Archive for Around Town

Former mayor Monte Wicker dead at 99

Emcee Paul White, left, roasts former Whittier Mayor Monte Wicker on June 25, 2013 at the American Red Cross building on Washington Ave. Wicker, a longtime Whittier Host Lions Club member, died Sunday of natural causes. He was 99. His funeral is planned for 10 a.m. Wednesday, Jan. 4 at First Friends Church on Philadelphia Street with burial to follow at Rose Hills. A reception in Wicker’s honor will be open to the public after the ceremony at the Whittier Museum, 6755 Newlin Ave., in Whittier.

By Tim Traeger


This past year has claimed the life of yet another iconic American with the passing of Fremont Edward “Monte” Wicker. The former Whittier mayor and longtime owner of Monte’s Camera Shop died of natural causes on Sunday at Southern California Acute Care on Sorenson Avenue. He was 99.

The man with the booming baritone voice, easy smile and perpetual gleam in his eyes served on the Whittier City Council from 1962 to 1974 and was Whittier’s mayor from 1964 to 1966. Wicker was born in his parents’ Whittier home on May 22, 1917 and wended his way through Whittier schools before graduating from UC Davis in 1939.

Son Kim Wicker said his father originally wanted to be a veterinarian, but followed his passion for photography and turned it into a career when he opened Monte’s Camera Shop in 1948. The longtime motorcycle enthusiast was past president and a member of the Whittier Host Lions Club, a service organization that gives away thousands of dollars every year in college scholarships and free eyeglasses to the underserved in Whittier.

In an interview in August Monte recounted the time he and a friend smuggled bottles of beer into the old American Red Cross building on Washington Avenue using a string dangled from the third floor window. Or the time he and Hubert Perry raced soap box derby cars down Greenleaf Avenue. He hinted at more than a few brushes with the law.

“He was an instigator,” said Whittier Host Lions Club President Ben Greer. Monte’s father, Lewis, helped found the service club in 1922. “Monte has been a member for, like, forever. He was heavily involved in everything that made the club great. All the fund-raisers, the horse show. For our newer guys in their 60s and 70s he’s like a long lost link to the past. He kept us in stitches with his sense of humor. He was just an active guy and the older guys just revered him. He and his antics are constantly talked about. He will be sorely missed.”

Greer said past members like Wicker and Perry wove the cultural tapestry that makes Whittier a unique and caring community.

Kim Wicker said his dad met Ellen Chilton in high school and the sweethearts were married in August of 1939. They had four children: Joelyn “Jolly,” Chris, Mark and Kim. Jolly died from a sudden illness when she was 15. Monte leaves behind four grandchildren, Lisa, Mark, Alina and Tara and five great-grandchildren.

After a stint with Southern California Edison, Wicker worked for the California Department of Fish & Game before being drafted into the Army in 1945. He served stateside before opening his camera shop in 1948. Aside from the Lions Club, Monte also had leadership roles in the League of Independent Cities, the Southeast Mosquito Abatement District, the Whittier Uptown Association, Whittier College and the Bank of America Advisory Board.

After Ellen Wicker died of melanoma in June 2000, Monte fell in love with Beverly Harris, who he met while performing in Whittier Community Theater. Beverly and Monte were inseparable until his death.

Monte loved to perform and often would belt out a tune for his fellow Lions. Although his harmonica was always at the ready, “he played a mean clarinet,” Kim said.

“I remember going into Monte’s Camera as a kid and Monte showing me how to properly use it,” said Mayor Joe Vinatieri on Wednesday. “As a young man, Monte was a person on the City Council and understood who we are as a community and the values for which we stand. As mayor, Monte meant to me a person who gave me advice regarding several issues. I saw him in a different light as I grew older.”

Kim summed up his father’s life: “I would say he was easygoing, very musical and almost always happy.”

Funeral services are planned for 10 a.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 4 at First Friends Church, 13205 Philadelphia St., with burial to follow at Rose Hills. A reception honoring Monte’s life will follow at the Whittier Museum, 6755 Newlin Ave.

For more information call 562-298-0192.

Tim Traeger is former editor of the Whittier Daily News and is currently executive director of the Whittier Historical Society & Museum.

You’re not as old as you think

WHITTIER: Don’t be late to see exactly how young you can be.

The city’s Senior Resource Fair will run from 9 a.m. to noon on Thursday, May 26, at the Uptown Senior Center, 13225 Walnut St.

Participants can enjoy some 50 agencies offering quality information on veterans’ assistance, housing, transportation, help with utility bills, health care, governmental aid, nutrition and more. It is open to people of all ages and stages.

For more information call the Uptown Senior Center at 562-567-9470.

