Colleen King, who spent nearly a lifetime doing her part to better the quality of life in Signal Hill, where she had been a resident since 1957, died of bone cancer on Nov. 14. She was 80 years old.
Colleen Johnson was born on December 10, 1928, in Hollywood. After co-starring in two Shirley Temple movies (one being 1935’s The Little Colonel, which includes the iconic staircase dance sequence between Temple and Bill “Bojangles” Robinson), she moved to Long Beach at the age of six. She later graduated from Jordan High School and then took a job with Southern California Edison in downtown Long Beach.
She met and married Keaton King, a schoolteacher and lifeguard, to whom she would be wed for 55 years. They built their dream house– a three-story, Spanish-style home– in Signal Hill.
Colleen became known as “the First Lady of Signal Hill” since Keaton had served as a two-term mayor and several-year council member. She presided as precinct captain for the election board numerous years and served on the Signal Hill Historical Society. She was named Outstanding Older American of the Year for Signal Hill in 1995.
She also worked as playground coach for 20 years at Los Cerritos Elementary School in Bixby Knolls, where she prided herself in knowing every child’s name. For more than 50 years, Colleen was a member of Sigma Phi Gamma, an honorary sorority that has donated thousands of dollars to various charities. She was also in Dames Club and the Red Hat Society, as well as being instrumental in the Long Beach Lifeguard Alumni Association. A staunch supporter of the D.A.R.E. program, she was instrumental in the implementation of the Annual D.A.R.E. Car Show.
Colleen had been a breast cancer survivor since 1997. Last February, she was diagnosed with bone cancer. Her rigorous battle with the painful disease ended in the comfort of her home amongst her beloved family, where she peacefully passed away.
Every year she sent out hundreds of family-portrait Christmas cards and, this year, in honor of her life and personal tradition, they will go out for the last time. The portrait was taken in Hawaii, which was the setting for the Kings’ 55th wedding anniversary.
At this time there are no services planned, as per Colleen’s personal request, but donations may be sent in her name to Breast Cancer Awareness.