Life and Arts

On the Town: Annual cookie party warms up the holiday season

Joan “J.P.” O’Connor and her husband, Cotton Thompson, were ready to welcome guests to their holiday cookie party.
(David Laurell/Burbank Leader)

A longstanding local yuletide tradition in Burbank is the O’Connor holiday cookie party hosted by Joan “J.P.” O’Connor and her husband, Cotton Thompson.

The O’Connor-Thompson team made it a point to continue this tradition that was established back in the early 1970s by J.P.’s mother, the late Mary Alice O’Connor, who was the inspiration for the Fairy Godmother character in the Disney feature production of “Cinderella.”

Mary Alice O’Connor, who died in 2010, had been married to legendary Disney artist A. Kendall O’Connor, who served as the art director and layout man on some of Disney’s most iconic animated features including “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” “Cinderella,” “Fantasia,” “Alice in Wonderland” and “Peter Pan.”

She served on the Burbank Unified school board from 1961 to 1971, and became a devout community volunteer, serving on the boards of the Burbank Community Hospital, Providence St. Joseph’s Medical Center, Burbank Health Care Foundation and the Family Service Agency of Burbank.


An active member of the La Providencia Guild of Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, KCET Women’s Council, the Civic Pride Committee, National Charity League and the Burbank YMCA, she was recognized at the White House by President Gerald Ford as one of the country’s most outstanding volunteers.

Enjoying an evening of sweet celebrating at the O’Connor’s home were, from left, Gema Sanchez, Terry Walker, Marta Weiskopf, Patrick Flaherty and Suzanne Weerts.
(David Laurell/Burbank Leader)

A driving force in the reopening of the Starlight Bowl in 1992, she was lauded, along with her daughter J.P., who has served in an instrumental role with Leadership Burbank, as Burbank’s Women of the Year in 2002 by Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank).

She was also honored, shortly before her death, with the establishment and opening of the Mary Alice O’Connor Family Center, which offers educational enrichment programs and child-care services.


Among the string of friends, old and new, who stopped by last week’s end-of-year soiree were Kreigh Hemple, Marta Weiskopf, Genine Chambers, Veronica Sanchez, Suzanne Weerts, Dan Soderstrom, Mary Christensen and Gema Sanchez, who offered samples of her homemade Crema de Vié, which was inspired by her mother’s Cuban eggnog recipe.

Along with this being the season of parties, it is also the season of giving, which is what the Baldaseroni family did in honor of the late John Baldaseroni Jr., who passed away on June 6, 2019. He was a 1958 graduate of Burbank High School and was a great lover of cars and drag racing.

Providence St. Joseph Medical Center Chief Executive Kelly Linden accepts a check in the memory of the late John Baldaseroni from his brother Don Baldaseroni.
(David Laurell)

He is survived by his son, Rick Baldaseroni, brother, Don Baldaseroni, sisters, Jo Barrett and Lucille Borne, and many extended family members who all have deep roots in Burbank. The Baldaseroni family has always had a fondness for the work of Providence St. Joseph Medical Center.

So, on behalf of his family, Don Baldaseroni presented a check for $115,888 to Kelly Linden, the medical center’s chief executive, to support the Minutes Matter Emergency Services Campaign and help reach its goal to build a new state-of-the-art emergency department and urgent-care facility at the hospital.

“We are proud to do this in honor of John,” his brother said. “And we also hope that his generosity will inspire and encourage others in our community to do the same.”

If you would like to make a gift to support the Minutes Matter Emergency Services Campaign, contact Angela Khurdajian, who is with the Providence St. Joseph Foundation, at (818) 424-5568.


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