New Neighborhood Voice

Newsletter - Edition 30 - Section 1

October 2, 2005

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Click on a thumbnail to view larger photos - More photos are in Section 2

ARUSD Surplus


Richard and Veronica Wildanger


Regional Medical
Center prepares
for expansion


Amanda Scott,
Miss San Jose
Grand Prix


Terrace, a Calif.
PEO Home


Tom Dusek,
Mr. Comet


Take VTA
Rapid 522

Frank Flores

CM Campos
brings funds


Autumn in
Alum Rock Park


Party at
the Rauhs



Vandals on
Alum Rock


Free gas on McKee Road?


It's still
wildfire season

Newsletter Headlines

bullet“Surplus” Property in Alum Rock School District - San Jose has its eyes on the prize
bulletWe Need Pombo’s Road – And It Must be Built! The road is essential by James Desmond
bulletHillcrest Neighbors Form Neighborhood Watch - They’re tired of mail theft, car break-ins
bulletRegional Medical Expansion on Horizon - Patient Access Unhindered by Ben Stephenson
bulletNotable (and Gorgeous) Neighbor Amanda Scott Takes “Miss San Jose Grand Prix” Crown
bulletMarguerite Terrace, A California P.E.O. Home - Come visit our facility by Esther Weger
bulletEmpty Bleach Bottles Might Save Your Life. Say What? - Advice for the Advice-Averse
bulletTom Dusek, “The Heartbeat of JLHS” - “Mr. Comet” serves community by Edie Pricolo
bulletA New Old Way to Ride by John Leyba
bulletNotice of ARUSD Board Vacancy and Request for Applicants
bulletNNV Briefs
bulletU.S. Rep. Zoe Lofgren Announces $575,000 Funding to Fight Youth Crime Here
bulletGive the Gift of Reading! Become a Reading/Writing Tutor for an Adult from Lizelle Festejo
bulletRichard Brown’s Alum Rock Park Photo of the Month - Run, Sue, run!
bulletJust For Fun – Wine, Good Food, Toe-Tapping (and Hip-Wiggling) Music at the Rauhs'
bulletPACT Celebrates Twenty Years – Memorializes Rev. Mary Parker-Eves
bulletBe the First to Know (About San Jose planning permits, etc.) from Councilmember Chuck Reed
bulletOne-Day Diet Advice – Eat ALL You Want For A Great Cause at ARYC
bulletHelp ARYC add programs and resources – Sell your treasures, buy new ones by Tanya Freudenberger
bulletOn Alum Rock Avenue: Little Ornamental Pear Trees at the new library fall victim to vandals
bulletOn McKee Road: Free gasoline perhaps?
bulletDry – Still Dry - Wildfire season lingers on - And a timely poem by Clyde Shurtz
bulletBush Cat
bulletSanta Clara County Parks and Recreation Department Enters 50th Year of Service
bulletUS Rep. Pombo Named One of "The Thirteen Most Corrupt Members of Congress"
bulletFoothill Presbyterian Concert Series - Music Director Jay Jordana by Eileen Parks
bulletCounty Moves Forward on Children’s Shelter Reuse Initiatives from Supervisor Pete McHugh
bulletYou Dig It?
bulletOctober Hot Topics by UC Cooperative Extension Master Gardener Bracey Tiede
bulletNative Nurseries for South Bay Gardeners by Arvind Kumar
bulletMaster Gardeners Love-Apple Lovers Fest – Tomato, Tomahto, Taste Till You’re Blotto!
bulletDeer Resistant “Plants”
bulletCalvary Cemetery – Part IV, The Next Forty Years?
bulletFAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)
bulletWhat happened to the little ornamental pear trees planted at the new Cruz-Alum Rock Library?
bulletIs there any way the community can help prevent more vandalism around the new library?
bulletWhat’s the big construction project going on at the corner of Story and Clayton Roads?
bulletIs there a way I can print just one NNV story rather than printing a whole section?
bulletWhen does NNV come out? Is there any rhyme or reason to the schedule?
bulletIs it true that a rattlesnake bit the editor of NNV in September?

