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Thoughts from Dr. Joe: Thanks for the memories

Brownie Scouts from Troop 931 lead the Pledge of Allegiance for Memorial Day services in 2016. Writer Joe Puglia, who has organized the service for several years, writes in his final Valley Sun column that "La Cañada is a kaleidoscope full of stories."
Brownie Scouts from Troop 931 lead the Pledge of Allegiance for Memorial Day services in 2016. Writer Joe Puglia, who has organized the service for several years, writes in his final Valley Sun column that “La Cañada is a kaleidoscope full of stories.”
(File Photo)

It all began in 1961. That’s when I fell in love with Amia Donatella Davia in Sister Delores’ eighth-grade class. I know I’ve mentioned her before in my columns. We never spoke that year, yet I was compelled to pen thoughts of her. That’s when I began to keep a journal.

My journals were my best friends, and through my rite of passage, I poured thoughts on paper about life on the streets in the Bronx, my family’s deli, evolving as a scholar, and about the war in Vietnam. Over the past 18 years, I’ve told you many of these stories, and hopefully you’ve understood the hidden messages associated with each.

Journaling provided the journey toward becoming a writer and led me to come alive to everything. Life became one evolving story that I recorded. In 2002 I submitted a guest column to the Valley Sun about Memorial Day. Valley Sun editor Carol Cormaci asked me to send another. Shortly afterward my column, “Thoughts from Dr. Joe,” evolved.

La Cañada is a kaleidoscope full of stories, and as Kaitzer and I meshed with the community and as our children Sabine and Simone grew, the story of La Cañada constantly evolved. There’s a story behind everything — why you think a certain way, how a scar got on your face, etc. Some stories are simple, some complicated and some heartbreaking.

My thoughts attempted to tell the stories of the unsung heroes of La Cañada, people like Don Hingst, Mary Gant, Charley Kamar, Barbara Marshall, Bob Frank and Mike Leum. I wrote about Bob Martin, the old Marine from the Kiwanis, a machine gunner with the fifth Marines during the fight for the Sugar Loaf on Okinawa. The community service of Christie Frandsen, who was and still is the icon of La Cañada Girl Scouts. I wrote about extraordinary teachers such as Mandy Redfern, Jan Rappley, Paula Ghermezian, Bill Lively and Jeff Brookey. The contributions they’ve made in molding the children of this town are exponential.

My columns spoke of the altruism prevalent in La Cañada’s service organizations. The rich traditions of the Thursday Club and their debutante program, which my girls were part of. The unselfish AM and PM Kiwanis clubs whose members make this town a better place. I wrote about the La Cañada Juniors’ philanthropies and how this group of women knows how to party.

My daughters enabled me to experience this town from the eyes of children; subsequently, I recorded their rites of passage. For instance, I wrote about their midnight frolicking while TP-ing the community. I recorded the adventures I had taking them and the rest of Troop 889 from Daisies to Senior Girl Scouts. I wrote of their ventures in cheer, soccer, dance, cotillion, and their travels with the LCHS choral program. I recorded the dedication of Janet and Judy, who instructed my girls in the La Cañada Presbyterian’s cherub singers program.

Often, I’m asked how I can remember a circumstance that happened years ago. It’s easy. The stories are in my journals.

I’ve written extensively about La Cañada’s Memorial Day commemoration and the remarkable teams of children and adults who make this happen. In my journal titled “1970,” I wrote about the promise I made to the boys who never made it home from Vietnam. I tried to keep it.

Perhaps my thoughts influenced our collective path. Our thoughts change us for the better, or they don’t. Over the years, I’ve learned that life’s a dance, and you learn as you go.

The Valley Sun gave me the journey, and heaven knows how Carol Cormaci put up with me. I had a good run. Watch for my blog; I have a lot more to say.

See ya around town. Dr. Joe — Out!


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