By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Sept. 19, 1939 – April 3, 2024

Leta Lutz passed away peacefully on April 3 after succumbing to a hemorrhagic stroke. She was preceded in death by her husband Richard Lutz in 2015, her son Timothy Lutz in 2012, and her daughter Lisa Lutz in 2020. Leta is survived by her grandson Kyle Lutz, her sister Barbara Pierrou, and nieces, Yvonne Prough, Lori Windsor, Janelle Christie, Karen Levin, and nephew Bob Levin, as well as many other loving friends and family members who will miss her dearly.

Leta was the eldest of four children born to Ernest and Pearl “Inez” Barnwell. She was born in Sunnyvale, California in 1939, and her birth was soon followed by brother Troy and sister Barbara. The family moved to a dairy farm in Oakdale, where her youngest brother Dennis was born in 1945. Leta always had a flair for fashion. After graduating from Oakdale High School in 1957, she attended seamstress school in San Francisco, an experience that left her with many fond memories. Returning home to Oakdale, she put her excellent taste and sewing skills to good use, making her own clothes as well as those of her sister, Barbara. She even made Barbara’s lovely wedding dress as well as her own.

In 1961, she married Oakdale dairy farmer Richard Lutz, her husband of 54 years, and joined him at his family’s Claribel Livestock Company. Together they raised two children, Timothy, born in 1962, and Lisa, born in 1964. In the early 1970s, they built their beautiful home on the Oakdale-Waterford Highway and spent many happy years hosting family get-togethers and holidays. When her children were in grade school, Leta decided to pursue higher education. While continuing to serve as a loving wife and mother, she attended Modesto Junior College then earned first a bachelor’s degree in psychology from California State University, Stanislaus in 1975 and a master’s in psychology in 1978, often studying early in the morning before her family awoke and late into the evenings after they went to sleep. After earning her degree, Leta enjoyed a fulfilling career as a psychologist working in Modesto City Schools and the Escalon School District for over 20 years. As a school psychologist, she helped many children and their families. After retiring, she turned her attention to the family dairy and fed calves until they retired from the dairy business in 2002 and later moved to their beautiful home on Orange Blossom Road. Leta developed an interest in orchids and earned a reputation for growing beautiful flowers. In the process she won many awards and traveled with Richard to orchid shows in San Francisco, Santa Barbara, and Florida. There are some plants in her greenhouse that are alive to this day and have been thriving under her care for more than 30 years. She remained an active member of the Buttercups, the Knights Ferry Garden Club, and the Tropical Plant Society of Modesto until her death. She spent her retirement years enjoying the company of her family and friends, spending endless hours in her greenhouse tending to her plants, and participating in several local groups including her sorority Delta Kappa Gamma. Leta selflessly served as a caretaker of Richard, Timothy, and Lisa while their health declined and ultimately until their deaths. She cared for them in the way that she did everything in her life; she worked vigorously, put all of herself into it, and spared no detail. Leta will be greatly missed by family and friends who have known her to be caring, dedicated, intelligent, determined, and fiercely relentless in her drive for excellence. Although she stood small in stature, she carried a large presence wherever she went and the high standards she held herself to inspired others to put forth the best of themselves.

Visitation will be Friday April 19, from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., at Oakdale Memorial Chapel, 830 West F St., Oakdale. A graveside service will be at Oakdale Citizens Cemetery on Saturday, April 20 at 10 a.m. A Celebration of Life will be held on Saturday, April 20 at the Oakdale Golf and Country Club at 11 a.m. Close friends and family are welcome at all events. For those planning to attend the Celebration of Life, please RSVP to Kyle Lutz at In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Community Sharing, P.O. Box 1160, Oakdale, 95361; to Oakdale Shelter Pet Alliance, P.O. Box 1965, Oakdale, 95361; or to Alexander Cohen Hospice House, 2201 Euclid Ave., Hughson, 95326.

The Oakdale (Calif.) Leader

The Riverbank (Calif.) News

April 17, 2024