Sneddon’s images featured at City Hall

From staff reports

The photography of photo artist Christine Sneddon is currently on display at the Whittier City Hall lobby, 13230 Penn St.

A free public reception to meet Sneddon and learn about her work will be held from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 26. Sneddon, a Whittier resident, photographs a variety of subjects.

“I’m a lover of all things photography and a contributor at Shutter Sisters, a photo-centric website for women who love to ‘shoot from the heart’” Sneddon said of her art. “Through my photography, I like to believe that I’m a ‘maker of smiles, a teller of stories and a giver of love.’ I believe we all bring our own medicine to the world. My medicine is my photography.”

The free exhibit will be held through February 19 during the regular City Hall hours of 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

For more information on the exhibit, reception or the City Hall Lobby Art program, contact Parnell Park at 562-567-9450 or


Whittier a city of selfless volunteers

By Tim Traeger
Whittier is a giving town by its nature, and seven of its most dedicated givers will be


honored by the City Council beginning at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2016.
Based on nominations to the Social Services Commission the seven chosen for this year’s 2015 Volunteer Recognition Program include Roger Stoltenberg (SPIRITT Family Services); Robert Chavez (Hillcrest Festival of Fine Arts); Dorothea Cummings (Assistance League of Whittier); Marlene Flores-Avila (Activate Whittier/YMCA); Lee Isaac (Whittier Senior Center); Maurice Meyenburg (Rio Hondo Symphony) and Margaret “Margie” Taylor (Whittier Senior Center).
Belin Hernandez, a recreation specialist with the city, said winning volunteers are chosen based on nominations submitted to the city. Each has to be a nonpaid asset to a nonprofit organization serving the city of Whittier.
“One distinctive of Whittier and which sets Whittier apart from many Southern California communities is its tradition and culture of volunteerism,” said Mayor Pro Tem Joe Vinatieri. “Volunteers do the things that government either doesn’t want to do or can’t afford to do. In Whittier we are blessed with so many wonderful people who volunteer for so many different needs in our city. So it’s very important that we as a council recognize all our volunteers and set out special recognition every year.”
For Stoltenberg, who at age 79 has devoted more than 40 years to the nonprofit sector, serving on the SPIRITT Family Services Board since January 2000 – the last 13 as its board president – his spirit of giving came from his late wife of 57 years, Doris.
“She was the wind underneath my wings so to say,” he said.
Elvia Torres, executive director of SPIRITT, said, “We are so proud of him and delighted that his volunteerism and huge heart are being recognized.”
In addition to his SPIRITT service, Stoltenberg has served as chairman of the Leadership Board of Special Olympics San Gabriel Valley and as chairman of the host city of Whittier during the recent Special Olympics World Games.
Assistant City Manager Nancy Mendez said there will be a reception for the group at 5:30 Jan. 12 at City Hall, 13230 Penn St., followed by official council recognition at 6 p.m.

Tim Traeger is former editor of the Whittier Daily News and current executive director of the Whittier Historical Society and Museum.

‘Latin Night’ comes to Club Parnell

Heat up your winter with a sizzling “Latin Night” at Club Parnell starting at 6 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 22, featuring the Bachata, Salsa and Cha-Cha.

A community dance night is offered on select Fridays at Parnell Park, 15390 Lambert Road, and the Parks and Recreation Department plans a variety of dance nights for the winter season.  Learn different dances each evening with Rudy and Maria Hernandez, the dance professionals famous for “Dancing with the Whittier Stars.”


Registration and social begins at 6 p.m. and lessons start at 6:30 p.m., followed by a dance party until 10 p.m. for participants to enjoy their new skills, as well as learn other dances.  Light refreshments will be provided.  The cost for each evening is $10.


For more information call 562-567-9450.

‘Nutcracker’ by kids coming to Rio Hondo

From staff reports

WHITTIER – When the Rio Hondo College Dance Collective began planning its annual performance, leaders decided to engage local students at every level of learning – from preschool through high school.

So dancers and choreographers reached out to Pioneer High School, Hadley School, Dean Shively Middle School and Rio Hondo College’s Child Development Center to gather performers for the holiday classic, “The Nutcracker.”

In all, the show’s cast includes 40 students from the local schools, 12 advanced dancers from the Collective and 10 performers recruited from Rio Hondo College’s ballet and modern dance programs.

The Dance Collective is an ensemble of advanced students in the Rio Hondo Dance Program who are pursuing careers as dancers, choreographers or in another aspect of the field. The group performs on campus, at area dance festivals and community concerts.

