Monrovia Sounds a Little Less Cheerful Without Jennifer Ranger’s Music

Jennifer Ranger. – Courtesy photo
Jennifer Ranger. – Courtesy photo

By Susan Motander

A little of the music that is Monrovia faded away on Monday morning with the passing of Jennifer Ranger of Dollmakers’ Kattywompus. Born on April 20, 1955 in Pasadena, she was just 64 years old. According to her sister, Cindy Ranger, she was the “instigator” in moving the family to Monrovia.

Councilmember Becky Shevlin paid tribute to her writing: “Monrovia has suffered yet another great loss with the passing of Jennifer Ranger. Jennifer was truly gifted and amazing in so many ways including as an author, musician, singer, baker, and dancer and she will be truly missed – as a wonderful and strong supporter to her extended family and friends. We will miss you Jennifer; may you forevermore rest in peace with your sister Pam and brother Jim.”

Jennifer first came to Monrovia in 1984 and the rest of the family, her sisters Pam Fitzpatrick and Cindy, and her brother Jim Merriam soon followed. The ladies opened the first Dollmakers in 1991 on Lemon Avenue.

As the world trembled with the aftershocks of the Northridge earthquake in 1994, the Dollmakers moved to 505 S. Myrtle. The move was affected using little red wagons and volunteers from among their customers according to Cindy.

In 2000 they moved again, this time to the prime space for the expanded toy and music store—again using friends and wagons and big brother Jim’s truck.  As Cindy explained, “We didn’t box anything or they would still be in boxes.”

Shortly after this the Kattywompus band was formed, an eclectic collection of musicians who play a myriad of instruments, with Jennifer in the lead on her dulcimer. The band has performed at the Friday Night Family Festival for years, and during special events in Old Town such as the Summer Art Walks and the Christmas shopping season.

Throughout the time she spent in Monrovia, Jennifer has been involved in the Old Town Merchants Association and all things Monrovia. When volunteers were needed she and her sisters and brother were there. But she was much more than that.

With the move next to the theatre, Jennifer turned the back of the shop into her music studio—teaching the hammered dulcimer to many students. Among these were several who became close friends as well, including Kerry King and Cecilia Aufeld.

Of her, King said, “Jennifer was an extremely gifted teacher. She had a talent that made it easy to learn. She took joy in sharing music. After our my lessons each week we would discuss the world and regret that we were not in charge as we would have solved all the problems.”

“She was my best friend,” said Aufeld. “She helped me through so much, first the death of my husband then my son, and later my daughter in law. She was there to help my grandchildren and me with all of it. If she said she would do something, she would do it. She even came out in the middle of the night when my dog slipped out and I couldn’t leave the house because of the grandchildren. She and her daughter Tula searched all night for the dog. That is the sort friend she was.”

Services for Jennifer will be held this Friday at 10 a.m. at the chapel in Live Oak Memorial Park, 200 E. Duarte Road, Monrovia. Interment will follow immediately after the service.

The music will continue with Jennifer’s daughter Tula Lee and grandson Max. Jennifer is survived by her wonderful family, by her extended family, a myriad of friends, and the people of her adopted hometown.

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