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CONVERSATIONS WITH ART
OLDER ADULTS RESOURCE FAIR
The Important, Influential Books in our Lives - Revisited
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Eminent Domain, 710 Highway
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JEFF GUTSTADT - FORENSIC PATHOLOGIST
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Review of 2022, Consideration of 2023
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WALK WITH EASE
LINDA SIMMONS - BEYOND THE VILLAGEBy Blog Master
LINDA SIMMONS – BEYOND THE VILLAGE
Pasadena Village member, Linda Simmons, has had a long and multi-faceted career. She taught Choral Music, English, and History for 36 years, mostly in the Monrovia Unified School District, and then put her teaching experience to further use by supervising beginning teachers in the California teaching credential program for another 16 years. She retired, just as Covid was beginning, at age 79.
Even while she was working, though, Linda found the time and energy to pursue other avocations. Her love of classical music began in her early childhood, listening to music on the radio, studying piano, and attending concerts and performances in the San Francisco Bay Area. After teaching for three years at Delano High School, she moved to Southern California and took post-graduate courses at Occidental College which was renowned for its Choral Music program. For 17 years, while working full time as a teacher, she managed Pasadena Pro Musica, the second-oldest performing group in Los Angeles, second only to the Pasadena Symphony. The group is now in its 58th season. Linda sang with the group from 1982 through 2018 and continued as personnel manager after her many years of overall management. “It was a fabulous journey, singing with Pasadena Pro Musica, Los Angeles Master Chorale, and Robert Shaw’s Carnegie Hall Chorus. I’ve had the honor of working with world-class singers, orchestras, and conductors for most of my adult life. Travelling all over the world and making so many friends has also brought me great joy.”
Linda has also always been involved in civic affairs. She remembers her civic involvement from her years as a Girl Scout working on neighborhood projects and being aware of the need to help others. But her major influence dates back to her High School years. In her junior year, her High School English teacher was Leo Ryan, who was later the senior class advisor for her graduating class of 1959. In 1973, Leo Ryan, no longer a teacher, became the US Congressman from California’s 11th District. Many of us still have vivid memories of the 1978 incident in which Congressman Ryan was assassinated at an airstrip while attempting to investigate claims that people were being held against their will at the People’s Temple in Jonestown, Guyana. After the shootings at the airstrip, nearly 1000 members of the Jonestown settlement died in a mass murder-suicide by drinking a cyanide –laced drink. As Linda recalls, “Leo had a tremendous influence on me. He always had time to talk with me and other students, even after he had left teaching. He went to Guyana only with his legislative counsel, Jackie Speirs, because no other politician wanted to get involved. He was dedicated to helping his constituents and sacrificed his life to that end.”
Linda loves living in Pasadena. She recalls one of her early community involvements that resulted after the terrible fires on 1993 that swept down Eaton Canyon and into parts of the City itself. It turns out that Linda’s Upper Hastings Ranch neighborhood had no neighborhood roster. There was no way for people to get in touch with their neighbors, so Linda created a roster. And then she worked with volunteer, Perry Helm, from the Pasadena Fire Department, who created the “Map Your Neighborhood” project. Perry also gave a presentation for Pasadena Village in January of 2021. Linda guided her neighborhood through the step-by-step process so that they would be better prepared for disasters and know what to do afterwards.
More recently, she has been organizing support to prevent building on the toxic site at 3200 East Foothill Blvd., until soil and water issues are completely remediated. “I heard environmental scientist, Dr. Kristin Shrader-Frechette, speak about a possible mixed-use development on the ten-acre site and the potential health hazards that were present. My husband died of cancer and I don’t want anyone to have to go through what he did, so I did my research and found out all I could about the project in order to help Dr. Shrader-Frechette alert Pasadena residents about the seriousness of the issue. A couple of us collected 750 petition signers in the summer of 2021 to encourage the City Council to revisit the issue now that new evidence regarding the toxicity of the site is available.” The case is still in the courts and Linda is following its progress.
How does Linda decide on which projects or political candidates to support? For one thing, she is a very sociable and inquisitive person. “I talk to people, have coffee with them to find out what they want for the city. I think of it as paying it forward for the gift of living here.” Linda says she has supported both Democrat and Republicans for local office. Most recently, she was a volunteer worker for the successful mayoral candidacy of Victor Gordo. She estimates she knocked on 2000 doors a month and spent countless hours on the phone. She distributed campaign material and got out the vote. She helped arrange for speaking engagements and handled logistics.
Nowadays Linda has her civic eye on the upcoming races for Pasadena Unified School District Board of Directors. She’ll be having coffee and visiting with people while she gets herself knowledgeable about the issues and challenges facing the School District. When she finds the person she thinks will do a good job, she will throw herself into the campaign.
In addition to Linda’s love of music and commitment to civic matters, she also is a gifted photographer. During the 1980s she was chosen by the Urban Conservation Department to be the City’s large-format photographer to document all historical landmarks in black-and-white and color using large-scale negatives. Her photos of the historic landmarks were exhibited by the City at the Pasadena Central Library as part of the opening events of the 1984 Olympics.
And now that Linda is retired and a member of the Pasadena Village, she has involved herself in Village activities. She is a member of two affinity groups – the Critical Issues discussion group and the Spanish conversation group. She is chair (naturally) of the 91104/91107 Neighborhood group, is a member of the Volunteer Coordinating Committee, and works each spring on the Annual Meeting.
It is apparent after talking to Linda that she is a person with great reserves of energy. “I am really a classic case of ADHD. I am definitely hyperactive and always have been. This type of energy is hardwired; it doesn’t go away with age.” What helped Linda was her ability, nurtured by family and supportive adults, to channel her energy in positive directions, such as music and athletics. The result has been a full life, lived with purpose and joy, undergirded with an attitude of always looking forward – always looking to do something of meaning. Linda Simmons is a great example of a Village member who is making a difference Beyond the Village.