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‘Mahalo, I wish I were in Hawaii Month’ is one of rotating displays at Eastside Costa Mesan’s home

Costa Mesa resident Mary Spadoni untangles a string of her 3,000-light collection used in decorating her Orange Avenue home.
Costa Mesa resident Mary Spadoni untangles one strand of her 3,000-light collection used in decorating her Orange Avenue home. “I’ve got projects up the ying-yang,“ she says.
(Susan Hoffman)

There’s no need to keep track of street numbers when trying to locate Mary Spadoni’s home in Eastside Costa Mesa. Her Orange Avenue home is the one with year round holiday themed decorations stretching across the front of the double lot.

“Ever since the pandemic I added extra holidays because people were still at home and needed a smile,” said Spadoni. “I added Easter, Cinco de Mayo, Flag Day, Fourth of July, and for the month of August I made up my own holiday, “Mahalo: I wish I were in Hawaii Month.”

Yes, this month her frontyard boasts a beach hut, grass skirts blowing in the wind, pineapple lights and leis draped across the large metal driveway gate. There’s also an enticing array of glow bracelets and sweet treats for the neighborhood kids to enjoy, along with a supply of colored chalk so they can draw on the sidewalk.

While the exterior public display of holiday themed home decorating provides entertainment for the general public, it also creates a platform for social involvement, communicating messages such as: “Be like the Lone Ranger, wear a mask,” “We’re all in this together” and “Today is a day to smile.”

Spadoni’s neighbor John Reiss says he believes the display’s true message really goes beyond the entire front of her property. Reiss, who lives two blocks away, started to walk around the Eastside during the pandemic and now makes an effort to always walk past Spadoni’s house.

“Mary’s displays always bring a smile to my face and a lift in my day,” said Reiss. “A lot of time in California they say people don’t know their neighbors, with Mary’s decorations it helps bring people together.”

 A closeup of Mary Spadoni's words of wisdom on display this month.
Mary Spadoni’s Orange Avenue Eastside Costa Mesa home is decorated in Hawaiian theme for the month of August. Above, a closeup of her words of wisdom.
(Susan Hoffman)

A native of California, Spadoni grew up in East Los Angeles and became a patrol officer for the Whittier Police
Department in 1968. She was one of the first women patrol officers in Southern California to work alone in a car.

Upon moving to Costa Mesa 49 years ago, she briefly worked for the Orange County Sheriff’s Department prior to becoming a criminal investigator for the Orange County District Attorney’s office. Later she became a private investigator.

Spadoni likes that Costa Mesa is a city that evolves, has a lot of variety that she believes other cities don’t offer. Each distinct area has its own unique quality compared to planned cookie-cutter developments.

Now retired Spadoni has lived in her present home for 44 years.

“I bought the property not for the house but for the yard,” said Spadoni. “At the time I was raising border terriers, now I just have Mala, a 12-year-old border terrier. What I love about my Eastside Costa Mesa neighborhood is that it’s a dog friendly neighborhood. You couldn’t stand out there [on the sidewalk] for 15 minutes without [seeing] somebody walking their dog.”

Mary Spadoni's  Costa Mesa home is decorated in Hawaiian theme for the month of August.
Mary Spadoni’s Orange Avenue home in Eastside Costa Mesa is decorated in a Hawaiian theme for the month of August.
(Susan Hoffman)

Spadoni declares that she has been an activist most of her life toward animals, children and city issues.

“I’m not a Democrat or a Republican, I’m a NPP (no party preference),” said Spadoni. “If I don’t like the outcome of an issue, I think it’s our responsibility to bring the information to the community so they are aware.”

She doesn’t always limit her causes to local issues. Four years ago she raised $1,250 on behalf of the Standing Rock reservation and their resistance of the North Dakota pipeline by selling her homemade organic dog biscuits.

“I baked them all myself and sold them for $5 a jar,” she said.

Three and a half years ago, Spadoni launched a GoFundMe drive for a friend visiting from Ireland to help assist him during his recovery from a head injury. The young traveler had been crossing the street inside a crosswalk when hit by a car. Spadoni, who had met him on an previous visit ended up taking him into her home for three months.

Known in the community for decorating her property, Spadoni’s hard work has been acknowledged by neighbors, with notes of gratitude in mailbox, on fence and written in chalk on the pavement.

Being single with no children of her own, Spadoni originally started the decorating project with her nieces and nephews. Armed with all the necessary tools and hardware, including 3,000 lights, she now does it by herself, a little at a time.

“I’ve got projects up the ying-yang,” said Spadoni. “I can manufacture a project in 30 minutes. I’ve got fingers in all business and I’m used to being busy, I’ve always been a firecracker.”

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