Lorraine DaRoza

The matriarch of our generation, always rooting for the underdog and willing to do without meals for a week in order to provide for family. Lorraine has always been known as grandma, even in her youth. She was never raised by anyone, she just grew.

A little girl abandoned by her mother Julia, Lorraine faced insurmountable obstacles throughout her 97.8 years in California. She spent her budding years on Josephine dairy farm getting into shenanigans and promptly disciplined by her grandmother. Their family lived on a pittance. Often times Lorraine would be given fruit by the local townsfolk of Redding and she would wait until she saw her granny to ask her if it was OK to eat it - Lorraine never wanted for herself and throughout her life sacrificed her own well being in order to help those around her.

The household was on the outskirts of town with tramps and travelers coming through to work, sometimes for a day sometimes for a stay. Lorraine had exposure to all kinds of folk and would fall in love with the cowboys as they wrangled and earned their keep.

Family at a glance

  • Flora DaRoza
  • Julia Coster
  • Josephine DaRoza
  • Gwen Wilder
  • Gail Haggard

A Girl Without A Mother

Lorraine's mother Julia had spent most of her life as a bohemian, bouncing from man to man and job to job. Julia and her cousin were married and gave life to Lorraine. Julia moved far away from Lorraine's father, distancing herself from her actions and responsibility. He would write letters to Julia begging for her back, saying that he was drunk when he "did what he did." He had bought Lorraine a ridable firetruck for Christmas, but because of Julia's rejection he sunk into an alcohol fueled depression resulting in suicide.

Julia was overburdened with her new role as a mother, giving her daughter away to embrace her gypsy lifestyle. With Lorraine in her grandmother Flora's custody Julia was free to chase the world, marry man after man, forge money and find her own way.

Lorraine grew to resent her birthmother and when Julia would visit Josephine's ranch Lorraine would hide or snarl at her mom. The feelings were reciprocated by Julia, with Lorraine's birthday often going ignored without gifts and no parental guidance in her life.

Lorraine DaRoza

Lorraine DaRoza
Lorraine's baby photo below
Lorraine DaRoza
Young Lorraine with boyfriend

Life On The Ranch

Flora, Lorraine's grandmother, was the parental figure in her life. Often doling out punishments with a switch when young Lorraine would talk back or get caught sneaking out of the house late at night to go to a barn dance. Lorraine would run around the giant dining table and yell "No granny!" or take to hiding in a closet, but her honesty and integrity would compel her to give herself up.

Through her stay at the ranch Lorraine had exposure to the wide breadth of human nature and each person's situation. This forged a personality of care taking, self sacrifice, and bullheadedness.

Her neighbor Frances and she would get into trouble together and Lorraine would take the blunt of the punishment. They would get caught in a lie to Lorraine's granny or seen sneaking out to go to a dance and Lorraine would fess up immediately. After getting a tough lashing she would be made to clean the ranch house, a chore she secretly loved because she could poke through her aunt's dresser and play with her jewelry.

Common knowledge in the family is that Lorraine was never raised, she just grew up.

Throughout her adolescence she had many suitors and was incredibly popular—especially with the boys—although because her strict upbringing she held in high esteem that she never even let a boy put a hand on her knee. After being engaged 3 times before her 18th birthday, Lorraine eventually made a decision and married Paul Wilder—a rugged cowboy.

Lorraine DaRoza
Young Lorraine with Paul Wilder, Ruth, and Gwen

A Dynasty Begins

They started a life together and quickly had 3 children, Gwen, Ruth and Gary. All considered the popular kids in both school and around the small small town of Willows. Ruth, the town princess with boys falling to her feet. Gwen the strongwilled majorette with the golden smile. Gary the town football star. Their ragtag troupe was a staple of the town, dressed in homemade clothes handcrafted by Josephine. Lorraine got Gwen and Ruth jobs as paper girls at Willows Journal.

