RUNYON, Jean Hamilton

The following obituary was published in the The Sacramento Bee, October 27 – 28, 2009.


RUNYON, Jean Hamilton, age 82, died peacefully in Sacramento early on October 24, 2009, surrounded by family. She was born March 6, 1927, in Concordia, Kan., the only child of Brutus Kerr Hamilton, a 1920 national decathlon champion, Olympic sliver medalist, and track and field coach, and Rowena Thornburg Hamilton, an actress in the Chautauqua Theater circuit.

Jean studied drama at the University of California at Berkeley and moved to Sacramento in 1947. With the characteristic strengths and ingenuity of a competitive athlete and a vivacious entertainer, she built and nurtured what was to become a widely known and respected 49-year-old public relations/advertising business, Runyon Saltzman & Einhorn, Inc.

Throughout the years, she devoted much time to charities, raising millions of dollars for local causes, especially the arts, while enriching the fabric of the community. She received scores of awards in recognition of her personal and corporate contributions, and in 1997, a group of her ardent fans, in partnership with the City of Sacramento, renovated the small theater in Memorial Auditorium, which was renamed The Jean Runyon Little Theater.

Her finest performance came every Halloween for 40 years when she climbed on her roof dressed as a witch, cackled with all her might, and tossed candy to the glee of hundreds of neighborhood children and friends, as well as a bevy of television cameras.

Widowed four times, her husbands were S. Mercer Runyon, Jr., Philip S. Tow, Eugene Graham and Jack Murphy. She is survived by son, Stephen Runyon, of Courtland; daughter and son-in-law, Elizabeth and Terry Mulligan of Hood; grandchildren Todd Mulligan and wife, Rhianna Mulligan, of Sacramento; Jack Mulligan and fiance, Kim Harnish, of San Francisco; Molly Mulligan Mounteer and her husband, Ryan Mounteer of Herber City, Utah; Melody Runyon O’Donnell and her husband, Decklan O’Donnell of Sacramento; and great granddaughter, Keira Mulligan of Sacramento. Jean is also survived by Ellen Freitag.

A funeral service will be held Friday morning. Her life will be celebrated during a public gathering at the Sacramento Memorial Auditorium, 16th and J Streets, on Saturday (Halloween), starting at 1:30 p.m. In true Runyon fashion, attendees are asked to bring non-perishable food for donation to the Sacramento Food Bank. In lieu of flowers, donations to the Jean Runyon Endowment For The Arts Fund, care of the Sacramento Region Community Foundation, 740 University Ave., Sacramento, CA 95825, are also encouraged.