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Midge Neff-LeClair



For decades, Midge Neff-LeClair has been nationally recognized for cultural and historical preservation with "Apparel Americana" and for dedicated community service with Retired Senior Volunteer Police activities, teaching at San Diego Community College's Educational Cultural Complex (ECC), and mentoring diverse groups. She is a fourth-generation seamstress who holds a bachelor's in History/Clothing Design, a master's in Human Behavior, and a doctorate in Business Administration. She has been honored by the City of San Diego, the San Diego Police Department, where she has volunteered for decades, and the ECC.

Raised with both traditional notions of woman's place and her grandmother's Cherokee values, Neff-LeClair's work has often been with those who are marginalized by, or omitted from, traditional institutional education and services: elderly, new immigrants, minorities, veterans, the working poor, and most of all, women. In her pioneering classes at San Diego Community College's Educational Cultural Complex, she devoted herself to mentoring women who might never have access to information necessary to become self-sufficient. She has empowered individuals from diverse backgrounds through her courses about clothing design, alteration, and production; her tutoring in everything from business accounting to strategies for an alterations business; and through decades-long friendships with former students. Today, many former students--Anglo, Latino, African-American, Laotian, Vietnamese--whose successful businesses were launched with Neff-LeClair's guidance still consider her mentor and friend, having themselves become sources of strength for their families and communities. History, as Neff-LeClair teaches it, is an explanation of our own culture, capabilities, and inspirations.

She produced over 1000 of her "Apparel Americana" shows between the 1960s and 2000. Friends and relatives modeled her historical clothing as she narrated their significance for everyday life, male and female roles, and the socio-economic bases of fashion trends. In homes for the aged, she encouraged individuals to keep their own history and culture alive by repeating their stories. Neff-LeClair continues her efforts of community service as a volunteer, including aiding the creation of the San Diego Police Historical Museum, serving as a trained Police civilian, providing food for poor families, and organizing annual children's events. Collector, mother, wife, teacher, cancer survivor (several times over), and an extraordinarily kind and brilliant woman. Midge's various roles and wealth of knowledge has made her counselor, friend, and role model.

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