Monica Lott Sagen (May 26, 1936 - September 20, 2019), was born premature, the youngest of 5 children, to Walter and Anne (Donlin) Lott. Diagnosed with cerebral palsy at birth, doctors told Monica's mom she would not live an hour, a day, a month, a year, five years and then after that, they admitted they didn't know how long she would live. 83-plus years later, we are pretty sure she outlived them all.
Growing up, most people would look at Monica and see a disability, but she only saw limitations which meant she needed to do things differently. And, with a strong faith and a stronger sense of humor, she got things done in her own way.
Her childhood friend, Ferne, shared, "Monica was a strong influence in my life while we were growing up. She was the only person I ever knew that could find a dime sized patch of ice and fall on it and laugh as we tried to get her on her feet so we could continue our 3 block walk to high school - every day, rain or shine!" She embraced life fully and had a "never say never" attitude.
Monica and her friend, Doris, moved from New York to California in 1961 - about the same time as the Dodgers. Monica met Elling Sagen and the two married April,1963 and had (7) yes, SEVEN children!
Monica was a well-known volunteer at Skyblue Mesa Elementary School throughout the 70's. When OLPH Catholic Church started a mission in Canyon Country, the Sagen Family became "founding members" stepping up to do whatever was needed for the fledgling church. Monica wanted to have Religious Education classes in Canyon Country so families did not have to drive (through the onion fields) across the valley for classes. Not knowing Monica very well at the time, and tired of people passing on ideas without offering any support, Fr. Ed Renehan, told her that if she wanted to organize it she could go right ahead. Within a few months, she had recruited a teacher for each grade and classes began. Fr. Ed never underestimated her determination after that!
As St. Clare grew into a full-fledged parish, Monica volunteered her services at every opportunity. She was a long-term volunteer at the St. Clare Gift Shoppe, taught CCD, was a member of the St. Joan's Women's guild, joined the knitting group and worked in the office. She would often catch rides with Mary Sipes to visit the sick or attend church functions. She was known for her openness, cheerfulness and as a welcoming person who was always easy to talk with.
Monica's faith sustained her throughout life. She firmly believed that she was where God wanted her to be. She did not ask "why me?" - except, maybe when six of the seven kids were teens at the same time!!! She looked to the lives of the Saints for inspiration. Monica always believed the best of people and was a good friend to many. She participated in a variety of local singing groups and enjoyed playing cards and board games. She was known, in the family, for calling on each person's birthday to sing Happy Birthday.
As their kids grew up and began having children of their own, Monica often spent time with the local grandkids. Monica and Elling took trips including a cruise and a trip back east. Her mom lived to be 95 and Monica kept in touch with her mom and sisters as well as long term friends. She spent many of her recent birthdays at Catalina enjoying snorkeling, helicopter rides, and other adventures. And, although she never liked to be cold (and she was ALWAYS cold), she enjoyed the past few Christmas holidays in the Eastern Sierras with extended family. An avid fan of the Lakers for the past 30 years, Monica always knew when the game was starting and, even if she fell asleep or turned off the TV in frustration, was always willing to discuss the game with whoever would listen.
Monica and Elling lived in Canyon Country from 1968 to 2003. They moved to Friendly Valley in 2003. In 2017, Monica moved to San Fernando with her youngest son, Matthew, and her granddaughter, Alisia.
As a guest speaker at a conference in 2017, Monica said, "As an octogenarian, one of the advantages I have over my friends is that I had long ago accepted that I can't always do things the way others do. I never drove a car and always relied on either public transportation or friends for rides. As my friends were "losing" their driver's licenses and needing to come to terms with depending on others, I was way ahead of the game there. As they began to use canes, walkers, and wheelchairs to get around, they were envious of my power chair, reachers, and ability to navigate the environment despite limitations imposed by my body. I became not the "friend in a wheelchair", but just another old person using equipment to get around. My Cerebral Palsy no longer needs to be explained on a daily basis."
Monica believed that: "Everyone has a story. Listen to people's story before attempting to tell them what they should/can/can't/must be doing. And, then remember that this is MY life and YOUR opinion." She lived a life of faith, hope and charity. Her life story is proof that finding a way to get things done does not have to be "special", legislated or expensive. It just takes common sense, a sense of humor and a willingness to keep trying. She is now fulfilling a lifelong dream - running for the first time - into the arms of Jesus.
Monica was preceded in death by her parents and siblings as well as her husband, Elling. She is survived by her children and grandchildren listed below as well as numerous nieces and nephews.
Lori & Scott Shepard; Brian Shepard, David Shepard, Eric Shepard, Trevor Shepard
George & Tricia Sagen; Amberley Sagen, Alexis Sagen, George Sagen, Holton Sagen
Mark Sagen; Shawn Sagen & Jackie Gallo
Joseph Sagen & Kym Bloomer
Karen & Jeff Mann
Theresa & Peter Colato; Jonathan Simpson, AJ Simpson, Will Simpson
Matthew Sagen; Alisia Sagen
Her oldest, Lori, along with her husband Scott, founded Avenues Supported Living Services. Lori's lifelong exposure to her mother's fully inclusive life inspired her to seek the same for all people. In lieu of flowers, Monica asked that a donation to Avenues Supported Living Services be made in her name.