Spring is in the air. The mosaic mural on 25th Street displays a history of our port town. Under the guidance of artist Julie Bender, connecting the landmarks and historical moments were the hands of the community that helped to create the mural. Pieces of lives, like china from a grandmother, and family homes are grouted together to tell the story of our town by the sea.
MY GRANDPA’S FISHING BOAT
Caitlyn Piercy, associate editor of San Pedro Today, was very close to her grandfather, Joe Lauro, known to many as “Joe Brown.” When she was a little girl growing up in San Pedro, her doting grandfather picked her up from school every day, from preschool up until her sophomore year in high school, when he passed away in 2003. Lauro, a retired commercial fisherman, made dinner for her family almost every night. He was a great cook and would deliver the food in his beloved pots and pans regularly to their house. The next day, they would return the pots and pans, and he would do it all over again. He always wanted all his family and friends to be well fed, as his motto was, “You gotta eat!”
Another tradition for the grandpa and granddaughter was visiting Ports O’ Call on walks, where they would often make stops at the fish market, sometimes throwing an occasional mackerel to the sea lions swimming along the docks. They’d also walk over to the nearby fishing boats and say hello, where everybody knew Joe and liked talking with him about their vessels or their catch. The waterfront and fish market felt like home to Joe, so much, in fact, that he even weighed a baby Caitlyn on the fish scale (he cleaned it first, of course). When Joe passed away, the motorcade from his funeral detoured to the waterfront, where it passed fishing boats that had their flags at half-mast in his honor.
One of Joe’s fishing boats was called the Sea Master. Caitlyn and her mother Rosemarie “Bitsy” Lauro, were interested in having a tile included on the mural in honor of Joe’s memory, so Caitlyn submitted a photo of the boat, with a faint view of Joe on the deck, to Julie Bender. When Caitlyn first saw the Sea Master’s tile on the wall, she immediately burst into tears, as she knew this is where he belonged.
Joe began working on boats when he was around 11-years-old, and dedicated his life, career, and many days away from his family so he could help provide for them. Thanks to Julie Bender and her vision, his hard work is celebrated and his memory lives on in this new, special place. One small tile has made such a huge difference to her family, as being part of the mural is a way to share their family history with the community. The story of a loving San Pedro fisherman who, in his spare time, liked to drop off buckets of squid to his friends and family as a gesture of kindness, is now part of a collection of art and stories to forever be honored within the mosaic mural.
SAIL ON, MATTY BOY
Matty Matich was born and raised in San Pedro. To some, that qualifies him as a “real” San Pedran. His grandparents on both sides were from San Pedro too, making him the third generation of San Pedrans in his family. Last summer, the son of Mike and Shirley Matich, passed away unexpectedly at the age of 16.
Matty was the happiest when he was sailing in the local harbor, leaning back and catching the wind in his sail. He spent six years racing Opti sailboats with Cabrillo Beach Yacht Club. Regattas and boat races took him all over the country, including a lake in Wisconsin. His dad gave him a small motorboat, and he would venture around the harbor with a sense of freedom.
Matty is forever immortalized in the mural doing what he loved the most, sailing the ocean in Opti 17096. He is from a family of fishermen, as his uncle’s bait company is near him on the mural. Another uncle has a tile with birds right above his sailboat. Matty Matich is surrounded by family on the wall and forever connected to San Pedro. His heart will always belong to the sea. Sail on, Matty boy.
DRAGON BOAT CLUB LIKE A ‘BIG FAMILY’
Bernice Baird-Browning has been part of L.A. Harbor Dragon Boat Club for over four years. Four boats are at Cabrillo Youth Waterfront Sports Center in San Pedro, the official home of the club. Each boat holds 18 people who paddle with a steersman, and a drummer who keeps the beat and pace. It is part of the community, but not well known. Hence, the reason the team made sure a tile was included in the mural.
Dragon Boats are best in calm waters with no swells. The club competes in races at various locations. There are adult and youth teams (ages 8 and up), including students who row for high schools and colleges, with the youth team currently looking for new members. Baird- Browning encourages anybody interested (including adults) to try it for free.
Baird-Browning enjoys being on the team and spending time with the group off the water as well. Coaches give pointers on strokes, as the team practices in the harbor for their next race. It is a total-body work out and a good way to improve cardio and arm strength. The Dragon Boat team, according to Baird-Browning, is like a big family, and they are happy to have anybody try it out. Families are welcome, too. For more information, visit laharbordragonboat.com.