City Club

Photo by Mitch Lehman / TRIBUNE
Dr. Steve Park was the San Marino City Club’s keynote speaker for its March meeting.

During his keynote address for the City Club’s March meeting, San Marino resident Dr. Steve Park provided an overview of his life which includes service as a United States Navy medical officer and career as a hospitalist.
In retrospect, an argument could be made that the subject of memory retention would have also sufficed, as Park’s is apparently as sound as the proverbial steel trap.
So is former San Marino educator Loren Kleinrock’s, Park’s former assistant principal during his days at San Marino High School and offensive coordinator for the Titan football team, for which Park was a record-setting wide receiver.
In vivid detail, Park recalled Kleinrock busting him for going to a buddy’s house for lunch even though he was not yet a privileged senior. Kleinrock, meanwhile, recalled one time Park didn’t perfectly execute one of his pass patterns. That these transgressions took place almost 30 years ago was incidental and only seemed to heighten the mutual respect that exists between them to this day.

If Bill Ukropina has a choir, it was to them he was preaching on Tuesday night at the first City Club meeting of 2018, at San Marino Center, and new President Dick Pearson’s maiden journey.
Ukropina, who was born and raised in San Marino before moving across the 210 Freeway into Pasadena, returned to a packed house Tuesday evening where he basically obliterated the mold of a typical presentation during his 60-minute address, which was alternately exhilarating, nostalgic, heart-wrenching and hilarious.
Ukropina took the enterprising approach of providing each dinner guest with a list of 36 people – many of whom were in attendance – who he thanked for inspiring him in one way or another, from his high school English teacher Barbara Barbarics, to the Rev. George Woodward.
But Ukropina also acknowledged a sad anniversary, for it was 49 years to the day that he lost his classmate, neighbor and dear friend, David Robert Thomas, who died in a bicycle accident on January 16, 1969.
“We loved David and we lost him too young,” said Ukropina. “Tonight I dedicate this speech to David and and to everyone on this list,” he said, as he held the legal-sized page aloft.
“I wanted to be a quarterback,” Ukropina said, his voice filling the hall with volume and enthusiasm. He then mentioned the journey of the 1964 San Marino High School varsity football team, which finished the season 5-4 but squeaked into the playoffs thanks to a tie-breaker. The Titans proceeded to defeat El Centro, Loara and Thousand Oaks to win an unlikely CIF championship, a victory that has, obviously, affected him ever since.
Ukropina mentioned two of his heroes from that football team, quarterback Rich Haley and guard John Duling.
“So a few days ago, I looked them up and asked them if they would be here tonight,” said Ukropina. “And here they are.”
The audience applauded as the two former football stars rose from their seats, broad smiles across their faces.
“I wanted to be a quarterback but I weighed about 100 pounds,” Ukropina said, as the cheering quickly switched to laughter. A member of the Titan cross country and track teams, Ukropina explained how he had to travel all the way to the Palouse and Washington State University to realize his aspirations of becoming a signal-caller.
“My fraternity, Sigma Chi, had three teams,” he said. “Team 1 was made up of clearly the best athletes. Team 2 was made up of the backups and Team 3 was everybody else. I played quarterback for Team 3.”
His attention then turned to Conrad Ukropina, the eldest of his three sons, who last year wrapped up a fine career as a placekicker at Stanford. The elder Ukropina chronicled his son’s gridiron journey, from a broken arm as a freshman quarterback at Loyola High School to a game-winning field goal in the closing seconds of his final appearance at Stanford to defeat Notre Dame.
But it wasn’t always a life in high cotton for Conrad Ukropina. His father displayed negative press clippings predicting Conrad’s demise after a poor performance in a Cardinal spring game and another welcoming a new kicker who had been highly recruited.
“Patience, Practice and Perseverance,” said Bill Ukropina, echoing the title of his address, the words appearing on the screen behind him. “My favorite word in the English language is perseverance.”
Bill Ukropina mentioned how hard his son worked to prove his doubters wrong, driving the length of the state to attend practice sessions.
“He worked and worked and worked all summer to be the starter because they brought in a freshman to replace him,” said Bill.
Several subsequent video clips, most accompanied by applause from those in attendance at Tuesday’s meeting, proved otherwise.
Though he scored highly at last year’s combine and was given four personal tryouts by four NFL teams, Conrad was not offered a contract for the 2017 season. Bill Ukropina said that Conrad continues to practice four days a week and will give it one more shot.
Based on what we learned Tuesday, who would be foolish enough to bet against him?
Steve Talt, who was recently appointed to serve a one-year term as mayor, opened the program with a synopsis of what is happening at City Hall.
“The new year is bringing change,’ said Talt. “We have an ad hoc committee that has studied how the city’s administration can be more effective. They are really getting their fingernails dirty and have made 42 recommendations about how we can be more efficient.”
Talt also mentioned the status of several of the city’s commissions as well as plans to draft new ordinances before getting off this zinger.
“If you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact the vice mayor,” Talt joked.

