Posts in category 1900s
Editor’s Note: I had the pleasure of meeting Tom LaBonge for the first time at a reception given at the home of J. Russell Brown in the Hollywood Hills in August 2003. The popular Los Angeles councilmember was speaking at Brown’s restored landmark Villa Manola designed by Paul R. Williams. As LaBonge addressed a large audience of about 300 Hollywood personalities in the home’s elegant courtyard. I was impressed by the number he seemed to know on a first name basis, acknowledging the contributions that each made to the community. It was the influence of that evening, and the relationship that I developed with Russ Brown that sparked my personal involvement in community activism, running for (and being elected to) the Silver Lake Neighborhood Council in September 2003, founding the Silver Lake Beautification Committee in 2003, and serving as SLNC Vice Chair in 2004. Ultimately, that led to the establishment of my community website, The Silver Lake News and serving as Silver Lake Correspondent for the Los Feliz Ledger. That is my personal testimony how a single event or meeting one person can ultimately change the direction of your life.
The story of Tom LaBonge’s life might start off being entitled, Local Boy Makes Good! as Tom began life right here in the neighborhood, born at the old Queen of Angels Hospital overlooking the Hollywood Freeway (now the Dreamcenter) on October 6, 1953. He was seventh in a lineup of eight boys born to and Robert and Mary Louise Learnihan LaBonge. Tom attended local public schools including Ivanhoe Elementary, Thomas Starr King Middle School before graduating from John Marshall High School in 1971, where he was a standout football player and captain of the team. He would later play for Los Angeles City College and Cal Poly Pomona. His enthusiasm for his hometown was sparked as a teenager when he had the opportunity to serve on Mayor Tom Bradley’s Youth Council. He would later reflect how good it felt, helping someone out. I just new from the very beginning that this was going to be my life’s work-serving the people of Los Angeles any way I could..
After graduating from Cal State LA, he joined the staff of Councilwoman Peggy Stevenson, in 1976, and in 1978 joined Council President John Ferraro’s staff. With Ferraro as mentor, LaBonge learned the complexities of civil service, serving as Chief Field Deputy for 15 years, before being asked to join Mayor Richard Riordan as Special Assistant. After serving the mayor�s office for seven years, he was named Director of Community Relations for the L.A. Department of Water and Power. His record of service within the city council, the mayor’s office and the DWP were exemplary, as evidenced by the many projects he spearheaded and a commitment to getting the job done. He was first elected to the Los Angeles City Council in October 2001, completing the term of John Ferraro, who passed away on April 17, 2001. He was reelected by an overwhelming majority in 2003, and ran unopposed in 2007. He is one of the most popular political figures in Los Angeles with a special, ennobling gift of seeing the importance of every person. It is not unusual to see LaBonge assisting a street maintenance crew with shovel in hand, clearing a mudslide, or stopping by a senior citizen’s meeting to listen and act on a stakeholder’s concern. Even with a non-stop schedule, he seems to find the time to drop by a block party or a neighborhood get-together. Many of us feel lucky to know him personally. His love for the big park in our backyard (Griffith Park) is another reason people are drawn to the man. His stewardship and enthusiasm is evidenced by the frequent community hikes and potlucks he leads into the park, and his response to the devastating fire of May 2007, in which over 800 acres of the historic park were burned.
He is also very much involved in the Los Angeles River Master Plan and envisions the river as one of our greatest undeveloped recreational resources in a city starved for parkland. “My love for Los Angeles knows no limits and I strive each day to be the most responsible and responsive representative at City Hall helping to develop and execute initiatives that will maintain, enhance and beautify our unique communities- both for the 4th District as well as the city at large” he said.
Tom is married to Brigid Manning LaBonge. They live with their two children, Mary-Catherine and Charles in Silver Lake, only a few blocks away from his childhood home. In 2015 LaBonge retired from the Los Angeles City Council due to term limits; in all, he served the city for 39.6 years, fourteen on the city council.
Editor’s Note: I became acquainted with Stephanie Vendig during my tenure on the board of the Silver Lake Neighborhood Council. Stephanie, along with her pal Bea Gold have been on the forefront of issues affecting Silver Lake’s senior communities, advocating and promoting the Silver Lake Seniors Club (since 2006, the Griffith Park Adult Community Club). As president of the club, I asked Stephanie to tell us her story, as a way of introducing our readers to this very special community servant, as well as spreading the word about the club.
