The Valley Line: Party thanks retiring USC-Verdugo Hills hospital chief

I'm writing this column before Thanksgiving Day, but you will read it on turkey day or over the weekend. I hope you have a wonderful holiday. I'm excited to celebrate this Thanksgiving with my extended family — all 25 of them. I can provide details next week.

The stormy weather last week certainly provided some autumn ambience for us. Of course I loved the chill that made me feel that maybe I really was going to go "over the river and through the wood" to be with my family.

Curious about this saying, I researched it a little further. I discovered that it was part of a poem written in 1844 by Lydia Maria Child. The poem celebrated her childhood memories of visiting her grandparents' house. Here are opening lines of the original poem:

Over the river, and through the wood,

To Grandfather's house we go;

The horse knows the way to carry the sleigh

Through the white and drifted snow.


A couple of weeks ago I attended a special event held by the USC-Verdugo Hills Hospital Women's Council that was designed to say "farewell" to Len LaBella, who recently retired as VHH's chief executive.

Autumn decor, colored leaves and pumpkins decorated the hospital's Women's Council room where buffet tables were set up and covered with gold, burgundy and dark green cloths.

Co-chairing the party attended by more than 75 guests were Cindy Sawyer and Ruth McNevin.

After being introduced by McNevin, LaBella said that he loved being in a room with beautiful women. For certain, over the 12 years that LaBella was at the helm, the women of the council loved him and his cheerful presence at the hospital each day.

Sodexo, the hospital's caterer, created a menu of savory foods that were paired with wine selection. The food was delicious and included Kobe pepper steak, carved smoked ham, a selection of salads, stuffed mushrooms and assorted cheeses.

It was a lovely evening and everyone attending had an opportunity to have a nice chat with Len. What a guy!


Birthday wishes were recently sent to Ginny Booth, a former La Cañadan who just turned a beautiful 100 years old.

Ginny had an exciting career as a nurse. During WWII, she served as a nurse on the island of Guam. After the war she was a public health nurse in the Central Valley and later was head nurse for Glendale Unified School District.

Guests attending Ginny's party included Rose Manning, Pat Huber, Bobbi Brundage, Elizabeth Bitow, Mary Chase, Val Burgess, Jean Soule, Margie Barbour, Charlotte Layland, Jo Est Brukner, Audrey Parmiter, Marge Cameron, Fran Barnard, Jeanne Kirhoffer, Terresa Murray, Ginny Cushman, Dr. Tom and Cindy Sawyer, Dolores Costello, Kay Fleming, Diane Sullivan, Freda Martinez, Rhoda Cocca, Bettie Johnson, Carla Patma, Dick and Patty Reed, Melinda Thompson and Bill Scherkey.

A friend of Ginny's who is a filmmaker recently did a special video interview with her about her nursing career. I watched it and it was fascinating. If you want to view the 42-minute video, it can be found on Youtube


Several members of the Flintridge Guild of Children's Hospital Los Angeles met in the parking lot of Starbucks near the Glendale (2) Freeway and traveled together from there to the hospital's campus in Los Angeles.

Locals touring the hospital were Betty Alejo, Savonia Angelica, Marsha Baumgarten, Sue Berta, Delia Cotter, Juliet Cullen, Kelly Davis, Paige Dunbar, Debbie Enterante-Zielinski, Linda Fults, Carolyn Hanna, Jan Hotchkin, Judy Kelly, Patti Kriste, Melanie Liu, Paige McIlwain, Debbie Post, Donna Nickoloff, Maureen Railsback, Michelle Sabourin, Teresa Salvo, Lisa Simone, Yvonne Slaught, Randy Stanislawski, Gaia Winter and Joellen Yundt.

They first met in the wood-paneled library to listen to Dr. Mark Krieger, chief of neurosurgery and chief of staff at the hospital. The doctor shared news of the results of the use of a special magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machine that is specialized for use scanning the brain. He also talked about the newest techniques that are being used daily to help children with brain tumors and specialized treatment of children with cerebral palsy.

During a question-and-answer period, Dr. Krieger fielded many questions from Guild members about the seriousness and treatment of brain concussions suffered during the many sports that young people play at their schools.

After touring one section of the new hospital, Guild members later enjoyed a luncheon, prepared by the hospital staff also served in the library.

The Flintridge Guild of Children's Hospital Los Angeles was founded in 1949. The Guild's goal is to foster interest among their members in the works of the hospital and to assist the hospital by contribution of service and funds. The Guild always welcomes new members.


A very special holiday treat for ballet lovers is Matthew Bourne's production of "Sleeping Beauty" now playing at the Ahmanson Theatre. It only runs through Dec. 1, so if you have some extra time in your schedule in the next few days, this is a magical production that is beautifully and romantically presented. Of course the music by Tchaikovsky is sublime. I so wish my grandchildren lived close by so that I could take them to this Gothic romance with beautiful costumes and ethereal sets. There are a great many wood faeries that are delightful to watch with their colorful wings, too.


JANE NAPIER NEELY covers the La Cañada social scene. Email her at with news of your special event.

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