Other Sections:  Letters to the Editor  Deer Resistant Plants  Community Bulletin Board  NNV Archives

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“Surplus” Property in Alum Rock School District

The City of San Jose has its eyes on the prize

The September 22nd ARUSD board meeting agenda item was simple enough: “4.1 Surplus Property – Proposal Presentation(s)” it read. However, the issues are anything but simple. The community was invited to a “meeting to entertain proposals from collective City of San Jose Departments” relating to the “disposition” of school district surplus properties.

The City has ideas for recreational use of “surplus” parcels at three ARUSD schools, Joseph George Middle, Ocala and Cesar Chavez elementary schools. They also are very interested in the 7.1 acre former Grandin Miller elementary school site (near the intersection of King and Story Roads) for a combined retail/housing/soccer field proposal. Representatives of the City’s Planning and Redevelopment Departments cited the community’s great need for more recreational space - pointing out that the national standard for soccer* fields is one per every 5,000 citizens. San Jose has just one field for each 23,000! Also, San Jose has nowhere near the 3.5 acres of park space per 1,000 citizens that is considered basic. The City says polling of the citizens shows that more recreational space and the preservation of school land are priorities. The City proposes to purchase or lease acreage at these four sites – to “upgrade the greenbelt,” as they put it. They did not mention the fact that they covet any large pieces of open land so they can be developed down the road.

“The property is not for sale,” ARUSD board president, Lalo Morales, assured the audience. “We’re just listening to the City’s proposals.” His words did not deter the City’s representatives from their enthusiastic presentations nor did they dissuade about ten citizens from speaking out on the topic. “We don’t need to sell our schools; we don’t need more houses or stores around here,” claimed a parent of the now-closed Miller school. A Joseph George teacher shared a maxim he learned from his ancestors, “Never, ever get rid of the land – you’ll never get it back. However, if you have to sell it, get the highest, fairest, price you can” – probably implying that he doubted that the City would be paying market rate for the land.

Several PACT (People Acting in Community Together) leaders spoke in favor of the City’s proposed 1.5 – 2 acre park at Joseph George. There are no parks within ¾ of a mile of the school. “PACT has been working with Councilmember Nora Campos for years to create open space which is necessary to the George community,” Diana Wilkerson explained. “I hope the district will be open to working with the City.” Another school neighbor suggested that the success of the Small Schools in the district will mean that more facilities will be needed. “Schools need to grow,” she said. “Consider the children of the district.”

Board President Morales mentioned the reservations he has about working with the City. He cited their “lack of cooperation” in some previous joint projects. Board member Tanya Freudenberger proposed the possibility of a collaboration between the District and the City. “That could be part of the negotiations,” responded the Planning Department rep.

The Alum Rock School District, like so many others, is struggling financially and could certainly use the funds these property sales or leases would bring. However, the district may very well need all the land it owns for schools to educate the growing population of the future. Taxpayers have an interest as well. Selling to release a one-time flush of cash is seen as many by short-sighted. When land is needed for future schools, it will be priced at 21st century prices – and of course taxpayers will foot the bill.

So this was Step One in the City’s renewed efforts to procure ARUSD land. Members of our community would be well-advised to follow the ball as the discussions develop. The Alum Rock Educational Foundation will present its input on the surplus land issues at the ARUSD board meeting on October 6th. Watch the NNV Community Bulletin Board for details on the meeting. Your citizen input is vital.


Meanwhile, NNV sort of stumbled into a "demonstration" prior to the Surplus Property presentations. A large group of ARUSD teachers – many carrying signs and placards were beseeching the members of the board to “Settle our contract!” And “Give us our benefits!” Several 30-year plus teachers spoke passionately about their work in the district. “Our work is becoming more and more challenging, but we’re getting fewer and fewer benefits,” lamented one. It is fascinating to see the angst which goes on between school districts and their employees and the compromises which must be made to make our schools run. Attend some meetings – you won’t be bored! Maybe you’d like to write about them for NNV?

Click here for photos from this meeting.

* NNV Note: John Leyba, who also attended the meeting, believes the ratio of sports-fields-to-residents cited actually referred to BASEBALL, not soccer fields. The number was in reference to the importance of the baseball fields at Ocala School, he says.

