Two exceptional individuals were lauded Saturday for their passion and care for the betterment of our community.

The Zonta Club of Burbank honored Burbank City Manager Mary Alvord as its Woman of the Year, while the late Mike Tawdy was remembered for his outstanding career as a tennis instructor during the Burbank Tennis Center’s 10th anniversary celebration.

Since 1949, the Zonta Club of Burbank has honored exemplary women who have made significant contributions to the community. Alvord, who was named the organization’s 2007 honoree, is a lifelong Burbank resident who has spent her entire 37-year career working for the city of Burbank.

“Mary holds a special place in the heart of Burbank, said Zonta President Jennifer Wyatt, who went on to praise Alvord’s role in making Burbank one of the best cities to raise a family, work and play.

Among those in attendance at the Castaway’s Mountain View Room were Alvord’s daughter and granddaughter, Lauren and Jenny Griffin, Mayor Marsha Ramos, Council members Gary Bric and Anja Reinke, Assistant City Manager Mike Flad, Police Chief Tim Stehr, Fire Chief Tracy Pansini, Water and Power General Manager Ron Davis, Park Director Eric Hansen, Community Development Director Sue Georgino, Public Works Director Bonnie Teaford, Library Services Director Sharon Cohen, City Clerk Margarita Campos and City Treasurer Donna Anderson, who also served as the event’s chairwoman.

Others on hand were former Mayor Mary Lou Howard, Sandy Dennis, Natasha Aasadore, Nickie Bonner, Grace Farenbaugh, Dede Glaser, Brenda Lantieri, Marva Murphy, Lee Nelson, Rose Pichay, Marjoreda Simay, Julie Woll, Julie Modglin, Police Commissioner Claudia Bonis, Lisa Matzner, school board members Ted Bunch and Debbie Kukta; Betsy Dolan, Alvord’s executive assistant Kathy Barcus, Nonna Von Sonn, Tina Gunn, Karen Turner, and numerous former Zonta Women of the Year including Elaine Paonessa and Mary Jane Strickland.

Saturday also saw the Burbank Tennis Center celebrate its first decade with a full day of activities and on-court demonstrations.

During the ceremonies, the tennis center’s director, Steve Starleaf, paid tribute to former Mayor Michael Hastings, former Councilman Tim Murphy and Vice Mayor Dave Golonski for their leadership in seeing the center become a reality.

Starleaf specifically recalled a conversation in which Golonski adamantly voiced his desire that the community’s youth, regardless of their ability to pay, could use the center.

“I hope that (we) have lived up to our promise and that no child who has wanted to play has ever been left looking over the fence,” Starleaf said.

Mayor Marsha Ramos lauded Starleaf for his vision and tenacity in establishing the center and for its continued success.

“Steve reached out to the community in ways we never thought possible,” said Ramos, who went on to praise him for his extensive work with the developmentally challenged.

A highlight of the event was the dedication of a court in honor of tennis instructor Mike Tawdy, who retired in 2002 and passed away earlier this year.

A longtime and beloved instructor, Tawdy was praised by Starleaf as a man who exemplified the word community.

“Mike was not just a teaching pro, he was a people pro,” Starleaf said.

A special guest at Saturday’s dedication was the honoree’s son, Essam Tawdy, who also serves as a Burbank tennis instructor.

“My father was about bringing people together and creating friendships through tennis,” Essam said.

Among those in attendance to honor Tawdy were Park Board Chairman Todd Layfer, who credited his love for the game of tennis to having been a student of both Essam and Mike Tawdy, Park Board members Jess Talamantes and Steven Ferguson, Park Director Eric Hansen, and many of Mike Tawdy’s students and friends, including Sunny Boyd and Hisham Malek.

 DAVID LAURELL can be contacted at dlaurell@aol.com or (818) 563-1007.

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