“This is a great opportunity not only for our dancers to hone their skills during a live performance, but also to showcase opportunities in dance for our local community,” said Assistant Professor Alyson Cartagena, Rio Hondo College’s Director of Dance.

As part of that effort, the Collective revamped the traditional favorite, streamlining the lengthy program to about one hour to create a more enjoyable experience for parents with small children.

“This will be a wonderful family-friendly event, one that is sure to capture the spirit of the holiday and the spirit of our incredible dance program,” Rio Hondo College Superintendent/President Teresa Dreyfuss said.

This is the Collective’s fifth holiday program, to be performed at 2 and 5 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 13 at the Wray Theater, 3600 Workman Mill Road, Whittier.

“Our annual holiday program manages to combine a multitude of benefits – it highlights student performers, engages our community, celebrates the season and raises funds for student activities,” Board of Trustees President Madeline Shapiro said.

The event’s ticket sales – $10 in advance, $15 at the door, free for children under 5 – will help fund the Collective’s participation in the 2016 American College Dance Association, a national program of workshops and performances for U.S. colleges and universities.

The event will include holiday food and gifts for purchase as well as a visit from Santa Claus.

Call 562-463-3145 for more information.

For rent: Whittier’s Special Activites Building

WHITTIER – Rental space is currently available at the City of Whittier’s Special Activities Building, 7702 Washington Ave.

The Special Activities Building was constructed in 1976 to provide reasonably-priced office space for local non-profit social services agencies, and has housed such groups as Meals on Wheels, the Intercommunity Blind Center and the Intercommunity Counseling Center.

The current vacant area in the building is on the first level and is about 2,800 square feet. The current rent is 59 cents per square foot, or $1,652 per month. The office space is available in whole or in part, and any modifications to the space must be approved by the city and the costs borne by the lease holder.

To apply for renting the Special Activities Building space nonprofit organizations must meet the following criteria: have current 501(c)3 non-profit status; have a majority of members or serve a majority of recipients who are city of Whittier residents; and have a mission or services that would not violate the federal or state constitutional prohibition on establishments of religion or providing public funds or support to sectarian organizations or purposes.

The deadline to apply for consideration to rent the space is Friday, Dec. 4, 2015 and must include the following information: A letter of interest; Mission Statement; explanation of how the facility will be utilized; a list of the Board of Directors of the organization; the current operating budget; and proof of non-profit status.

Anyone wishing to view the available space during regular business hours of 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday may make an appointment with Dan Walker, Community Services Supervisor, at 562-567-9430.

Applicants will be reviewed by the Whittier Social Services Commission, which will make a recommendation to the City Council for the rental of the space.

For more information, potential applicants may contact Fran Shields, Director of Parks, Recreation and Community Services, at 562-567-9400.


‘Shields’ of dreams

Fran Shields reflects on her 42-year career with the city of Whittier beside one of her proudest achievements, the 2010 Whittier Police Memorial on Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2015