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We Need Pombo’s Road – And It Must be Built!

Even if Pombo Real Estate benefits, one NNV reader thinks the road is essential

By James Desmond, Roseville, CA

I grew up in Vista Grande Heights, spent more time than I can remember riding my bike up and down Mount Hamilton Road and through the (now closed) upper approach to Alum Rock Park with its blessedly shady downhill course to Penitencia Creek Road. Surfing the net recently, I ran across NNV and have been a dedicated reader since.

In August, I returned to San Jose, from my home in Roseville, for a social occasion. Having just read in NNV and other places about the controversy surrounding the proposed Mount Hamilton Freeway, AKA "Pombo's Road," I decided to drive into San Jose via Del Puerto Canyon and San Antonio Valley.

I drove through there at about 4:00 to 5:30 in the afternoon - the trip from I-5 to Alum Rock takes about an hour and a half. I had the privilege to choose to drive that way. Very soon, that choice will become a necessity for people, freeway or no freeway.

As I drove down I-5 below Tracy, I noticed that there were a lot of signs advertising large chunks of land for sale. Not surprisingly, some of the "For Sale" signs along the Interstate bore the name of "Pombo Real Estate." From the Modesto turnoff to Patterson (which is where Del Puerto Canyon comes out to I-5), there is not much development, not much signage. As you pull off at Patterson, however, there are housing communities already being built. It will be only a matter of time before the people who buy those houses - if they work in the Valley - will discover that there is a hilly "short cut" into the Valley, and that "short cut" will take them over Mount Hamilton.

In short, a new road has to be built. We can talk and discuss all day about widening I-205 and I-580, but all that will result in is more traffic tie-ups on the I-680 Sunol Grade and the Sinclair Freeway in Milpitas.

I think Representative Pombo's ideas regarding "tunneling" in the Mount Hamilton area are foolish. If nothing else, the process of tunneling into a granite mountain is sure to upset some of the extraordinarily delicate instruments that sit on top of that mountain.

At the same time, Representative Zoe Lofgren's total dismissal of even the concept of a new road is equally as foolish, and even more short-sighted.

There are other routes that can go through the Diablo Range, and other ways to make a new highway come into the Valley (Quimby Road, Yerba Buena/Silver Creek Road, direct connection to State 85 at Bernal Road, etc.). But make no mistake, another road across the Diablo Range must be built. Not could, not should, MUST be built. When our highway system was initially designed, no one could even conceive of the Santa Clara Valley having a population in excess of one million souls, but the Valley has already blown through that level and could even challenge the two million mark.

As I write this, I am watching the devastation that is occurring in New Orleans, and one of the main problems that those poor souls in New Orleans have been dealing with is the fact that there are only three ways out of New Orleans, and two of them were destroyed (one by flood, one by structural failure) and the third was compromised. Much the same situation exists for the Santa Clara Valley, and when the Big One hits, having more routes of egress from a disaster area is better than trying to jam more and more people onto fewer routes. Anyone who was at Candlestick Park for the Loma Prieta Earthquake knows what I am talking about.

Roads are not Bad Things, if put in the right places and built for the right purposes. NIMBY attitudes by and large are Bad Things. Much of the reaction I have seen from the Pombo proposal here and elsewhere has been based on NIMBY thinking, and in my opinion that is wrong. Unless someone is able to promote or provide a workable alternative to a proposal like this, going NIMBY is the worst thing you can do - and a guarantee that the road will be built down your throat, like it or not.

Road builders have a long memory. No one ever thought the West Valley Freeway would be built, nor the Guadalupe Parkway down south of I-280. Even if it takes more than 40 years, the NIMBYs always run out of steam. Better to provide a productive alternative, engage in something called 'dialogue,' before your worst fear comes to life.

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Hillcrest Neighbors Form Neighborhood Watch

They’re tired of mail theft and car break-ins and now they are organized!

Mail thieves and punks who break into cars have been very active in the Hillcrest neighborhood – especially during the last six months or so. Hillcrest is a tight little “County pocket” of about 200 homes which nestle in the L shape formed by the western edges of the San Jose Country Club golf course. Readers may have noticed the charming old signs marking Hillcrest at the corner of Fairway Drive and McKee Road. The area is not so “charming,” however, when even gardeners’ tools are being swiped from their trucks – in broad daylight!