Dr. Hai-Sou Chen, a 35-year resident and former chairman of this city’s Design Review Committee, has told The Tribune that he is declaring his candidacy in the race to fill three seats on the five-member San Marino City Council in the November, 2017 election.

Dr. Chen – a dentist – joins Susan Jakubowski and Calvin Lo as the only three declared candidates thus far. The deadline to declare is in August.

Chen served five years on the Design Review Committee and was the chairman of the DRC in 2014-15. He was president of the Chinese Club of San Marino in 2016 and is current a member of the San Marino Historical Society, City Club, Rotary Club and serves as an advisor to the Chinese Club of San Marino.

Dr. Chen’s experience on the Design Review Committee is one of the factors that drew him to the council race.

“I would very much like to appoint an additional volunteer liaison unit or sub-committee to provide architecture guidance and facilitate communication to residents prior to submitting the building plans,” said Chen. “I think this will help minimize the cost to the applicants and also increase the efficiency of the approval process.”

He is also concerned about the security of residents, citing the recent increase in home burglaries reported by the San Marino Police Dept.

He said it is crucial to update equipment that will “function as additional surveillance assistance to all of the city’s neighborhoods.”

Chen said he has “witnessed many changes” over his 35 years in San Marino and would add a bilingual, Chinese speaking receptionist to help with the daily function of the city. He would also add a bilingual element to the city’s webpage and appoint a volunteer committee “to help newcomers understand the history of San Marino and to adapt to the living requirements of this city.”

He also told The Tribune he wants to “preserve the classic appearance of the city’s development to keep San Marino unique.”

Chen’s wife, Linda Sun, was president of the Chinese Club in 2012 and has co-chaired successful tax campaigns for both the city and school district. A longtime civic volunteer, Sun received the Certificate of Congressional Recognition from United States Congresswoman Judy Chu in April, 2016.

There is a seemingly endless list of subjects that San Marino resident Andy Barth could discuss to fill an hour at City Club, but on Tuesday night, the former school board president was called upon to discuss his role as a team leader for the United States national wrestling team and his experiences at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympiad.

Calling someone who has ever wrestled a “former wrestler” is about as inaccurate as calling someone a “former Marine,” and Barth has engaged in a lifetime of support for the sport.

A New York native, Barth wrestled at Cornell and later established the first endowed head coaching program at his alma mater. His dedication to the sport brought him to the attention of USA Wrestling, its governing body, and he was asked to serve on the board of directors.

“On February 11, 2013, I began a 4-year term on the board of USA Wrestling,” Barth said. “On February 12, 2013, the International Olympic Committee announced it was going to drop wrestling,” he add ed wryly as the audience alternately gasped and laughed.

“That is more than what I expected,” he said. “I was hoping for a little better start.”

Many know the ending of the story, but Barth was kind enough to offer a reminder.

“We did engage in a very successful campaign to get wrestling back in the Olympics,” he said. “Wrestling was saved and reinstated. Wrestling will be safe and you will be watching wrestling in every Olympics going forward,” he said, as the audience applauded.

Dick Pearson, City Club’s 1st Vice President, then asked Barth a few questions, beginning with a query as to how Olympic wrestlers are chosen by their countries.

“The process by which American wrestlers are chosen for the Olympics is a very democratic one,” he said. “They have to earn their spot. I say that because in other countries, coaches might pick someone else. In the United States, the only advantage is that if you won a medal the previous year, you are given a bye to the finals. The Olympic trials are held 5 or 6 months before the Olympics. The process is the same for all styles.”

Given his support of the sport, Barth was asked to serve as a team leader for the United States’ wrestling contingent for the Rio de Janeiro games and received the opportunity to march in the opening ceremony. But things didn’t start off so crisply.

“The very first thing that happened,” he said, holding back on the punchline, “was a 4-hour delay and we missed our connections,” Barth explained as the audience roared with laughter.

“The opening ceremony is a massive, massive event,” he added. “There are 10,400 athletes and many other team leaders who march. The United States contingent was roughly 550 athletes.”

Barth let City Clubbers in on a little secret.

“There was a very hotly contested dispute,” he revealed. “Since the nations were arranged in the language of the home nation, the United States was listed in the ‘E’s’ for Estados Unidos and the Olympic Committee wanted the USA to march out with the E’s. NBC wanted them to walk out with the U’s so that people would watch longer. We walked out with the E’s.”

Barth compared the experience to “the running of the bulls in Pamplona.”

“It happens in such a blur,” he said. “You just walk out. You are trying to hold up your camera…but then a really remarkable thing happens. The barriers between countries break down and within a half hour, there is just a blending and you really get to see what people talk about when they mention the Olympic Spirit. You don’t see any borders anymore. You realize that many athletes train together and know each other. They are happy to see each other and there just become little clusters of color.”

