Hy Vego turned 89 this week and one of the week’s highlights was a party in his honor
La Cañadans Paul and Reva Dietz held the party. Hy is Reva's dad.
The invitations announced “no gifts, please” and informed invitees that our friendship was enough. Despite this, there were a few balloons, bottles, cards and signs as 70 of us gathered at the Dietz home. The event was multigenerational. A few kids jumped into the pool while the rest of us socialized.
Since he moved to La Cañada, Hy Vego has become a regular at the annual Memorial Day services in Memorial Park.
Hy is a World War II vet from the East Coast. After Pearl Harbor, Hy, along with his twin brother Irv, enlisted in the Army. The brothers were sent to Camp Santa Anita in early 1942.
One day, Hy and Irv spotted a sign advertising a USO dance. The dance was open to all service members, irrespective of their religion, but it was to be held at the local synagogue.
Hy and Irv went to the dance, where Hy met and instantly fell in love with a young woman named Marion. Whenever he got leave, Hy, along with Irv, would visit Marion and her family.
Marion had two younger sisters, who were twins. The twins had their eyes on the tall, handsome Vego twins, but Hy only had eyes for Marion.
After the war, Hy, Irv, and their little sister, Edie, settled down in the Pasadena area. Hy and Irv opened a business together.
Hy and the other World War II vets revitalized Jewish life in the San Gabriel Valley. Jews had lived in the Pasadena area since the late 1890s, but it was not until 1949 that the Pasadena temple was able to maintain a fulltime rabbi. His name was Max Vorspan and he left to become the dean of the University of Judaism (now American Jewish University).
There were still a lot of restrictions in those days, but veterans like Hy Vego wanted to create an environment where they could educate their children, gather together as a community and live a glorious and dynamic California life.
As the years passed, the extended Vego family had a great impact on the local Jewish community. I’m not sure there’s ever been a synagogue in La Cañada. Perhaps one exception is Dennis Prager’s excellent and very local High Holiday services. Hy and his family have supported temples in Glendale and Pasadena, and still raise scholarship funds for rabbinical students.
Hy has always been the most energetic of volunteers. Old timers describe watching him push a gigantic, four-wheeled kosher hotdog grill up Altadena Drive. The route took him uphill from his house to the temple. With the help of his wife, Marion, and his sister, Hy could feed several hundred people at the drop of a hat, then wheel the apparatus back down to his home.
As far as I know, Hy was never in the food industry. He’s just a man of many talents. Also, a man with many friends.
What I love about Hy is not just the fact that he reads this column, but also that he has a warm and generous spirit. The father of four daughters, he is sincerely friendly and supportive to both genders, a rare quality both in his generation and in mine.
Hy, if you are reading this, you are the sweetest guy I know. Except for my husband.
Happy Birthday, Hy. And many, many more.
ANITA SUSAN BRENNER is a longtime La Cañada Flintridge resident and an attorney with Law Offices of Torres and Brenner in Pasadena. Email her at email@example.com.