“We’re tired of being robbed and pilfered!” said one man – with excited agreement from the rest of the crowd in the meeting hall of Foothill Presbyterian Church. Thievery has become so blatant and rampant that 92 families (so far) who live in the neighborhood have decided to coalesce and become the kind of neighbors who look out for one another – and one another’s property. They have formed the Hillcrest Neighborhood Watch with minimal assistance of the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Department.

NNV attended the formation meeting on Wednesday evening, September 14th. Because he was carving a little time out of his shift, the sheriff’s representative who was to speak, Deputy Alan Pham, was late arriving. This did not deter Richard and Veronica Wildanger, who organized the meeting, from accomplishing a great deal of the minutiae necessary to get an organization started before the deputy came hurriedly in the back door. The seventy-or-so assembled neighbors didn’t wait for the deputy’s presentation before determining who would be block captains. Most impressively, someone came forward to volunteer for every street – and in the cases of long streets, there were two volunteers!

No time was lost as the Wildangers reconfigured the meeting – discussing the items from the end of the agenda first so that all that was left when the deputy arrived was his presentation. There were productive discussions of the side benefits of forming a neighborhood coalition such as neighborhood safety, organizing earthquake and disaster preparedness, community clean-up days, getting improved traffic control signage, convincing drivers (themselves in many cases!) to slow down and establishing a bike safety program for the kids.

When he caught his breath, the deputy began showing “In a Burglar’s Own Words,” a “very old video with people in funny hairstyles of the 1960’s and 70’s,” he said. The elderly video and the spread-too-thin deputy are more indications of the budget cut-backs which are plaguing our local government agencies. Believe it or not, before the 15-minute video was finished, Deputy Pham was summoned away to another call!

The Hillcrest Neighborhood Watch will soldier on with limited organizational support from law enforcement, but if their first meeting is any indication of their resolve, they’ll take a big bite out of crime on Rennie, Fairway, Greenside, Gordon, Club, Crest and Oakmore Drives.

Click here for photos from the meeting. Even though our County Sheriff's Department doesn't have the funds to support Neighborhood Watch, the related information is still on their Web site: Neighborhood Watch, Identity and Mail Theft

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Regional Medical Center Expansion on Horizon

Patient Access to be Unhindered During Construction Process

By Ben Stephenson

The widely-publicized expansion of Regional Medical Center of San Jose is now on the immediate horizon as the venerable hospital readies to break ground this month to begin the highly anticipated $155-million venture.

In the coming weeks and months, Regional embarks on a path that will create several new facilities on the hospital's campus, in addition to upgrades to existing hospital features. Included in the expansion plans is the construction of a 120,000-square-foot medical office building that will also house Regional's new Cancer Care Institute. In addition, the project's efforts will result in a new patient wing as well as expansions to the intensive care unit, surgical suites, and the hospital's trauma and emergency departments.

"This is an exciting time for Regional and our surrounding neighborhoods," said Bill Gilbert, CEO of the hospital since 1999. "These new facilities will provide our doctors, nurses and other support staff a better place to practice a higher level of health care. Our community will discover a variety of new resources here and a more patient-friendly environment."

With expansion slated to begin this fall, Regional is doing its part to make sure patient access and treatment go unhindered throughout the multi-year construction period. This includes the continuation of its complimentary valet parking service, as well as the temporary relocation of the popular Regional UrgentCare Clinic, which will remain on the hospital's campus.

"Despite everything that's going to happen here, patient safety and access remain our number-one concern," said Gilbert. "We are asking patients and visitors to 'excuse our dust' while the expansion is underway, but, rest assured, patient treatment will not be compromised."

Click here to see how the expanded Regional Medical Center will look. For more information, please contact 1 (888) RMC-8881 or visit

UrgentCare Update
As mentioned, Regional Medical Center's UrgentCare Clinic - a convenient and smart alternative to the emergency department for the treatment of minor ailments such as various illnesses, broken bones, skin lacerations, among other cases - will be temporarily relocated to the Northeast part of the hospital's campus while expansion is ongoing. The popular facility operates from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., seven days per week. Most insurances are accepted.