‘Hand it to Fran’ set to retire on Dec. 4
By Tim Traeger
WHITTIER – Put a starving kid in a candy shop and you have a hint about the career of Fran Shields. They say if one loves what they do, they never work a day in their life. So after 42 years with the city of Whittier, on Dec. 4, 2015, Frances Leone Moretta Shields will retire with zero hours on the books.
Because she’s loved every minute.
Her Italian-borne exuberance as director of parks, recreation and community service has fostered a plethora of too many things that make Whittier a wonderful place to live. Many of the statues and monuments to arts and culture come as a direct result of her passion. So do the multitude of programs that make the some $13 million department she’s ran since 2010 come to life.
When Whittier residents take their dogs to their very own dog park, Fran is there. When they walk or bike the Greenway Trail, Fran is there. When seniors get a nutritious meal every day, Fran is there. When your child goes swimming in a city pool, Fran is there. When the police honor a monument to their lost heroes, Fran is there. When thousands of people come together as a community 12 times a year to hear concerts in the parks, Fran is there.
You might say, Fran has left her legacy everywhere.
Shields was born here 61 years ago and never left. At a lofty 4-foot-nothing, the beloved dynamo said why go anywhere else?
“It’s about quality of life. I’m not just saying that because it’s the stock answer. It IS about the quality of life. It is about what Whittier is in creating that sense of community and making sure people have things to do that are fun and to expand their knowledge.
“The families that come out to the concert series, it’s the best thing we do. We get 3,000 to 4,000 people coming out for one night. And it’s the whole family, grandma and grandpa and the kids. And we’re bringing them together, we’re helping that family unit do something together,” Shields said from her spartan yet smartly decorated office at City Hall.
The Sierra High School grad (before it became a ‘continuation school’) began her career at the city as a police dispatcher in 1975, “her dream job.” She met her husband, Mike, who was working in the city’s fire department, and the union produced two boys, Sean and Brian, and five grandchildren. Titles held along her illustrious career include secretary in recreation, office services supervisor, management assistant, community services manager, director of community services and director of parks, recreation and community services, the longest title held by any city employee.
In 2000 she returned to academia and earned her bachelor’s degree in public administration from the University of La Verne.
People don’t want to see her go. She has a fervent hand in many Whittier institutions including the Whittier Cultural Arts Commission, “Activate Whittier” and the Whittier Community Foundation, which has raised more than $400,000 for programs in Quakertown, including the Police Memorial of 2010.
“It was one of the biggest highlights of my career,” she said.
Aside from presiding over the city’s 22 parks, two senior centers, 54 full-time employees, 200 part-time workers and 100 volunteers, Shields has served as president of the Whittier Police Officers Association and spearheaded the Art in Public Places initiative, which was paid for with a half-percent tax placed on any development worth more than $250,000.
“The arts are really special to me. When I started working with the Cultural Arts Commission, it was like opening a new world to me. The Art in Public Places program, we have 14 pieces, all came under my watch,” Shields said.
Fran is an enigma in a world frustrated by governmental bureaucracy. And her humble smile is endearing. She said a tight-knit community like Whittier is unique because it cares about its people.
“And that’s it. They talk about traditions. They’re family values, they’re supporting each other. That’s what it’s all about.”
In retirement Shields said she will continue her penchant for stitching and crafting. She’s also held a longstanding love of dancing. She proudly pointed to a simulated disco ball trophy she earned in 2014 while participating in the Soroptimist Club’s “Dancing With The Whittier Stars” gala.
Fran is afraid of flying, so she and Mike will place a great strain on their motorhome in the years ahead. She said her dream is to take time off from everything and traverse this great nation.
On Thursday the Whittier Host Lions Club honored Shields for her service at Parnell Park, another one of her favorite recreational haunts and home to Whittier’s only petting zoo. Over the years Shields has helped the service club do great things in bolstering Whittier’s quality of life.
Past Lions Club president and former state sen. Frank Hill said the club got a kick out of ribbing the parks director for what may be the last time.
“You’ve got to hand it to Fran. Because Fran is so short you have to hand everything to her,” Hill said. “Whittier is a great place not because of the great schools, because we have great schools, or the great neighborhoods, because we have great neighborhoods. It’s because of the people. And no one is more special to Whittier than Fran. She retired after 42 years, but it was never a job to her. It was all about her passion and commitment to the city.”
White-Emerson protégé Paul White then presented Shields with a bouquet, assuring her they were NOT stolen from the longtime Whittier mortuary.
Fellow roaster and Lions Club past president Eric Day told Fran to grab a seat up front. “Let your legs dangle, they won’t hit the floor.”
What was the worst thing about her 42-year tenure?
A teary-eyed Shields simply said:

Tim Traeger is executive director of the Whittier Historical Society and former editor of the Whittier Daily News.

‘Bordertown’ coming to our town

New TV series fetes skills by Alcaraz, MacFarlane

By VMA Communications

WHITTIER – Celebrated syndicated cartoonist Lalo Alcaraz will present a talk and advance screening of his new animated TV series, “Bordertown,” at 10 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 15, 2015 as Rio Hondo College continues its first-ever Fall Lecture Series.

Alcaraz, author of the nationally syndicated “La Cucaracha” comic strip and a well-known satirist on immigration issues, is a consulting producer and writer for the series, which is executive produced by “Family Guy” creator Seth MacFarlane. The series follows the lives of two neighbors – an immigrant and a border patrol agent – living along the U.S.-Mexico border in the fictitious state of Mexifornia.

It will air on Fox starting in January 2016. In addition to the screening, Alcaraz will provide commentary about the program before what is expected to be a full house at the College’s Wray Theater, 3600 Workman Hill Road, Whittier. The presentation is the second of three in the College’s first Fall Lecture Series, a multi-disciplinary effort that features writers, artists and activists known nationally for their talent and focus on human rights.

The series launched Sept. 23 with renowned sculptor Mario Chiodo, whose works have been praised for their focus on social issues and display of deep human character and emotion. It concludes Thursday, Nov. 5 with LGBT rights scholar and activist Dr. Ronnie Sanlo.

“We wanted to provide authentic learning opportunities for our students that would inspire their social consciousness while providing a real-world perspective to the topics they are studying in their courses,” said Dr. Robert Holcomb, Ph.D., Rio Hondo’s Dean of Communications & Languages.