Though complimentary of the experience, Barth told the audience that Rio was not completely prepared for the experience, causing a few glitches.

“The Olympic Village was a very large set of apartment buildings,” Barth said. “The organizing committee stopped paying the workers two weeks beforehand and they thought that with the buildings complete they would get away with it. The workers thought otherwise and vandalized the apartment buildings.”

Barth revealed that the United States Olympic Committee paid out of pocket to bring in contractors and get everything fixed.

“The U.S. Olympic Committee wanted no credit,” said Barth. “They didn’t want to embarrass the Brazilian hosts.”

Barth said the United States “basically, finished 3rd” in wrestling at the Olympics.

“But we want to win. I thought we could have done better,” he said.

His tone quickly changed when he mentioned the Gold Medal-winning performances of Americans Helen Maroulis and Kyle Snyder.

“They were truly historic,” Barth said. “Helen beat a woman who had not lost in 15 years, and had won 3 golds and 13 Olympic or world championships. I don’t know how you compare that. That is a monumental accomplishment. We also had Kyle Snyder, who became the youngest American to win an Olympic Gold. We may not have had the quantity, but we got the quality.”

Snyder and J’Den Cox – another Gold Medalist – wrestle under the banner of Titan Mercury Wrestling, a club Barth began 2 years ago which in November won the World Club championship.

With his wife, Avery, in attendance, Barth mentioned the heavy security in Rio and an opportunity to meet world champion boxer Floyd Mayweather during a visit to the statue of Christ the Redeemer.

Barth briefly touched on other issues, including blood doping in wrestling.

“We don’t have a problem with it in the United States because we test,” he said. “For an athlete to dope, it would be almost impossible. The athletes can be called upon to supply a sample any time and it becomes very difficult to do it.”

He is excited about the possibility of the Los Angeles again hosting the Summer Olympics in 2024.

“We would love it from a wrestling perspective,” he said. “Wrestling would be held in Pauley Pavilion and UCLA would be the Olympic athlete center. Our Olympic footprint would be very small. It would be an LA County Olympics. I personally feel we have the best bid. With the new football stadium and our various high-speed rails. The other two cities are Paris and Budapest. Budapest is beautiful but I don’t think it has the capacity. As far as Paris is concerned, it would be exactly a century since it hosted the 1924 Olympics and there is a lot of sympathy due to the terrorist attacks. The United States has lost 3 previous bids.”

Barth then paused.

“What would I do?” he asked rhetorically. “Break with tradition and award 2 cities. One for 2024 and another for 2028.”

Barth was asked about his own wrestling career and his voice and carriage both reflected a nostalgic tone.

“I started at 14 in a Saturday morning program at the New York Athletic Club, where I met my high school coach,” he said. “I continued at Columbia and then at the New York Athletic Club, where I wrestled Greco-Roman. Wrestling teaches persistence, discipline, the ability to bounce back after a loss…humility. You learn that even when you win, there is somebody who might beat you tomorrow.  But it takes a lot of hard work and teaches great values.”

He then joked, “Dan Gable said you have to be strong, flexible, durable, disciplined, learn technique…and you have to do all of that in absence of food,” as the audience laughted heartly.

When asked about the heightened level of security in Brazil for the Olympics, Barth said “The United States was active, helpful and supportive in helping. Once you got within a mile of a venue you couldn’t go 50 yards without seeing 2 military guys. There was very significant security you had to get through.”

The Ryan Lochte affair – during which the controversial swimmer made a claim that he and 4 other American Olympians were robbed at gunpoint that was later proven to be false –  harmed the image of the U.S.

“They had gone to the Nth degree to make sure everyone was safe, so when the story came out they were really offended,” Barth explained. “Up until that time, there was tremendous support for the U.S. but after that, the cheers turned to boos. There was a lot of animosity because they felt they had done a credible job and provided a safe environment. And they did.”

Barth made a final comment about the huge traffic jams caused by the games.

“Maybe that was part of the security effort, to keep you frustrated,” he said, drawing one last wave of laughter.