For more information about Regional Medical Center of San Jose and its services, please contact 1(888) RMC-8881 (Spanish or English) and 1 (888) RMC-8811 (Vietnamese).

NNV Note: Regional Medical Center is co-sponsoring the Women's Health Forum at National Hispanic University on Saturday, October 15 from 9:00 AM to 12:30 PM. There will be a groundbreaking ceremony at RMC on Wednesday, October 26 from 4:00 PM to 6:00 PM for the hospital expansion.  See our Community Bulletin Board for more information.

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New Neighborhood Voice Founding Sponsors


Lifestyle Properties, Call Ellen Rauh at (408) 929-1925,
The REALTOR© You Choose Does Make a Difference, E-mail 


Caskey Country Club Properties, Call Larry and Barbara Caskey at (408) 926-5400


E.M.S. LLC, Environmental Management Systems, (408) 501-4200
A full service construction & demolition cleanup, hauling and recycling company


Eileen Parks, Windermere Silicon Valley Properties, (408) 251-5860
"When the follow through counts, call Eileen" - or e-mail 


Keith Bush, Artist/Sculptor, (408) 923-6666, 


MBA ARCHITECTS, Marvin Bamburg AIA, (408) 297-0288, 
Residential, commercial, industrial, historic preservation & mixed use projects; 


Call or click today or e-mail 


The financial planning firm PW Johnson, Jason Papier, (408) 747-1222
"Our best product is peace of mind."

And We'd Like to Welcome Our New 2005 Sponsors


RAM REALTORS - "Serving you since 1965" in Alum Rock Village
Call us at (408) 259-4920 or E-mail Frank B. Morales or Cecilia Echavarria


The Coffee Cup, Finest French Pastries, Country Club Plaza
Sun-Mon 6AM–2PM, Tue-Sat 6AM – 4PM, 3477 McKee Road, (408) 254-0755


Robin Edwards, Inc., Engineering Contractor, (408) 244-4791
CA Lic. 762792 A&B, "Basements, retaining walls, and complex foundations"


Regional Medical Center of San Jose, 
225 North Jackson Avenue, San Jose, CA 95116-1691, 1-888-RMC-8881, Dedicated To Your Well Being.

Notable (and Gorgeous) Neighbor Takes Grand Prix Crown

Amanda Scott wins “Miss San Jose Grand Prix” title

NNV Note: The San Jose Grand Prix race had a really important Eastside connection which Dan Gentile didn’t tell us about! 2005 Miss San Jose Grand Prix, beautiful Amanda Scott, lives here in the East Highlands. Next step for Amanda will be a round trip flight to Mexico City (with accommodations and $1,000 spending money) to participate in the Champ Car World Series Awards Night and join the “Face Of Champ Car” Dream Team. She will take part in a final competition which will determine the “ambassador” for the 2006 Champ Car World.

NNV interviewed Amanda to find out more about this lovely young neighbor and how she was chosen for her new role.

NNV: How did you happen to enter the competition for the “2005 Face of Champ Car”?

Amanda Scott: I read that the San Jose Grand Prix was coming to town in the Mercury News, so I decided to visit the website because I was interested in attending the races. On the website, I learned about the Miss San Jose Grand Prix competition, so I called the event coordinator and asked how I could enter. He mentioned that I must place in one of four preliminary rounds held in both San Jose and San Francisco, so I entered the Jillian's competition in SF and won first place in my heat! This secured my spot as one of the official 2005 San Jose Grand Prix finalists.

NNV: Is this the first competition of this type in which you’ve been involved?

A.S.: No, I have been competing in Miss Hawaiian Tropic pageants since 2003, and just this year I was named Miss Hawaiian Tropic Asian-American 2005. I will be competing in the Miss Hawaiian Tropic National pageant in Hawaii on October 2. I have also competed in the Miss Santa Clara pageant in 1998.

NNV: Is it necessary to have any particular “talent” beyond being “confident, reliable, friendly, etc.”? (Obviously you must be extremely attractive and photogenic!)

