Community volunteer and philanthropist was ‘the quintessential civic leader’

ObitBy Geoff Maleman

Morrey Plotkin, who founded the Flight Path museum and provided critical support for Westchester Playa Village and the LAX Coastal Area Chamber of Commerce, died in his sleep on Oct. 8 at his home in Playa del Rey.

He was 97.

Born in Dallas in 1916 and 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 both his money and know-how into scores of local organizations, saving several from financial collapse.

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

More recently, Plotkin helped keep afloat Westchester Playa Village, a local non-profit that provides assistance to seniors to help them remain independent in their own homes.

“Morrey is the one who kept WPV alive at a critical juncture,” said Westchester Playa Village 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 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 remained 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 the Northrop Corporation, where he specialized in mergers and acquisitions, retiring in 1970 at the age of 55.

But Plotkin never really retired.

He worked as a financial planner until he was 90 and gave thousands of hours to local non-profit 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 an aeronautics learning center and museum in the Imperial Terminal at LAX. The Flight Path Walk of Fame houses more than 50 bronze plaques embedded in the sidewalk along Sepulveda Boulevard — right where Plotkin 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. Plotkin also received the 2006 Fritz B. Burns Outstanding Community Service and Leadership Award as well as the 2010 Howard B. Drollinger Leadership Award, and he served as the community’s Honorary Mayor in 1986.

“Morrey Plotkin was a giant and an icon, the quintessential civic leader,” said Los Angeles City Councilman Mike Bonin. “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 lessons with me over a steak sandwich at the Forum Club,” said David A. Herbst, a Westchester resident and former Honorary Mayor. “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 two children, Lisa Marie Plotkin and Larry Plotkin, and Larry’s significant other, Diane Barretti. He is also survived by four grandchildren: Matthew Plotkin and his wife Rebecca, Sarah Plotkin Dacong and her husband Anthony Dacong, and Andrew Plotkin and Kailee Plotkin.

A celebration of Plotkin’s life will be held at 4:30 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 26, at Covenant Presbyterian Church, 6323 W. 80th St., Westchester.