, she attended Heald Business College to learn to operate a comptometer, an early adding machine. With many men away fighting in World War II, she landed an accounting job at Shell Oil Co. paying $110 a month and was earning $380 by 1945.

In 1948, she married Dr. Erle Blunden, a prominent surgeon, aviator and businessman who established Phoenix Field in Fair Oaks.

She raised two children at home, served as president of the Sacramento Medical Auxiliary and supported her husband's work as a founder and chief of staff at American River Hospital in Carmichael.

She became a widow in 1964, when her husband was killed in the crash of his private plane in Los Angeles.

She completed business projects he had started – including a medical building near Country Club Plaza – earned a real estate license and worked at Joe French Realty.

"She knew every doctor's wife and had a built-in clientele," Lunden said. "She was a vivacious mover and shaker. She learned young at the Hotel Clunie how to work a room and make a good impression."

Mrs. Blunden urged Lunden, who graduated from Bella Vista High School in Fair Oaks at 16, to aim high and go far in life. She sent her daughter on a semester-at-sea study program that visited 17 countries. After graduating from Sacramento State, Lunden went on to study in Mexico City.

"She said, 'It's my job to expose you to the world, to help you see that you can make a big mark in this world,' " Lunden said.

A veteran broadcaster, Lunden launched her career as a reporter at KCRA in Sacramento in 1973. After two years, she moved to WABC in New York and became a popular co-host of ABC's "Good Morning America" from 1980 to 1997. Besides writing books and hosting TV shows, she is a spokeswoman for A Place for Mom, a national senior care referral service.

"My mom really impressed on me to be positive and live your dream," Lunden said. "She pushed me in a great way, as parents should, with positive affirmation."

Mrs. Blunden was predeceased in 2007 by son Jeff. Besides her daughter, who lives in Greenwich, Conn., she is survived by a stepdaughter, Terrell Ann Carey of Nova Scotia, Canada, and seven grandchildren. A funeral was held Tuesday.

Call The Bee's Robert D. Dávila, (916) 321-1077. Follow him on Twitter @Bob_Davila.

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

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