San Pedro has had a long love affair with the armed services, but not without cost. This was poignantly illustrated by two recent events honoring a pair of San Pedro Marines who fought more than 60 years apart.
The first was the military funeral at Green Hills Memorial Park for PFC Roger Gonzales, a S`48 San Pedro High School graduate, who was killed in 1950 at the Battle of the Chosin Reservoir during the Korean War. His remains were only recently identified and returned to his family. Hundreds of people, mostly relatives, and friends from his old La Rambla neighborhood who knew of the service only through social media or word of mouth, attended, along with a busload of Marines. Kudos to Green Hills for putting together a moving tribute to one of San Pedro’s lost sons.
The second event was the induction of Ralph DeQuebec in the Los Angeles Sportswalk of Fame as a recipient of the Pat Tillman Award. The cover story of last month’s San Pedro Today, DeQuebec, a 1991 San Pedro High grad, was a gunnery sergeant when he lost both legs in an IED explosion in Afghanistan in 2012. He walked to the microphone at the Sportswalk ceremony on his prosthetic legs and drew a rousing, standing ovation. His tearful thank yous included a touching salute to his former football coach at San Pedro High School, Mike Walsh. Both events got lots of airplay on local television.
On the national front…
Hey, isn’t that…?
If you’re watching pro football (and that’s most of you), you may have noticed a lot of San Pedro lately.
Otis Livingston, the former San Pedro High School (1985) and Kansas basketball star, is an Emmy Award-winning sportscaster in New York, where he’s also been the sideline reporter on New York Giants and Jets games.
John Hussey, probably Mary Star High’s most famous gridiron alum besides Tim Wrightman, is back for his fourth season as a referee in the NFL. He started his NFL career in 2002 as a line judge, the position he had in the 2011 Super Bowl. You don’t have to look very closely to notice the latest Apple Watch commercial, seen regularly during games, was filmed entirely in San Pedro. It starts out in front of the Point Fermin Market on 39th and Pacific, moves to God-mother’s Saloon downtown, and ends up at Cabrillo Beach. Of course, no one unfamiliar with San Pedro would have a clue as to the locale.
Those watching the baseball playoffs got to see another native San Pedran, Aaron Hicks, who is rising to stardom as the starting centerfielder for the New York Yankees. Hicks, the son of San Pedro High School Hall of Famer Jojo Hicks, was born here, but raised in Orange County. It’s obvious where he got all his talent – his aunt is Cardte Hicks, who was inducted into the San Pedro Hall of Fame with her brother.
In the Land of Social Media…
Two thumbs up for the new website, storieslaharborarea.com, featuring interviews with Harbor Area residents, some well-known, some not so well-known, talking about local history. The short vignettes, co-produced by San Pedro Today columnist and Emmy Award-winner, Jack Baric, and L.A. Harbor International Film Festival founder, Stephanie Mardesich, are a promising start to what should be a valuable and entertaining addition to our digital historical archive.
And for you music fans out there, check out the interview on Minnesota Public Radio with San Pedro composer Mark McKenzie (a Minnesota native) on his latest soundtrack for the animated film, Max and Me. The film, telling the true story of Franciscan friar Maximillian Kolbe, who died in Auschwitz and was canonized in 1982, has yet to be released, but the soundtrack is available as a download. The interview is available at yourclassical.org.
More Hall of Famers…
San Pedro High School alum John Burich (W`54) was recently honored when Carson High School named its weight room after him. Burich is a legend in San Pedro; he was a lifeguard at Cabrillo Beach for 50 years (1953-2003) and wrestled professionally. He also was a longtime biology teacher at Carson, where he instituted weight training in 1969 and was credited with helping develop the players who made the Colts a city powerhouse throughout the `70s and `80s. Considering San Pedro High School’s football fortunes during that same period, is it fair to ask how we let this one get away?
San Pedro High School’s Tony Dobra, the most successful softball coach in city history, will be inducted into the LAUSD Hall of Fame next year. Dobra, also inducted into the Sportswalk this year, will be the fifth San Pedro High School alum inducted into the biennial LAUSD hall, joining Willie Naulls, Louise Figlewicz Quick, Frank Endo, and Cardte Hicks.
Jeff Kiesel, my San Pedro High School classmate (W`69) and best man at my wedding, was recently inducted into the Aquatic Capital of America Hall of Fame in Long Beach in the new category of paddling. Kiesel, who starred for both the Pirate and YMCA swim teams, moved from the pool to boat racing in the `70s. He started out in outriggers and was a member of the U.S. national over-50 dragon boat team that finished second in the 2007 World Championships in Sydney. He’s not done; he’s hoping to make the over-60 team next year.
Members of Facebook’s San Pedro Born and Raised and Very Proud group are familiar with the woodcarvings of San Pedro native, Raymond Kinman (I went to school with his late brother, Larry). Now living in Northern California, Kinman was a Disney Imagineer for many years, and will be featured on PBS’s “The American Woodshop” with Scott and Suzy Phillips, when the new season premieres in January. This guy has some mad skills, but don’t take my word for it. Visit his website at wood-carverguru.com.
Steve Marconi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.