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Helen-Faithe Dugan; City Switchboard Operator

September 18, 1997

Helen-Faithe Dugan of Ventura, who was the first switchboard operator for the city of Ventura 52 years ago, died Tuesday in a local hospital of natural causes. She was 94.

She was born Jan. 25, 1903, in Weston, Mo., and was a 65-year Ventura County resident.

Dugan worked for Pacific Telephone & Telegraph for 15 years as a long-distance chief operator. In 1945, she became the city of Ventura's first switchboard operator / receptionist and worked for the city for 16 years.

"She was a dispatcher when switchboard operators used a cord board. They used to plug the cords into the holes," said her daughter, Nila Waltrip of Moorpark.

Sitting before the so-called "555 cord board," Dugan worked up to 30 lines at a time.

Finding the proper plug for each line was one example of her mother's keen sense of where things and people belong, Waltrip said.

"When she worked at City Hall, the city manager's office was right across from where she was located. And if the city manager was looking for someone, even if they were trying to hide from him, she always knew where to find them," Waltrip said.

She retired from the city in 1961. But Waltrip said her mother enjoyed work too much to stay retired and soon went to work on a part-time basis for the county of Ventura, working in the elections department, Sheriff's Department, farm advisor's office and district attorney's office.

She also worked part time for the Ventura Unified School District in the secretarial and PBX areas for Ventura and Buena high schools, Balboa Middle School and the district office.

In between, Dugan worked at the Broadway and Rogers' Furniture stores in Ventura.

"The woman worked her whole life, and I guess that was at a time when they didn't have time for a lot of hobbies," Waltrip said, "just like a lot of the women today."

Dugan was a member of the First Church of Christ, Scientist in Boston, and Second Church of Christ, Scientist in Ventura. She was also active in the PTA.

In addition to Waltrip, she is survived by daughters Faithe Lawrence of Apple Valley and Ires Sutton of Ventura; eight grandchildren, and 13 great-grandchildren.

She was preceded in death by her husband Jack N. Dugan, former Ventura streets superintendent, in 1986; daughter Georgia-Helen Kendall in 1990 and grandson Edward L. Sutton Jr. in 1976.

Friends may call from 4 to 8 p.m. Friday at Ted Mayr Funeral Home, Ventura.

Services will be at 2 p.m. Saturday at the funeral home, with Marquita Griswold officiating. Burial will follow in Ivy Lawn Memorial Park, Ventura.

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