The storybook life of local resident Josephine Carroll Moore ended on Sept. 29 when she died at the age of 98.
An actress, model, mother, socialite and El Dorado Rose, Moore had a wonderfully full life that spanned almost a century.
Born Josephine Carroll French on Oct. 16, 1914 in Senatobia, Miss., Moore had family roots in the area that went back several generations. Her grandfather lived there before the Civil War with 400 slaves. A doctor, he fought with the Confederacy. After the war, he turned his plantation house into the French Hotel.
Moore had an older sister, Lora, who she said had a romance with the author Thomas Wolfe and who later based the character Laura James, in Wolfe’s book “Look Homeward Angel,” on Lora.
She also had an uncle who was the sheriff of Tate County.
In 1920, Moore’s family moved to Los Angeles and at 16 she began modeling. Two years later she was under contract to Universal Studios as a member of the Junior Stock Company where she acquired the stage name of Verna Clair. She appeared in a half-dozen films, including ones that introduced Robert Young and Margaret Sullivan to audiences.
However, after nine months, Moore had enough of the movie business and left the studio. But she continued to model and at 23 appeared as the “Running Girl” on the 1937 Coca-Cola tray. Posing for that picture requiring her to spend eight hours a day for two weeks in the studio of artist Rolf Armstrong. Later she did many speaking engagements before Coca Cola memorabilia clubs.
Around the same time, Moore met a handsome young man at a party, Prentiss Moore, whom she would go on to marry. Her requirements for a husband being that he be a southerner, a Democrat and a Baptist. Seven months after meeting, they eloped and married.
Moore continued modeling after marriage, posing for billboards advertising Chevrolet, Hudson and Nash automobiles, Eastside Beer and Rubbermaid swimsuits. For 10 years she was also the Van de Kamp Girl.
Moore had to stop modeling when she and her husband joined the Los Angeles Country Club because the club didn’t allow movie people as members. Meanwhile her husband became involved in politics with a social circle of entertainers and politicians, including Gov. Pat Brown, who later appointed her husband to the state Superior Court.
During this time, the Moores had two sons, Christopher and Prentiss. Christopher went on to become an attorney while Prentiss had multiple careers as a musician, actor and school teacher.
In 1975 Moore and her now-retired husband moved to Placerville to live on property they had bought years earlier as a weekend getaway. The 360-acre ranch had formerly been the site of 18 gold mines, but the Moores planned to raise French Charolais cattle on it. When that didn’t work out, they turned to raising quarter horses instead, having 35 horses on the property at one time. Later they also had a thriving business growing Christmas trees.
Moore and her husband enjoyed living in Placerville, between traveling, ranching and engaging in community activities.
She was a member of the Shakespeare Club, a longtime member of the Federated Church, and in 1999 was named an El Dorado Rose. “It was a real treasure for her to be named El Dorado Rose,” said Christopher Moore.
Moore continued living on their ranch after her husband died in 1989. In 2006 she moved to Gold Country Retirement Community where she was an active member of the community and much sought after by single gentlemen. In late June she was moved to an assisted care facility in Rancho Palos Verdes where she died four months later.
“My mother was a very outgoing person with a little bit of an actress in her,” recalled Christopher. “I’d call her and she’d say, ‘I feel like a million dollars.’ She was always optimistic and upbeat and very devoted to her friends up here. She was definitely tied to Placerville.”
Prentiss agreed, saying she was the perfect example of the power of positive thinking, calling his mother “artistic, sensitive, optimistic, and elegant. She was always dressed to the T’s anytime she went anywhere.”
Moore leaves behind her two sons, Prentiss and Christopher as well as three grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. Her sister and four brothers preceded her in death.
Services are planned for 2 p.m. Nov. 17, around 2 p.m. at the Federated Church in Placerville.
Contact Dawn Hodson at 530-344-5071 or [email protected] Follow @DHodsonMtDemo on Twitter.