The lecture series was Holcomb’s inspiration, tying together programs from his division with thematically similar events planned by colleagues at the Division of Arts and Cultural Programs and the Office of Student Life and Leadership. Each speaker is known not only for possessing a unique voice, but for using his or her talents to promote social justice – a concept integrally linked with Rio Hondo College’s dedication to providing access to higher-education opportunities for all members of its community, especially those that are under-represented.

Sanlo, for example, will screen the 2014 documentary, “Letter to Anita,” which relates the impact of her decision to come out as a lesbian during Anita Bryant’s anti-gay campaign in the 1970s. Sanlo will comment on the documentary and join a post-screening discussion. Director Andrea Meyerson will also attend.

“Talks by figures such as Mr. Chiodo, Mr. Alcaraz and Dr. Sanlo enrich our learning environment and generate a meaningful dialogue among our campus community,” said Rio Hondo College Superintendent/President Teresa Dreyfuss. “Their focus on social justice will help deepen and underscore the learning that goes on our Rio Hondo College classrooms.”

Board of Trustees President Madeline Shapiro said the speakers selected represent more than a cross-section of the Southern California arts community.

“These individuals are all highly relevant to our student body – their work has a well-observed impact in our communities. Speakers of this stature send a message of high expectations and cultural relevance to our students,” Shapiro said.

The ‘real’ Watergate scandal

From staff reports
In a mostly unknown side of Watergate, former Whittier College alumnus Geoff Shepard (’66) will present a case against President Richard Nixon’s prosecutors through his recently published book, “The Real Watergate Scandal: Collusion, Conspiracy and the Plot that Brought Nixon Down” at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2015 in the Wardman Library at Whittier College. A reception is slated at 5:30 p.m.

Geoff Shepard will rebuke prosecutors in the Nixon Watergate scandal at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2015 at the Wardman Library at Whittier College.

Shepard was one of the transcribers of the White House tapes that eventually led to Nixon’s resignation in 1974.

More than four decades have passed since Watergate, one of the greatest presidential scandals in American politics, which continues to cause great debate and discussion. Richard M. Nixon ’34 resigned from his post as president of the United States, becoming the only presidential resignation in our nation’s history. But does the American public know what happened behind the scenes?

“My book focuses on the judicial and prosecutorial abuse in the Watergate trials and unearths astounding elements of collusion between the trial judge and the special prosecutors,” said Shepard, who served as the principal deputy to the president’s lead defense lawyer, J. Fred Buzhardt.
Shepard said he has uncovered evidence behind a comprehensive plan to remove the 37th president from office. Shepard shares in his second book about the Nixon administration his findings from his research.
“Going through 200 to 300 memos from the prosecution was like going through the playbook of the opposing team’s coach for the championship my team lost,” Shepard said.
Shepard’s career had an explosive growth in a short amount of time. A standout undergraduate, he earned a scholarship to attend Harvard Law which catapulted him to the Nixon White House as a White House Fellow in 1969. He was assigned to the Treasury Department and following his fellowship year, Shepard joined the Domestic Council staff at the White House, where he served for five years.
Shepard, who later on had a 35-year career in the insurance industry, shares several parallels of his life with President Nixon besides working at the White House and having the same alma mater.
As a first-year student, the Santa Barbara native took the required English course taught by long-time Professor Albert Upton. Upton’s teachings, based on his ground-breaking book, “Design for Thinking,” transformed generations of students’ way of analyzing, classifying, and communicating, including Shepard’s.
“As one of the youngest lawyers working in the White House, I wrote many memos on policy issues for the Domestic Council,” Shepard said. “President Nixon liked my approach and I suspect he could perceive Upton’s influence in them, since he also had Upton as his professor at Whittier way back in the 1930s.”
Shepard was a political science major and always knew he wanted to become a lawyer. He later became the first recipient of the Nixon Scholarship.
“I attended the student scholarship luncheon put on by the Republican Women’s Club of Whittier and Richard Nixon sat next to me,” said Shepard. “I wasn’t expecting him to be there.”
At this point, Nixon had been vice president of the United States, ran unsuccessfully for governor of California, and had dropped out of politics and relocated to New York to practice law.
“In his luncheon speech, Nixon compared the student government issues in his own campaign as student body president, with those of my own,” Shepard said. “I was very impressed.”
Young Shepard must’ve made quite the impression on Nixon because he later found out that the former vice president had doubled the amount of his scholarship.
Since 2010, Shepard has helped produce a series of Nixon Legacy Forums focusing on President Nixon’s various public policy initiatives. The forums are co-sponsored by the Richard Nixon Foundation and the National Archives, and have been broadcast on C-SPAN’s American History channel. More than 30 such forums have been produced to date.