Leona Layton was born in Thatcher, Graham, Arizona on February 28, 1913, the granddaughter of Mormon pioneers. She was the oldest of three children born to William Walter Layton - son of Joseph Christopher Layton (1964-1897) and Cynthia "Abbie" Fife Layton (1867-1943)- and Maida Elizabeth Cluff Layton- daughter of David William Cluff (1859-1919)- and Sarah Elda Mattice (1965-1939).
When Leona was seven years old her father was killed, Dec 21, 1921, by receiving two blows to his head with an axe while serving as a guard at the state reform school for boys. As the oldest daughter of a young widow, Leona took on much responsibility. She grew up quickly and supported herself by age 15, moving to Los Angeles to live with her aunt.
During the "Great Depresstion" she was promoted to Assistant Candy Buyer for the May Company. She loved to listen to and dance to the music of the "Big Band Era" and participted in may dance competitions.
During World War II Leona worked at Hughes Aircraft Co. and boosted employee morale by organizing social activities and editing the employee newspaper. She made many close friends, some lasting a lifetime. During this time she met John Kerdt Sorenson and married on June 17, 1934. This marriage ended quickly in divorce.
At a dance Leona met O.E. Kiessig, and Army Air Corps cadet. After the war they married and began a life of Air Force travel. They had two children, Joel Ernest Kiessig and Marlene Kiessig Biessinger.
During those years Leona enjoyed organizing entertainment for military wives and their husbands. She also worked as a hospital aid volunteer, and was always active in her Church. Upon retirement from the Air Force they settled in Camarillo, Los Angeles, California.
Leona is know for her hospitality, generosity and service. Her letter writing is legendary as she kept in touch with friends and family with newsy handwritten letters. She delighted in the achievements of her chldren and grandchildren, and sent cards and gifts of money to them and the children of her many friends. Many children's occasions were made even more special because Leona's card, news and gift money was always sure to arrive right on time.
At an age when many retire, Leona volunteered to locate foster families for Indian children. She taught each Sunday at the California Youth Authority School for Girls in Ventura. In her eighties whe organized a lunch group of senior women to help them remain connected and socially active. She set a wonderful example, touching the lives of others in thoughtful ways.
Leona's daughter adds the following"
"I wanted to include a short description concerning Mother's passing... Mother passed away on Easter Sunday April 12, 2009 at 12:45 p.m. Prior to that she had been in a non-responsive state for about 4 days. Joel and I and my family were with her continually throughout that vigil. She just quietly stopped breathing. We feel a great loss, of cours. Our consolation is that she lived a wonderful, full and long life, and that she is now reunited with family and friends who have passed on before her. At age 96 she knew more people on the other side. As I have said to several people, "I'm sure she is now having the time of her life; just having a good visit."
Mother was one of those rare people who could make every person she knew feel loved and important. The interesting thing about her timing is that later that Easter evening we were able to witness the blessing of my first grandchild, Mason David Biesinger. I felt like we had completed the circle of life all in one day, and on Easter Sunday too, when we celebrate the resurrection of our Savior, and thus the resurrection of all people. It just all seemed more than coincidence. It was quite a day! For all of you who have been a special part of our ives I thank you from the bottom os my heart. Both Mom and Dad loved keeping in touch with all their friends and family throughout the country. I think that's what made them the happiest.
PAF - Archer files = Orson Pratt Brown's sister > Cynthia Abigail Fife + Joseph Layton < Christopher Layton + Caroline Cooper. Joseph Layton had a brother named William Walter Layton + Maida Elizabeth Cluff > Leona Layton + Otto Ernest Kiessig.
Portions from published Camarillo Obituaries, April 2009.
Funeral Program from Leona's Memorial Service on April 18, 2009 at Valley Oaks Memorial Park, 5600 Lindero Canyon Road, Westlake Village, California.
Otto Ernest "Ernie" Kiessig web page.
Additions, photos, bold, [bracketed information], etc. added by Lucy Brown Archer.