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Obituary: Claire Luccaro Dorrell

Claire Luccaro Dorrell

Claire Luccaro Dorrell, 71, died peacefully on May 17, 2011 after suffering a stroke on May 12. Her daughter Marietta was by her side.

Ms. Dorrell, a 35 year resident of Alexandria, VA, was born in Brooklyn, on May 21, 1939. She began her education at SUNY College at Oneonta, NY, and completed her BS at New York University in New York, NY. She was first employed as an elementary school teacher in the South Huntington School District. She continued her education by receiving her MS summa cum laude in educational psychology at Mount St. Mary’s College in Los Angeles, CA.

Claire’s commitment to education was surpassed only by a passion for public service, which eventually led her to serving then-former Governor Ronald Reagan as a surrogate press aide. Ms. Dorrell returned to the east coast and served as assistant press secretary from 1979 to 1980 for the George Bush for President campaign. In 1980, she became press secretary for the Reagan-Bush Committee. Former campaign chairman and Senator Paul Laxalt reflected that “Claire was an early Reagan soldier. She had great spunk and her efforts were instrumental in helping us achieve victory. She will be missed.” Laxalt’s daughter Michelle added, “I speak for many in saying that Claire was a wonderful friend and a great colleague. She had an utterly delightful, kick-tail persona.”

Her efforts ultimately led to 25 years of distinguished federal and private sector service, spanning three administrations and numerous non-career appointments by Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush. Ms. Dorrell served as the deputy assistant secretary for Public Affairs for the U.S. Department of Education, assistant secretary for Public Affairs for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Relations head for the White House Council on Aging, director of Communications Policy for the National Endowment for the Humanities, director of Special Projects for the U.S. Office of Personnel Management where she created the agency’s first Speaker’s Bureau and was awarded the prestigious Theo and U.S. Government Leadership Awards, and deputy associate administrator and chief spokesperson for the General Service Administration’s Office of Citizen Services and Communications.

A devout Catholic whose faith inspired, nurtured, and guided her, Ms. Dorrell retired to devote her time and energy to education and parish service. She became a substitute teacher in 2008, and in 2010 was named director of the Extended Day Program at St. Mary’s Catholic School in Alexandria, VA, where, according to principal Janet Cantwell, “she completely transformed the program, providing study hall, programs in the arts, and spiritual opportunities.” Ms. Dorrell held this position at the time of her death.

Claire loved to sing and play the piano, never recovered from the Dodgers move to Los Angeles, immersed herself in literature, poetry, and old movies, and always enjoyed the splendor of walks along the Potomac River.

Ms. Dorrell was preceded in death by her parents, Gennaro and Marietta Luccaro.She is survived by her loving daughter Marietta Phillips, beloved brother and sister-in-law Anthony and Helga Luccaro, cherished goddaughter and family Natalie, Thomas, and Tatum Stanziale, former spouse James F. Phillips, and a wide circle of treasured family, friends and colleagues.

Funeral arrangements were handled by Austin F. Knowles Funeral Home, Port Washington. A Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated on May 25 at Our Lady of Fatima RC Church. The interment followed at Nassau Knolls Cemetery. A Memorial Mass and Celebration of Life will be held on June 1 at 10 a.m. at St. Mary’s Catholic Church, 310 S. Royal St., Alexandria, VA. Donations in Claire’s memory may be made to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital Tribute Program, PO Box 1000, Dept. 142, Memphis, TN 38148 (1-800-222-6344) Claire L. Dorrell Tribute # 28337679.