Jeremy Ogul | Editor
Gina Cord witnessed an enormous amount of change over the 36 years she lived in Mission Valley.
In fact, not only did she witness it, she was key to the community’s transformation — she volunteered whenever she could with the Mission Valley Rotary Club, she cast votes on development projects as a member of the Mission Valley Planning Group board and she founded this very newspaper.
Cord died Jan. 20 after a brief illness following an injury last fall. She was 84.
Cord was born March 3, 1930 in Greene, Iowa, to Harry Parson and Doris Baerwald. She graduated as salutatorian in 1947 from Troy Mills High School and moved to Chicago, where she attended Northwestern College and the Patricia Stevens School of Modeling, which kickstarted her career in fashion.
Designer William Travilla hired Cord as both a model and a salesperson to introduce his fashion collections to apparel stores and movie stars, according to longtime friend Barbara Ohlson. Cord modeled wardrobes for famous women including Debbie Reynolds and Dinah Shore. She also served as Travilla’s fitting model for the famous pleated white cocktail dress that Marilyn Monroe wore in the 1955 film “The Seven Year Itch,” Ohlson said.
In 1965 she left Travilla and discovered Mexico, a turn of events that would change the rest of her life. She fell in love with the country and began promoting and advertising vacations to Mexico for a travel agency in Tucson.
Though she had left her job in fashion modeling and marketing, her passion for the industry continued. For six years she was director of the Miss World Tucson contests, and in 1972 she met and mentored Lynda Carter, who went on to win the Miss USA pageant and star in the television series “Wonder Woman.”
Cord moved to San Diego in the 1970s to work in sales and marketing for the Ambassador Inns of America. She purchased her condo on Friars Road in Mission Valley in 1978 and lived there for the rest of her life. In 1979, she started her own business, International Marketing and Promotions Association, which promoted and booked tours in Baja California, and ran it for the next 27 years.
Cord was president of Mission Valley Rotary Club, helped charter the Mission Valley Sunset Rotary Club and was a founding member of the Kearny Mesa Rotary Club. She also served as president of the southern district of California Press Women from 1981 to 1984.
“Gina is such a loss for the whole community,” said Dottie Surdi, chair of the Mission Valley Planning Group board. “She was so engaged professionally and personally. She loved Mission Valley.”
Cord founded Mission Valley News in 2007. Early editions of the newspaper featured commentaries from elected officials, directories of community events and articles about new businesses and commercial developments.
“One of the things I so admired about Gina was she was so giving,” Surdi said. “She was so supportive of the small businesses and the large businesses here in the valley.”
Cord sold the newspaper to Jim Madaffer’s Mission Publishing Group in 2010, but she continued to contribute as both a reporter and columnist through the end of 2014.
“Gina Cord lived an amazing life,” Madaffer said. “From fashion model, to popularizing travel to Baja California and Mexico, to her activities in Rotary, and lastly a community newspaper publisher, she was truly a Renaissance woman.”
Cord is survived by two sisters, Gloria Erickson of Montana and Maxine Evers of Iowa.
A memorial service was held Feb. 6.
—Reach Jeremy Ogul by email at email@example.com.