In raising the three children on Paul's salary as a State Brand (cattle) Inspector rarely gave the family any opportunity to save. The small town community rarely helped Lorraine's family, and at one point they had a meager 100 dollars all together to make ends meet.

Lorraine would often push the girls to go to dances and introduce them to boys around the town. Gary was the momma's boy of the group and even throughout his adulthood he'd walk the block from his house to hers multiple times a day to play cards and joke around with her. He would call her by her name to joke around with her and always had a wry angle and grin when they joked, punctuated by his characteristic donkey laugh.

Throughout the family's growth, a tension grew between Lorraine and her husband Paul. Lorraine had always been very jealous and caught Paul looking out of the corner of his eye at women more times than she had liked. Eventually they would divorce. Paul remarried twice and had 4 additional children step-children on a ranch. Lorraine with children in tow stayed in Willows and worked as a nurses aide.

By the time her children were grown Lorraine would meet Mac McGrath, they would marry and support the dynasty that started to build underneath them, often foregoing groceries for themselves to make sure the rest of their family was provided for.

Lorraine and her children
Lorraine with Gwen, Gary, and Ruth


It wasn't long before Lorraine's children had children, and so on. A gigantic network of cousins and half-relations was built seemingly overnight. Most family members can only remember Lorraine as a grandmother, she was considered an old lady in her late 30s. She just had that look to her, chiseled from trials and famine.

Her presence at every family event was guaranteed, often chauffeured by her children as she never learned to drive and was afraid of cars. Adorned in a sweatshirt with cats on it and a blanket on the lap, anyone and everyone was welcomed into her arms. She'd tell the same stories over and over again. The one where she snuck out late at night and got caught. The one where she almost married another man and told Gary "You would have had blue eyes! Ha ha!"

She was the center of all family gossip. If you wanted news to make the rounds all you had to do was tell grandma, and she'd ring up everyone she had in her tattered address book. At family events she'd ask the little kids if they had boyfriends or girlfriends, you had to have one. Always. She would try to set them up with their cousins. Gross, yeah. But that was grandma and she was old school.

If you were on her good side she'd feed you until you were sick. Dumplings, gravy, chicken. All somehow prepared before you got there. She'd pester you and ask if you were hungry again and again, and even if you gave a little hint that you wanted food she'd run to the kitchen and come out with a platter stacked 5 inches high with warm food.

If you were on her bad side she'd tell you, and tell you why. She wasn't afraid to speak the truth and would often prolong drama just so that she could hold her stance. She wanted her family to treat each other right, and when they didn't there was hell to pay.

Her generosity never stopped, even though she lived her entire life strapped for cash. She pioneered and held the family together by any means necessary, always rooting for the underdog and tearing down those in charge.

Lorraine and her children
Lorraine kicking one back


Lorraine's passing was expected, but the after effects were not. She lived until she was 97, a staggering number for anyone to achieve, let alone the poor girl raised on mudcakes. Her death immediately brought the family together for a short period, and then splintered it since. She held the connections between everyone, no matter the age. Everyone knew Grandma McGrath.

The dynasty she built continues on and hopefully through the effort behind this site she'll be immortalized as she truly was. The stubborn generous caretaker that never stomached injustice, always kind to animals and ready to help at a moment's notice.

The Matriarch. Grandma.

Lorraine DaRoza
Lorraine left, unknown right
Lorraine DaRoza
Lorraine after getting in trouble with Ms Snelling
Lorraine DaRoza
Young Lorraine with (other) boyfriend
Lorraine DaRoza
Lorraine and children Ruth, Gary and Gwen

Follow her lineage

It has taken years to collect, curate and record my family's history and I've barely scratched the surface. What you see in this document is an exploration of an atypical Californian family. A common theme throughout my lineage is strong women providing for themselves and their kin passed their due. It's clear to see the turning points in my Great Great Grandmother's life and how it has rippled down generations.

Each person portrayed here is done so with love and kindness, and I hope that I have done their character justice.

A Study Of Family

by Jonathan Haggard

All icons from The Noun Project.