Photo of the Week
March 26, 2017

We are going to phase out of the Red, White and Blue Troup, Henry Grieser and Lona Rathbone with the rest of the story on Lona.  When I posted the photo of the young Lona Rathbone and not much more information about what ever happened to her; the CZ Images detectives came out in droves! The information below was found with Internet searches.  Although more information would have been great, I am thankful for what has come together.  It seems that Lona had a long and good life in the Canal Zone and Panama most of her years.

Panama Canal Pilot Captain Thomas N. Rathbone was Lona's father.  Her mother's name was Susan (McNab) Rathbone. 

Lona was born on April 20, 1906 in Moosejaw, Canada.

In the summer of 1922 Lona traveled to Europe for the International Women's Games which toured Paris, Germany, England, Scotland and  then to New York before returning to the Canal Zone.  A copy of her July 6, 1922 Passport Application was found on a Internet search.  The application told us her middle name was Carmack and shows her signature.  She was listed as a student at Balboa High School.

Lona married a Alson W. Sears who was an athletic coach.  Imagine that.  She was married on April 28, 1926 in Los Angeles, California.  They had three children, Llona Joan (Sears) Schaak, Alson, Jr., and William with all growing up in the Canal Zone/Panama.  From different sources it was indicated that all three of Lona's children were into sports and swimming just like Lona.

An add in the January 18, 1957 The Panama American says: SPECIAL ATTRACTION  THIS SUNDAY at 7 p.m. - An exhibition of Rock 'n' Roll and Bob by the members of  the El Panama Cotillion Class under the direction of Lona Sears.  This was the oldest reference that was found regarding Lona instructing dance classes. More dance class info below.

Lona's husband Alson W. Sears passed on September 15, 1960 in Mexico according to his death certificate.

A note published in a 1965 Canal Record says: Mrs. Lona Sears, who teaches in an Army School on the Canal Zone has a house in Santa Clara where she spends many pleasant days.  She drove to the States through the summer for vacation. So with this statement, she was a teacher for the Air Force at Albrook with translating.  This must have been with the International Air Force academy.  She owned a house in Santa Clara and drove to the U.S. Since her husband had passed in 1960, I would hope she didn't do this drive by herself through Central America and Mexico.

Lona was quite the traveler in her days.  She was found on several passenger manifests traveling from the Canal Zone to both East and West coasts of the U.S.

Llona passed on June 27, 1998 at the age of 92 in Collin, Texas

The photo above was submitted to the editor of the Panama Canal Society's Canal Record and was published in the March 2002 issue. Llona (Rathbone) Sears had a Cotillion Club in Ancon, Canal Zone in 1939 - 1940.  She taught Canal Zone youth all the new dances of the day.  I noted that Lona added an additional L to her name when she got older and in the dance business.  I tried to find the original photo for better clarity, but couldn't. The caption under the photo reads:

Boys, L-R Jeoffrey Osorrio, ?, Tutti Keysfer, Harold Hancock, Jack Swain, Donald Beall, Arnold Hoffner, Bill Manush, Patrick Ridge, Stile boy?, George Chevalier(?). Larry Jones, Ralph Ridge, ?, and Hilmar Shecker (?).  Girls, rear, L-R: Gretchen Yost, Octavia Garlington, ?, Simonsen, Jeanne Malleft, Constance Barnard Weber, Joan Marie Ridge, Lee McKenzie, _Cain, Sally Hancock, Mary Newland, Hilda Hinz, ?, and Jackie Dorgan.  Front, L-R: Alice Cain, Betty Morrison, Llona (Rathbone) Sears, Diane Yost and Sheila Randolph.  The class was held in the Scout House, a cottage up behind the Ancon Theater.  Assisting in identification were Diane (Yost) Mason, Sally (Hancock) Smith and Joan (Ridge) de Grummond.

My posting is a couple days late this week as I was awaiting to talk with Lona's son Dr. Alson Sears, Jr.  We had a nice conversation about his mother and their lives in Panama.  From what he told me, they lived a very good life back in the golden days.  He told me that his mom actually drove from Panama to California and back twice....and by herself.  What an amazing women for sure.  He told me that Lona retired and lived in Santa Clara until she had to relocate to the states and stay in a nursing home.  Dr. Sears told me that they may have a few photos that he will send me.  Unfortunately he told me that his mother had a trunk full of old photos in Santa Clara that the termites got into and destroyed most of the photos. So...this may not be the end of the story.

Thank you to Bob Dillion, Roger Jones, John Harris, Nina Brown and Marvin Hughey for information for this project.

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