City Life: Wishes from Newport-Mesans

2010 is a good year to be a Saturday columnist. So is 2011. This year, Christmas Day falls on a Saturday, as does New Year's Day. Over the past couple of weeks, I have been asking family, friends and colleagues what they want for the holidays, whether it's Christmas, Hanukkah or any other celebration. Here are some of the replies.

Newport Beach resident Linda Schulein wrote: "No surprise here. My wish is that every family who is fortunate enough to have enough extend their generosity to the families in our community who really, really need help and the outstanding professional organizations that work with them. Orange Coast Interfaith Shelter, Girls Inc. and Orange County Community Housing's SteppingUp are at the top of my list!"

Schulein is right that her wish is no surprise as she has been instrumental in improving the lives of the less fortunate for many years. She is setting an example for the next generation in her family and is a great credit to Newport-Mesa.

Bill Graham is a Costa Mesa resident whose wife, Michele, usually gets the spotlight due to her involvement in what seems to be every community event supporting kids. But it takes two, and Bill's work creates a team that has made a great difference for children in the Estancia zone.

"My wish this holiday season is for people to stop and give something back to many of the worthwhile programs that support the youth of our communities," Graham wrote. "Give the gift of your time and experience to the kids. I know everyone is busy, but you can make a difference! Just say 'How can I help?' Happy Holidays!"

Former Newport-Mesa Unified School District Board of Trustee Linda Sneen wrote that "We need more heroes and positive role models for all ages."

I second that.

Sneen's husband, Bill, a former Costa Mesa City Council candidate, wrote that his wish would be "… to increase the level of gratitude in our country and decrease the level of entitlement."

My brother-in-law, Lewis Hines, is one of those selfless people that everyone should have in their lives to remind us of how we should all behave. He wants you to have "Happy Holidays."

Newport Beach City Councilwoman Nancy Gardner wrote: "My wish is for a good spirit in dealing with our local issues, that as elected representatives we remember that the official decisions we make are in some ways the most personal — affecting people's neighborhoods, even their homes — and that as residents we remember how fortunate we are to live in such a beautiful setting in a city that is able to pay its bills."

These are all excellent wishes and I hope all of them come true. But my favorite holiday wish came from Corona del Mar resident and friend Nils-Eric Svensson, who wrote, "My wish is that we will get out of Iraq and Afghanistan."

I thought of Svensson's wish as I attended the recent funeral of Marine Corps Pfc. Gary Ickowicz, who died in his sleep Dec. 15. Ickowicz is the brother of my close friend, Terry, whom I have known since fourth grade. At the funeral Dec. 20, the Marines were represented by an honor guard that included a bugler who played "Taps."

Dec. 20 was a very wet day. As I walked up the hill to the internment site, I saw the honor guard standing straight and tall in the pouring rain, honoring their fallen comrade.

And so it is my wish today that throughout the year we remember the special people in our lives we often take for granted, but without whom we could very well be living lives vastly different from the ones we know.

They are the tens of thousands of brave men and women in our armed forces who are serving overseas and who are not able to be with their families on Christmas Day. Some of them have never seen their newborn children. Some of them are injured. All of them wish they were home today.

Remember these special people the next time someone cuts you off on the freeway or talks too loudly on their cell phone.

Rest in peace, Gary Ickowicz, and thank you, armed forces personnel everywhere, for keeping us safe.

STEVE SMITH is a Costa Mesa resident and a freelance writer. Send story ideas to

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