San Marino Chamber of Commerce members, from left, Arthur Doi, Diana Doi, Jonathan Duong, Steve Gilmore & President Stewart Rogers helped construct the Little Christmas House last Saturday. Not Pictured: Chamber Vice President Karl von Tiehl, Chamber Office Manager Rita Rodriguez, Chamber members Sandra Troup, Selina Wong, and Rotarians Len Therrien, Sharon Park, Ken Park and Daniel Maljarian also offered their assistance
San Marino Chamber of Commerce members, from left, Arthur Doi, Diana Doi, Jonathan Duong, Steve Gilmore & President Stewart Rogers helped construct the Little Christmas House last Saturday. Not Pictured: Chamber Vice President Karl von Tiehl, Chamber Office Manager Rita Rodriguez, Chamber members Sandra Troup, Selina Wong, and Rotarians Len Therrien, Sharon Park, Ken Park and Daniel Maljarian also offered their assistance

Now in its sixth decade of transformation, the bus stop at the northwest corner of Huntington Drive and San Marino Avenue once again got a “holiday” makeover last weekend. The San Marino Chamber of Commerce began this holiday tradition in 1960 and has continued to fund this San Marino landmark ever since. Rotarians, City Club members, residents, Boy Scouts and San Marino High School students have all joined the chamber throughout the years to help get the job done. The San Marino Chamber of Commerce expressed a big “Thank You” to everyone who grabbed a pair of gloves and joined in to help with this year’s setup.

It’s always City Club’s best-attended meeting of the year, and Tuesday night’s event was every bit as intriguing as the ones which preceded it as close to 200 showed up to see the Tournament of Roses Queen and Royal Court, who paid a visit to the San Marino Center.

Waiting for them, and hanging on their every word, were gaggles of local young ladies – nieces, daughters and granddaughters of members – who were able to dine with and later ask questions of royalty.

“What’s your favorite food?”

“What’s your favorite ice cream flavor?”

“What’s your favorite pizza?”

“What’s your favorite sport?”

“What’s your favorite Disney Princess?”

“What’s your favorite subject in school?”

And then this…

“What’s your least favorite subject in school?”

That one drew a howl from the audience, who seemed as interested as the little ones.

“Math” was the #1 answer.

The audience also were privy to a fashion show as each Princess (and of course, Queen Victoria Castellanos) paraded through the room in the latest of styles fit for a, well, queen or princess.

All the while, San Marino residents Diane Comi and her husband, Bob French, provided introductions and background information on the participants.

Princess Autumn Lundy, of Altadena and a senior at Pasadena Poly, was first. Autumn told the audience she wants to attend the University of Oregon and become a nurse practitioner.

Princess Audrey Cameron, a senior at Blair High School, mentioned her involvement in the Lake Avenue Community Orchestra and participation on the school’s cross country and track teams.

A senior at Arcadia High School, Princess Lauren “Emi” Powers explained how she volunteers at Methodist Hospital, where she shares stories with people who are ill or visiting the afflicted.

“At the end of the day, I know I have truly made a difference,” she said.

Emi’s classmate, Princess Maya Khan, was most proud of her service as part of the school’s video broadcasting team, the Apache News.

Maya also enjoys coaching basketball and wants to attend UCLA.

Princess Shannon Larsuel, of Altadena, is a senior at Mayfield School where she is a member of the Diversity Committee.

Many of the youngsters in attendance weren’t quite sure what Shannon wants to be later in life – a pediatric oncologist – but they were all quite sure she had a wonderful smile and gentle nature. Shannon also volunteers at Huntington Memorial Hospital as a Candystriper.

A member of La Cañada High School’s varsity tennis team, Princess Natalie Petrosian volunteers with an animal rescue organization and hopes for admission to Caltech.

‘I look forward to seeing you all on January 2nd,” she said, which came as a surprise to many in the audience who were unaware that the Rose Parade and Rose Bowl game will be held a day late due to the New Year falling on a Sunday.

Last, and certainly not least was Queen Victoria, a senior at Temple City High School, who is a part of the school’s show choir when she is not volunteering at the Pasadena Humane Society.

“I want to be an entertainer,” she said.

And for the next 20 minutes, she and her courtmates more than lived up to that directive as the girls peppered away with questions.

When asked about her favorite song, Queen Victoria said “’Part of This World,’ from the Little Mermaid.” She then proudly, loudly, belted out a few lines to the delight of all.

Each of the court members was accessorized in a special Rose Court medallion that highlighted each of the outfits.

“Our very own twin-pin,” joked Princess Natalie as the little girls giggled.

Credit the Court for exceptional patience as each was seated at a table surrounded by the young ones and even spent substantial time after the meeting in personal photo shoots.

But the smiles never wavered.

One of the more humorous moments of the night was when one young visitor asked the court members which outfit they liked best. All chose someone else’s, and the laughter grew along with the reveals.

One question drew a very predictable answer. When asked their favorite place to visit, the overwhelming consensus was “Disneyland.”

And why not. They’re Princesses, after all.

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San Marino City Club will host a voter’s forum this evening featuring the five candidates for two seats on the San Marino City Council that will be determined at the November 3 election.

The forum will be held in the Webb Theatre at San Marino High School, 2701 Huntington Drive and is scheduled to begin at 6:00 p.m. The event is expected to last approximately ninety minutes.

San Marino Tribune Editor Mitch Lehman will serve as moderator.

The format will include opening statements, followed by questions and answers and brief closing remarks. The public is invited and encouraged to attend.