Lona Mae Christians, later Isoard, (1903-1992) was a long-time resident of Ajijic in the 1960s and 1970s. She was born 8 November 1903 in Williamsburg, Colorado, and died 22 Sep 1992 in Walnut Creek, California, aged 88. Lona married her husband, Max Conlin Isoard (1900-1974), then a medical student, in June 1926. The couple had a daughter, Antoinette Ruth (Toni) Isoard, born in about 1940.
The family lived mostly in California, first in San Francisco (1928), then Sacramento (from 1930-at least 1955). In September 1951, Lona and Max Isoard arrived back in New York from Le Havre, France, on board the SS Liberté.
A 1938 newspaper article reveals that Isoard was a well-known polo player: “Among the players in the first game, will be Mrs. Lona Isoard, prominent in state polo circles.”
By all accounts, Lona Mae Isoard was quite an eccentric character. The late Tom Faloon commented to me that she was a “nutty lady”, adding that her sister and brother-in-law also lived in Ajijic. Katie Goodridge Ingram, former gallery owner, remembers that Lona lived at one time in the small, lakeside cottage belonging to “Russian” dancer Zara. (This cottage later became known as “Iona’s cottage”, taking its name from another eccentric American, a former teacher and world traveler, Iona Kupiec, who lived there from 1962).
In 1966, Lona Isoard remodeled a home in Ajijic at Calle Independencia #39 for herself, and an adjoining home, sharing the same street address, was occupied by her younger sister, Henrietta (and her husband, Herbert B. Phillips).
The following year, Lona spent three months visiting her daughter in California, where the two women acted together on stage in Oakland, California, in April 1967 in a production of the farce Botheration.
Isoard was active in the local Ajijic art scene and occasionally exhibited. For example, her work was included in the May 1971 group show, “Fiesta of Art”, held at the private home of Mr and Mrs E. D. Windham, Calle 16 de Septiembre #33, Ajijic. (The other artists involved were Daphne Aluta; Mario Aluta; Beth Avary; Charles Blodgett; Antonio Cárdenas; Alan Davoll; Alice de Boton; Robert de Boton; Tom Faloon; John Frost; Dorothy Goldner; Burt Hawley; Peter Huf; Eunice (Hunt) Huf; Michael Heinichen; John Maybra Kilpatrick; Gail Michael; Bert Miller; Robert Neathery; John K. Peterson; Stuart Phillips; Hudson Rose; Mary Rose; Jesús Santana; Walt Shou; Frances Showalter; Sloane; Eleanor Smart; Robert Snodgrass; and Agustín Velarde.)
Lona showed a self portrait in the TLAC (Todos las artes combinados) show at Posada Ajijic in April 1978.
An example of Isoard’s work, a still life of fruit, was included (along with works by many of the other artists in the 1971 group show) in A Cookbook with Color Reproductions by Artists from the Galería (Guadalajara, Mexico: Boutique d’Artes Gráficas, 1972).
- Note: This is a revised version of a post first published 28 January 2016.
For more about the extraordinary history of the art community in Ajijic, please see the relevant chapters of Foreign Footprints in Ajijic: Decades of Change in a Mexican Village (2022).
- Daily News (California), 2 Jun 1926, 15.
- Guadalajara Reporter: 25 June 1966; 2 July 1966; 4 Feb 1967; 8 April 1978, 19.
- Oakland Tribune (Oakland, California), 8 April 1967.
- Santa Cruz Evening News, 14 May 1938, 2.
- The Sacramento Bee, 31 Oct 1957, 18.
Comments, corrections and additional material welcome, whether via comments feature or email.
Tony Burton’s books include “Lake Chapala: A Postcard History” (2022), “Foreign Footprints in Ajijic” (2022), “If Walls Could Talk: Chapala’s historic buildings and their former occupants” (2020), (available in translation as “Si Las Paredes Hablaran”), “Mexican Kaleidoscope” (2016), and “Lake Chapala Through the Ages” (2008).