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Clytia Chambers, 84; PR executive developed Fruit Gardener magazine

March 08, 2007|Valerie J. Nelson | Times Staff Writer

Clytia Chambers, a retired public relations executive who turned a newsletter about exotic fruit into the bimonthly magazine Fruit Gardener, died Feb. 20 of complications related to old age at a Pasadena care facility, said her husband, Robert Chambers. She was 84.

Published by California Rare Fruit Growers, an organization of amateur horticulturists, the magazine debuted in a slicker format in 1990.

"She had great editing skill and a mind like a steel trap," said Ron Couch, who succeeded her as editor in 2000. "As the organization grew, the magazine helped tie it together."

Her interest in rare fruits came from helping her husband oversee their orchards near Fallbrook.

In the early 1990s, they tended more than 40 varieties of sapotes -- a distant relative of the citrus family that originated in Mexico.

After joining the Los Angeles public relations firm Hill and Knowlton in 1967, she developed a reputation as a superb writer and mentor, staying until 2000.

A speech she wrote for then-Mayor Richard Riordan about the need to expand the police force in 1993 "verged on the poetic," The Times reported at the time.

She was born Oct. 23, 1922, in Rochester, N.Y., to Anthony and Marie Capraro.

Her father, a newspaper editor and labor leader, named her Clytia -- pronounced "Klee-shuh" -- for the ocean nymph in Greek mythology who turns into a sunflower.

At 15, she graduated from high school in New York City and four years later earned a bachelor's degree from Barnard College.

Working as a cryptographic specialist for the Army Signal Corps in Washington, D.C., the 19-year-old Chambers persuaded the commanding officer to desegregate the facility's cafeteria, Robert Chambers said.

With her first husband, Joseph Montllor, a career diplomat, she lived in Haiti, France, Argentina and Cambodia and became fluent in several languages.

In 1948, she earned a law degree from the University of Lyon in France.

A decade later, she received a master's degree in African studies from Howard University in Washington.

While newly divorced and doing public relations for Sinclair Oil in the early 1960s, she met Chambers, a research chemist who had three children as she did.

They married in 1965 and lived in Chicago and New York before moving to Studio City in the 1970s.

In addition to her husband, Chambers is survived by her three children, Michele and Thomas Montllor and Clytia Montllor Curley; three stepchildren, Anne, Guy and Carl Chambers; sister Athena Warren; and five grandchildren.

Instead of flowers, the family requests contributions to NARAL Pro-Choice America, www.naral.org.

valerie.nelson@latimes.com

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