A.S.: No, there was not a talent portion in the Miss San Jose Grand Prix pageant, but rumor has it that there will be judging on talent for the Champ Car World Series in November. I plan to perform a kickboxing routine.

NNV: Were you especially interested in car racing before you became involved with this? (Are you a LOT more interested now?)

A.S.: No, to be honest, I was not a fan of racing until now. In the bay area, most people are either a fan of baseball or football (Go Giants and 49ers!). But since becoming Miss SJGP, I pay special attention to the Champ Car races, as I will be drilled on the drivers stats during the Champ Car World Series. We will be judged on how well we interview the drivers, speak in front of the camera, etc.

NNV: Are you a student or do you have a regular mundane position somewhere? If you’re a student, where do you go to school and what’s your major? If you work, can you give us an idea of what you do?

A.S.: I graduated from San Jose State in 2002, where I earned a degree in Business-Marketing. I have been working full time at a semiconductor company for the past three years, managing tradeshows and creating my company's marketing materials.

NNV: Do you live with your family here in the East Highlands?

A.S.: I currently am living at home, but I am about to buy my own home within the next month.

NNV: How old are you, if we may ask? Are you engaged or do you have someone “special” in your life?

A.S.: I was 25 as of September 13. The most special people in my life are my parents, my younger sister, and my boxer, Toby.

NNV: When will you be going to Mexico City? How do you feel about competing on an international level? Do you think the “ambassadorship” would be a full-time job? Do you think it could lead to an exciting career?

A.S.: I am looking forward to Mexico City. The competition will fall on the first weekend of November. I was told that being the "Official Face of Champ Car" spokesmodel would be a full time job, but to be honest, I am not entirely sure I am ready to give up my career in marketing. It's just that I have worked hard for the past seven years to pursue my marketing career, and I am not sure I am ready to give it up to travel and do promotions for Champ Car, just to lose my title a year later. Does that sound crazy?

NNV: Not at all – it sounds like you’re a very level-headed person. What’s the best part of this experience?

A.S.: The best part of this experience was the opportunity to present the trophies to the winners, ride in the pace car, and wave in the Mercedes parade on race day. It was exciting seeing my face on the screens around the track and in the news later that night. I guess you can say it was my 15 minutes of fame.

Click here for photos of Amanda. More photos are in the San Jose Grand Prix Photo Gallery.

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Marguerite Terrace, A California P.E.O. Home

Come visit our beautiful facility

By Esther Weger, Director of Resident Services

NNV Note: The California PEO Home on the northeast corner of Alum Rock and Kirk Avenues has long seemed a bit of a mystery to people in the neighborhood. It has always been a quiet, reserved spot and it was hard to catch a glimpse of its residents. Times have changed. A facility which had always been a retirement home for a select group of women, has changed its name and opened its doors to the neighborhood. Men included! Now called Marguerite Terrace, it invites the community at large to consider it for their retirement home needs.

Residents and staff of Marguerite Terrace are pleased to reach out to our neighborhood community. As a means of introduction, we are a retirement community with a skilled nursing center on campus.

Now open to the general community, Marguerite Terrace was formerly known as the California P.E.O. Home. It was built in 1963 for members of the P.E.O. Sisterhood. The first campus was established in Alhambra, California in 1934.

The P.E.O. Sisterhood was founded in 1869 by eight young women attending Iowa Wesleyan College in Mount Pleasant, Iowa. The Sisterhood has a long history of providing educational support to women in the form of scholarships, loans and grants. These opportunities are not limited to members.

Marguerite Terrace is located at the corner of Alum Rock Avenue and Kirk Avenue. Situated on over 4 acres, the campus is a beautiful facility with flowers, especially roses, flowering shrubs and trees - even fruit trees.

Among the amenities offered to residents are an art studio and indoor pool. A monthly activity calendar regularly includes a variety of events and excursions. A recent example is a visit to the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco to view the Tibet: Treasures from the Roof of the World exhibit. The next excursion is to Felton for a train ride to the top of Bear Mountain.

