Shelby Lee Dietrich Rector

Shelby Lee Dietrich Rector

Shelby Lee Dietrich Rector, a resident of South Pasadena for 70 years who was a loving mother, pioneering physician, devoted friend and lover of all things related to the High Sierra, died of natural causes on Aug. 12 in Pasadena. She was 95.

Born in 1924, Shelby grew up in Lexington, Ky. A precocious student who exhausted her teachers, Shelby skipped two grades, won many awards in high school and thrived as a speech and debate competitor. Earning both her undergraduate and medical degrees at the University of Michigan, Shelby was a Wolverine to her core.

Irving Rector (d. 2002), her cherished husband of 51 years, was the witty one, the one who listened. Theirs was a marriage for the ages, one that produced three daughters and a mutual love of Neighborhood Unitarian Church and the High Sierra.

Shelby did not go around parading the fact that she was a breakout feminist. Yet she was way ahead of the curve. In her medical-school class of 118 students, 15 were women. And Shelby was the one who would go on to become a world-renowned leader among physicians working to find a cure for AIDS and the tainted blood that began infiltrating the hemophilia community in the early 1980s. Later, Shelby helped to found Young and Healthy of Pasadena, which brings free medical, dental and mental-health care to underserved children.

Shelby had a cadre of friends of every age, ethnicity, sexual orientation and profession. Hers was a true rainbow life. She leaves behind daughters Sarah Rector Aguilar, Lucy Rector Filppu and Ann Chapin Rector, son-in-law Len Filppu, daughter-in-law Nancy Megli and grandchildren Albert Aguilar, Arthur Filppu, Dori Filppu and Alexi Seale.

In lieu of flowers, please make donations to Young and Healthy of Pasadena at

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