Carlotta Richards Littell passed away on Sunday, March 28, 2010 at her home in Fallbrook, Calif. She had been a resident of Fallbrook since 1983, when she and her first husband, Fred Richards, left San Mateo (Bay area) for retirement in the warmth of North San Diego County.
Carlotta was born in New York City. Growing up as an only child, she enjoyed numerous and diverse activities including ice skating and horseback riding.
She also played piano and developed a lovely singing voice. She was a coloratura soprano and sang in opera choruses, at Carnegie Hall. Many years later she sang for fun at the Altadena Town & Country Club with piano player Ken Lane, (yes, the one from the Dean Martin Show).
During World War II, in 1943, she met a dashing young Naval Lieutenant, Fred Richards, and three weeks later they were married. They spent nearly 52 years together and raised a son and a daughter.
Carlotta developed an interest in golf while living in Philadelphia. She became so good at it that she won the Women’s Golf Club Championship wherever they were, year after year. She actually beat several well known golf professionals and scored a number of holes in one.
Carlotta was a graduate of Skidmore College, with a degree in art. During her married years she discovered a talent for painting portraits. Early on she did pastels of her young children and then animals of all kinds. She always had a great love for all animals.
Professionally, she painted all sorts of animals on commission for various people, many of whom live in Fallbrook. Mostly, though, she did it for the pure enjoyment of her work. To this day, the centerpiece of her son’s living room is her painting of a large, growling tiger. What stands out in much of Carlotta’s work is the uncanny realistic facial expression and eyes of her subjects.
In 1995, after a long illness, Carlotta’s husband Fred passed away. In 1997, Carlotta met Joe Littell, well known author, retired publisher and co-founder of the renowned McDougal, Littell Publishing Company.
As it turns out, Carlotta and Joe made a perfect match. For nearly 13 years they lived happily together in Fallbrook, narrowly surviving and escaping a raging inferno known as the Gavilan Fire in 2002, which destroyed their home, most of the surrounding neighborhood and much of Carlotta’s art collection. They actually raced their car through a wall of fire in a last second escape.
However, Carlotta and Joe did survive, with class and dignity. This was witnessed by many in local and national television interviews after the fire. They lost everything they had accumulated over a lifetime, and yet started over and put it all back together again without skipping a beat.
Carlotta’s story is unique and yet probably the most important part is the lady herself. She loved being around people. She liked everyone and everyone in turn liked her. She always received great enjoyment out of little things like volunteer work at the Fallbrook Library. She always talked of Fallbrook and the wonderful folks who live there. Whether it was the annual Avocado Festival or a concert at the Bob Burton Center, it didn’t matter. If it involved Fallbrook, it had to be a worthy endeavor.
Most certainly Carlotta will be missed by those whose lives she touched throughout the years, and she will most certainly leave a large void in the hearts of those who loved her. Carlotta is survived by her husband Joe of Fallbrook; her son Steve Richards and her daughter Shelley Richards Voorhees, both of Centennial, Colo.; and a nice little Lab named Sandy.
A celebration of Carlotta’s life is being planned and the date and place will be announced soon.