For anyone considering moving to a retirement community, the family at Marguerite Terrace extends a warm welcome to visit and meet like-minded residents. Please contact Manuel Melchor at (408) 729-2017 for a personal tour or further information. Bridge players are especially in demand!

From everyone at Marguerite Terrace we extend warm greetings and best wishes to all our friends and neighbors.

Click here for photos of Marguerite Terrace.

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Empty Bleach Bottles Might Save Your Life. Say What?

Advice for the Advice-Averse among us

If you’re as up-to-the-gills in “Disaster Preparedness” as the rest of us, you certainly don’t want to think about going to the supermarket and purchasing bottled water to store in your garage in preparation for The Big One. If you’re like our Orange County friend, you don’t store any water at all because she heard that people are supposed to store something like one-gallon-per-day-per-person for ten days worth and that would be forty dumb gallons – and that’s ridiculous - so why bother, she says.

Well, if you didn’t digest anything else from the news stories on the Hurricane Katrina disaster and the non-stop blatting of advice which relentlessly filled the newspapers and airwaves afterwards, you must have noticed that water was the commodity most sorely needed by the people affected by the storms. Rich and poor alike, people in “the projects” and people in mansions – no one had running water. And, no one can live without the stuff. Electricity and food are wonderful. But water is essential.

Even if you’d rather not think about the scary details of The Big One, you can probably glom onto the fact that buckled roads and failed bridges won’t carry rescuers or commodities into our neighborhood and certainly not to our homes. As we saw in the New Orleans coverage, no one could get supplies or help even to the elderly or infirm.

Clear Message: Everyone is on his own. You can really only count on you. If you do only one thing for yourself, start putting water away on a regular basis. As you empty a chlorine bleach bottle, fill it with fresh water and recap it. The few drops of bleach left in the bottle will keep the water drinkable. Stick the bottles anywhere you can find space. If you really get jazzed on this, you can write on the bottle with a marker the date you stored the water. Don’t worry if you don’t have one-gallon-per-person, etc. Some water is better than no water, obviously, even if our friend doesn’t think so.

There are lots of not-very-onerous little things one can do to make oneself self-sustaining. Canned goods, flashlights, and portable radios are items that are easy to stock up on. Extra batteries are good to have anyway. You can’t keep disaster away from your door, but you can be sure you won’t become a sad statistic who hadn’t prepared.

If you want to do more, please don’t miss the Community Bulletin Board item about a Disaster Preparedness presentation at the Berryessa Library on October 4.

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Tom Dusek, “The Heartbeat of James Lick”

“Mr. Comet” serves our community "with honor, not for honor"

By Edie Pricolo

If, thirty years ago, you had had reason to walk the halls of James Lick High School, you might well have met up with a friendly gentleman with a definite twinkle in his eye, most likely surrounded by a group of young people. This would have been Mr. Dusek, a man who was known to many as Mr. Comet and, to many others, as “The Heartbeat of James Lick.” His rapport with the students is legendary and his position as the go-to person for almost any request or information regarding James Lick is well-known by everyone in the community. I believe he touched the lives of every person who ever went through their high school years during his time there because he made it his priority to make sure that the Lick experience was a happy and productive one, always working with his committees to make sure the running of the various activities was smooth and efficiently accomplished down to the smallest detail.

A real testimonial to this, in the words of one of his former school officers: “In my Junior year, as Commissioner of Activities, I was so distressed and distracted by the fact the assembly for crowning the Snow King wasn’t going well, I announced the wrong winner, announcing the boy we practiced with, and not the real winner. I confessed to Dusek later, and he just said “OK, we just announce the real winner on the loudspeaker. Apologize to the winner, would you?” He knew I felt awful and stupid and he didn’t make me feel worse than I already did. Just taught me how to fix the problem.” What a wonderful way to teach people how to move on and make the best of any unfortunate or awkward situation, something everyone needs to learn and many don’t learn at such an early age.

Mr. Dusek, who was one of the original faculty members of James Lick High School when it opened in 1950, still lives here in our eastside neighborhood and is active in our community with his lovely wife, Rose. We are so lucky to have him here. He is a huge resource for us on the history of the area: the school, the people who had the vision to develop the district and run it exceptionally well during the huge burst of population growth during the ‘60s as we changed from an agricultural to a suburban environment, the Lick alumni who have gone on to become responsible and productive community members, many of them well-known far beyond our little area here in the foothills.