As the president of Griffith Park Adult Community Club, supporting the Griffith Park Adult Community Center (GPACC) and its activities for the 50+ population, I wondered how I got to this place of advocacy. Upon reflection, I believe it is no accident that I found this niche. All of my life experiences pointed me in a direction that had a theme of serving community, My life started in Bakersfield in 1936, and I left at 18 years old to go away to college. However, both of my parents’ families were Los Angeles people beginning in 1923 around the Silver Lake and Hollywood areas. My grandparents were part of the mass immigration in the early 1900’s of East European Jews into New York and into Canada. My father became an optometrist, but starting a practice during the depression was difficult in L.A. He answered an ad to open a practice in the back of a jewelry store in Bakersfield. Thus, my parents moved there in 1935. They became very community-minded, joining organizations that helped the community. My consciousness- raising about serving community began with them and their experiences. My college education was varied, completing a BA from UC Berkeley in 1959. In addition to credentials to teach elementary school and the physically handicapped I got a Master’s degree in Early Childhood Education from Cal State, Northridge. Married life started in 1959, and lasted 42 years. My husband, Fred, died in 2001 after an 8-year struggle with bone marrow failure. In 1966, we bought a house in Silver Lake, where we raised our two children David and Joshua. I still live in the same house. David continues to live in Silver Lake raising his three children, and Joshua and his family of two young children live in Bishop. I started teaching in San Francisco in 1961, and when I moved to Los Angeles I began teaching the physically handicapped in 1968. My teaching experience has always been with children who were disadvantaged or had special needs in a variety of ways, so I learned from those children about barriers and the capacity to overcome when the environment supported their efforts. I became involved with LAUSD Special Education as a consultant under the directorship of Bea Gold (previously honored in Who’s Who in Silver Lake). Together, we developed programs serving young children with special needs and training special education teachers. From this experience I learned to help adults learn new skills and to create programs from inception through implementation. In 1980, I left the school district for the nonprofit world and the world of adolescents. I joined the staff of the Youth and Family Center, a social service agency that provided services for pregnant and parenting teens. The focus was on case management, and I was hired to create an infant and toddler program for the children of teen-age parents and to provide parent education. I became part of the management team, and in 1996, I retired from the agency as Interim Executive Director. From this experience, I picked up skills of collaboration with a variety of public institutions and organizations in order to make sure that these adolescents could overcome obstacles, as they attempt to complete their education and become good parents. I retired at age 60 to tend to the needs of my husband as he battled his illness. In 2000, I heard there was going to be a meeting at the Silver Lake Recreation Center to discuss with the Facility Director activities for seniors. Thirty-one of us showed up at the urging of Lia LoMedico who gathered signatures from her neighbors. We were told that we had to organize as a club in order to use the facility. I was hooked. My involvement at first followed the needs of my husband. I began a club newsletter that I still do today. My involvement grew as I began to define my life as a single person, after my husband’s death. Three years ago, I began writing a column addressing senior issues for the Los Feliz Ledger, starting a new career in my older years. Today, I feel very privileged to be president of the club and part of an organization that truly represents grass roots community efforts. The club, now with over 670 members, is doing good things on behalf of older adults in our society. I may be the current leader now, but the success of the club is a result of many wonderful people working together for a common goal. I am pleased I have contributed to its success. The Griffith Park Adult Community Center is located at 3203 Riverside Drive in Los Feliz (next door to Friendship Auditorium). Center Hours are Monday through Friday, 8:30 AM until 4:30 PM. The center has a variety of activities including line dancing, creative writing, yoga, guitar, art, table games, and more. A library, a computer lab, and conference room are also available. Delicious, low cost lunches are provided everyday. The club meets monthly on the 3rd Wednesday of the month for lunch and a program including a gourmet potluck in June and December. With a membership ($10/year) you can take advantage of monthly day trips and receive a monthly newsletter. To learn more, please contact the center (323) 644-5579 or email Stephanie Vendig at firstname.lastname@example.org