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Lee F. Cerrell

1932 - 2016 Obituary Condolences Gallery
Lee F. Cerrell Obituary
January 24, 1932 - March 26, 2016 Lee Cerrell, a pioneering political consultant and campaign advisor at a time when women in politics was a rarity, passed away peacefully on March 26, 2016. The beloved matriarch of the Cerrell Family had suffered a stroke at her home in Oxnard on January 1st. She was 84. Remembered as a trusted advisor to both presidential candidates and the many young people she mentored over her five decades in public affairs, Lee was surrounded by her children and grandchildren at the time of her passing. Lee Cerrell (née Hope) was born in Durant, Oklahoma, to Ruth and Abbie D. Hope. She had two brothers, Milton and Edward, and one sister, Lorene. The Hope family moved around Arizona before settling in Phoenix, where Lee graduated in Phoenix Union High School's Class of 1950. One of her fondest early memories was making and delivering fresh donuts at the crack-of-dawn with her father. Lee married first husband Bob Bullock in 1953 and moved to Las Vegas, and their son Steve was born at Nellis Airforce Base the following year. They moved to Pasadena in 1956. After her divorce, Lee and Steve remained in the Los Angeles area, and she started work with United Airlines. Soon after, friends encouraged her to come to work with them in politics, so she boldly quit her job and thankfully had no cause to ever look back. At a time when few women worked in the political arena, Lee was a groundbreaker. She got her start in politics working on the 1958 gubernatorial campaign of then-Attorney General Edmund G. "Pat" Brown. It was also during that time that she met her future husband, the late Joseph R. Cerrell, who was working next door for the California Democratic Party. They married in 1963 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, postponing the ceremony by a week at the request Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson so they could oversee a Los Angeles event for President John F. Kennedy. In 1966, Lee and Joe cofounded Golden State Consultants, renamed Cerrell Associates Inc. The company quickly became a dominant player on the local, state and national political campaign scene and later expanded into the burgeoning world of public relations and public affairs. For almost five decades, Lee worked alongside Joe on various political and issue campaigns. Lee and Joe were bon vivants, known for their wonderful parties, including annual 4th of July beach parties in Oxnard and holiday parties at the HMS Bounty in Los Angeles that were attended by a veritable 'who's who' of elected officials and business leaders. Among Lee's favorite work over the years was on the presidential campaigns of John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Hubert H. Humphrey, Lloyd Bentsen, and Al Gore. But perhaps Lee's greatest legacy are the many young staff members she mentored over her long career, including many young women who have gone on to leadership positions in business and politics. Following Lee's retirement, she spent her final years at the family's beach house in Oxnard, pursuing her favorite pastimes, including reading, jigsaw puzzles, drinking wine, travelling, and watching the sunsets with her friends. She also loved keeping up with the lives of her extended family: niece Theresa Hope Lewis and grand-nephew Thomas; nieces Cathy Renfro and Regenia Hope; and nephews Milton Hope and Wendell Hope. Family members, public officials and colleagues often observed that Lee had found the recipe for a happy and successful life, evidenced by her infectious smile. She and Joe were married for 47 years before his passing in 2010, and they lived in their Hancock Park home on Lucerne Boulevard for almost 45 of those years. While her professional career was tremendously gratifying, the greatest joy of her life was their seven grandchildren: Kimberly Bullock Hanna (Phil), Christopher Bullock, Danny Levy, Ren Levy, Sal Cerrell, Josie Cerrell and Chase Cerrell. To them she was kind, generous, loving, loyal, and beautiful on the inside and out. Lee is also survived by her son Steve Bullock (Irina), daughter Sharon Cerrell Levy (Matt), son Joe Cerrell (Sara), and her former daughter-in-law Tara Bullock. Please consider a charitable contribution in lieu of flowers to either the "Joseph R. Cerrell Sacramento Seminar" (c/o the Unruh Institute); or to the "Lee Cerrell Scholarship for Young Women in Government" at the East Valley Family YMCA.
Published in the Los Angeles Times on Mar. 27, 2016
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