What great stories he can tell.

For his first six years at Lick, he was a member of the Business Education Department, then was promoted to Dean of Students in 1956 and stayed on for 22 years. During that time, he also coached the golf team for six years, and sponsored the Swing and Swayers and Future Business Leaders of America.

Through the years in the Dean’s position, Mr. Dusek encouraged and taught the young people who worked on all the extra-curricular activities of the school year just how to put on a successful event, from the planning to the clean-up, working together for a common goal - all marvelous life-lessons you can’t learn in a classroom and that so many of these now-adults use every day in their careers and community work. What a gift they were given! Mr. Dusek was awarded three Yearbook dedications while at J.L.H.S. and has stated “It has been my privilege and pleasure to try to make each year at James Lick a memorable one for the Comets.”

There is a small building with the letters C-O-M-E-T-S across the front in the Inner Quad. This has been the hub of all the student extra-curricular activity for years and was renamed recently The Tom Dusek Activity Center, a fitting acknowledgement of his huge contribution to the success of the school’s students he influenced.

While at Lick, Mr. Dusek organized many leadership camps for Santa Clara County student leaders and those statewide as Senior Advisor for the California Association of Student Councils (CASC). He attended six National Association Student Council conferences and was the recipient of the Jack Moore Award, the highest award that can be given to an outstanding Activity Director. He is also a statewide member of the Hall of Fame of California Association of Directors of Activities. A wall in his home is covered with plaques and awards for his many achievements during his long career. One of those plaques reads “To Mr. Dusek, the Heartbeat of James Lick”.

Mr. Dusek’s life has been an interesting one, to be sure. He was born to cotton-raising sharecroppers in Ennis, Texas, in 1922 and he and his twin brother were number six and seven of eight children. He laughingly says “I’ve been told that, as a baby, I was so ugly that when friends came to see the twins, my mother brought my brother out twice… .” In 1929 his mother’s sister wrote to them about employment opportunities in Monterey and “My dad packed up everything we owned and loaded it on our 1922 and 1923 “Star” cars, and we headed west, much like the “Grapes of Wrath” story”. The family moved to Monterey to work in the fish canneries and that’s where he went to school, playing trombone in the Monterey High School band.

His first job was at the Del Monte Sand Plant in 1941, loading 100 lb sacks of sand on box cars for 65 cents/hour; a stint at the Post Office followed. When he realized he was about to be drafted and learned that a technical skill was needed to get into the Air Force, he went down to a local bicycle shop and qualified as a bicycle repairman and then enlisted in the Air Force. After being stationed at the Salinas AFB for 12 months his group was shipped off to England to Stoke-on-Trent in the Midlands, and finally to the Kimbolton Air Field where Tom’s duties were providing and maintaining personal equipment for both American and RAF B-17 crews. This equipment “consisted of electrically heated suits (it gets COLD at 30,000 feet), parachutes, oxygen masks, and life jackets for the B-17 crews.”

After the war, like many others, he went to San Jose State on the G.I. Bill and it was there he received his credential for Business Education. He taught at James Lick from 1950-78 and at Silver Creek HS 1978-83.

In 1948 he married Mayrose Dennison, who passed away in 1984. They had three children and four grandchildren. In 1991, he married his present wife, Rose Chiotti (JLHS 1950-54), who was one of his students in 1950. “A match made in heaven,” he said. Together, they are active in the Fabulous Fifties Alumni group and attend class reunions whenever he is invited. His favorite hobby is collecting and restoring classic ‘50s and '60s Ford and Mercury cars (he has four at the moment, all in beautiful condition).

Mr. Dusek’s favorite words to live by, written by Ralph W. Sockman, are as follows:

“Give the best you have to the highest you know and do it now. If we do the duty next to us and then the duty next to that, light begins to break on life’s ultimate issues. And when we persevere to the apparent limit of our own strength, a higher power comes to our aid -- provided our purpose is to serve WITH honor and not FOR honor.”

Click here for photos of Tom.

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