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Thoughts from Dr. Joe: A little wine, some cookies and a heap of service to others

Guests try the food from the Luna Grill during the 17th annual Wine & Food tasting event hosted by the Kiwainis Club of La Cañada, at Olberz Park on Sept. 22. Columnist Joe Puglia writes of the event this week.
(James Carbone/La Cañada Valley Sun)

This town has a keen understanding of the virtue of service. Organizations such as the Assistance League, the La Cañada Junior Women’s Club, Kiwanis, church ministries, PTA, Scouting, coaching, the LCF Educational Foundation, La Cañada Tournament of Roses, Flintridge Guild of Children’s Hospital, LCF Orthopaedic Guild, the Trails Council, the Thursday Club, the Barkley Community Foundation, the LCF Chamber of Commerce and others give countless hours of community service. La Cañadans understand that the world is composed of others.

A couple of weeks ago, Kaitzer and I attended the 17th annual Wine and Food Tasting at Olberz Park. Sponsored by the Kiwanis Club of La Cañada, the LCF Chamber and Rosso Wine Shop, more than 18 restaurants, caterers and food specialty shops were serving up samples. I was sure that the wines pour satiated every palate of those attending. The setting was intimate and conducive to sharing such moments with friends.

Mary Gant and Clyde Hemphill co-directed, and Mike Leininger and Maureen Bond were event assistant directors. However, the litany of those in support showed that it indeed takes a village.

Perhaps the first recorded thoughts regarding the influence of wine come from Homer’s Odyssey: “It is wine that leads me on, that sets the wisest to sing and laugh. It drives one to dancing and even tempts one to blurt out stories better never told.”


Homer’s insight, written circa 850 B.C., is fascinating since it perfectly sums up the festive atmosphere at the Wine and Food Tasting event.

I was just passing by the wine toss game on my way to pilfer more chocolate chip cookies when I heard a commotion of oohs and aahs. I naturally figured that Kiwanian Nick Berkuta was nearby. He was! We had blast talking sorties just like Homer predicted 3,000 years ago. The wine toss was a home run. For a few bucks, participants tried their luck, attempting to win bottles of wine.

After gorging on cookies, I heard someone was serving pizza. In fact, the purveyor was the restaurant Hello Pizza! Where I’m from, pizza usually has an Italian name in front of it. Sal and Carmine’s Pizza, Rose and Joe’s Italian Bakery, and Puglia’s Delicatessen, for example. Yeah! I know you don’t believe me, but the secret is in the ovens and the water, which make the dough.

Since 1948, the Kiwanis Club of La Cañada has been working to improve the community and the world in the Kiwanis spirit. The litany of their involvements are too vast to mention in this writing; regardless, this group of dedicated folks is making a difference, “one child and one community at a time.”


In 1969, I graduated from the Infantry Officers’ Course in Quantico, Va. In an attempt to motivate us for what lay ahead, Alpha Company had one last presentation before we shoved off. Our speaker, a colonel from Headquarters Marine Corps, was a dead ringer for Clark Gable. As evidenced by the decorations he wore on his uniform, we knew he’d been “unto the breach” and back. For some reason, I never recorded his name in my journal; instead, I recorded his thoughts. After receiving his insights that just might keep us alive, the colonel paraphrased the Arthurian Code: “Your greatest calling, not only as lieutenants of Marines but also as citizens of a community, is in the service of others.”

His thoughts have been central throughout my life. Yet, the actualization of that particular perspective has never been more pronounced than in La Cañada.

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