Cynthia Desatoff web

Cynthia Desatoff, 67, who helped found the Friends of the Colorado Lagoon and successfully fought Los Angeles County over water quality there, died April 27 at her home.

Desatoff was born Cynthia Lynn Zinszer in Kansas, husband Paul Desatoff said. She moved to California with her parents in the mid-1950s and was raised in Topanga Canyon with two younger sisters, Pamela and Debra, and younger brother Ron.

Cynthia became a model and actor in her teens and early 20s, and toured the country for Disney Studios as Cinderella. She was working in film and television production when she met and married director/cameraman Paul Desatoff. They raised two daughters, Jennifer and Margaret, together.

The couple moved to a home on Monrovia, overlooking the Colorado Lagoon, in 1995. The next year, public meetings began about the Termino Avenue Storm Drain, which ends at the lagoon.

"There was a meeting at Jefferson Middle School," Desatoff said. "It was evident from the beginning it (the project) was a disaster. We met Michael Paul and Ray Thorn there… We met with people in the neighborhood, and she said ‘come over to my house and we'll talk. That's when FoCl (Friend of Colorado Lagoon) began."

Cynthia continued to lead the charge, speaking at City Council meetings and participating in the lawsuit against Los Angeles County that FoCL ultimately won — a victory critical to the lagoon's restoration.

"She would sit quietly at FOCL meetings, taking in everything being said," friend Tina Pirazzi said, "and when she had absorbed everything, only then would she make thoughtful, yet poignant comments, letting everyone know in her quiet way, that she had listened carefully to everything that had just been said."

"Cindy was just an old Topanga Canyon hippie," Desatoff said. "(FOCL) will live on as an example of her dedication to making, not just Long Beach but the world, a viable and more beautiful environment."

In addition to her siblings, daughters and husband, Cynthia leaves behind granddaughter Charlotte Lynn Taylor and many nieces, nephews and cousins. A memorial is tentatively planned for July 3, pending COVID19 restrictions. 

In lieu of flowers, Desatoff said contributions may be made to Friends of the Colorado Lagoon at www.coloradolagoon.org.

Harry has been executive editor of Gazette Newspapers for more than 26 years. He has been in the newspaper business for more than 35 years, with experience on both weekly and metropolitan daily papers in Colorado and California.

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