Community remembers Morrey Plotkin at memorial service

Community icon Morrey Plotkin passed away in his sleep at his Playa del Rey home on Wednesday, October 8. He was 97.

A celebration of his life was held on Sunday, October 26 at Covenant Presbyterian Church and hundreds of community members attended the service to pay their respects to a man that dedicated the later part of his life to Westchester and Playa del Rey.

Born in Dallas, Texas in 1916, the oldest of three boys, Plotkin spent decades volunteering his time and money to make the Westchester community a better place. An innovative thinker, Plotkin put not only his money, but also his effort into scores of local organizations, saving several from financial collapse.

In 1992, Plotkin served as president of the LAX Chamber of Commerce and saw the local business organization through one of its darkest financial periods, helping to put it back on stable footing and helping it grow.

More recently, Plotkin helped keep afloat Westchester Playa Village (WPV), a local nonprofit that provides assistance to seniors to help them remain independent in the comfort and security of their own homes as long as possible.

“Morrey is the one who kept WPV alive at a critical juncture,” said Westchester Playa Village’s Executive Director Carol Kitabayashi. “We would not be here thriving without his influence and support. He continues to live on through all the people we serve at WPV. I feel so privileged to have received his guidance, support and friendship. He was a wonderfully amazing man who will be missed.”

Plotkin grew up in Eagle Rock, graduated from UCLA in 1938 and earned his master’s degree in political science two years later. In 1943, he married the love of his life, Mari; and they were married for 63 years until her death in 2006.

During World War II, Plotkin served in the Army Air Corps and retired with the rank of major in 1957. He earned his commercial pilot’s license while working for the Civil Aeronautics Authority, the precursor to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and developed a lifelong love of aviation. He spent much of his professional career on the corporate staff of Northrop Corporation, where he specialized in mergers and acquisitions, retiring in 1970 at the age of 55.

But Morrey never really retired.Until the age of 90, he worked as a financial planner and gave thousands of hours to local nonprofit organizations, founding the Flight Path Learning Center of Southern California, a non-profit organization that celebrates the history of aviation and honors aviation pioneers.

“Morrey walked down Sepulveda Boulevard, though the Westchester Business District, and questioned what we could do to encourage people to walk down our sidewalks,” said Rowena Ake, former chair of Flight Path. “His idea was the Flight Path Walk of Fame.”

Today, Flight Path has grown into a learning center and flight museum in the Imperial Terminal at LAX, as well as a Flight Path Walk of Fame that houses more than 50 bronze plaques embedded in the sidewalk along Sepulveda Boulevard– right where Morrey visualized them.

A deeply religious man, Plotkin donated much time and money to Covenant Presbyterian Church and was named the 1963 Southern California Presbyterian Man of the Year, just one of many awards he earned during his lifetime.

He earned the 2006 Fritz B. Burns Outstanding Community Service & Leadership Award, as well as the 2010 Howard B. Drollinger Leadership Award and served as the community’s Honorary Mayor in 1986.

“Morrey Plotkin was a giant and an icon, the quintessential civic leader,” said City Councilman Mike Bonin, who represents the Westchester, Playa del Rey and Playa Vista area. “For generations, our community has been blessed with his commitment, his service and his leadership. He dedicated himself to making our neighborhoods better and rolling up his sleeves to get things done. Over the years, his work and his service inspired so many people to get involved in the community. I am certain his legacy will do the same.”

And while Plotkin was always there to help organizations in need, his true impact was felt by the individuals he helped support. From local business leaders to those who served with him on volunteer boards, Plotkin was always there with a word of encouragement or a bit of sage advice.

“Morrey took me under his wing when I graduated from LMU and would regularly share life’s lessons with me over a steak sandwich at the Forum Club,” said David A. Herbst, a Westchester resident. “I never witnessed him being anything other than one of the most decent and truly holy men I’ve known. I have lost a very dear friend. Our community has lost a titan.”

Plotkin is survived by his brother Peter and his two children Lisa Marie Plotkin and Larry Plotkin and Larry’s significant other, Diane Barretti. He is also survived by his four grandchildren: Matthew Plotkin, and his wife Rebecca; Sarah Plotkin Dacong, and her husband Anthony Dacong; Andrew Plotkin and Kailee Plotkin.

The family has requested that those interested in making a donation in Plotkin’s name to donate to the Morrey Plotkin Memorial Fund at Covenant Presbyterian Church. Checks can be made payable to Covenant Presbyterian Church Endowment Fund (unrestricted) and sent to 6323 W. 80th Street, Westchester, CA 90045.

Story By Geoff Maleman