Reader letter writers pick heroes

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Hello, Reader!

Just wrote this letter complimenting Bonnie at the El Cajon/Lakeside Wal-Mart, and then I remembered you are looking for special people. She certainly qualifies, so I thought I would send you a copy of this letter. Maybe she could win your prize and get a full-time position at Wal-Mart with a raise — I asked her, and she told me she wants to be full-time.

Wal-Mart 13487 Camino Canada El Cajon, CA 92021

Dear Sirs,

I was just in your store this morning shopping for some new makeup and potting soil. I asked for help regarding makeup from one of your employees and really got help for the first time since I have been shopping there. I always ask, but no one heretofore has known much. Today, I was waited on by Bonnie. She got right into what I was asking about — we searched all over for items, she told me how she applies her makeup, and I learned several new techniques which required me to buy more. She even suggested that, rather than buy powder to go with the makeup I was purchasing, I return home and check to see the name of the one I had to see if I needed to buy another.

Her own makeup was carefully applied. She looked very well groomed, and she couldn’t have been more cordial or helpful. So, I am taking a moment from my day to compliment her and to let you know you have a wonderful employee in Bonnie. I hope she gets a raise or whatever she deserves, as she is the best cosmetics person I have met there so far. She made my day, as I am interviewing for a new job and need to look my best!


La Vancha Downing

El Cajon


Dear Reader,

I have known Lisa Anderson for a long time now — four years, to be exact. She has one daughter and is a single parent. Lisa works three jobs in the nursing-home/health-care profession. She leaves at 6:00 in the morning and is gone mostly until 9:00 at night. The reason I feel she is so wonderful is because she pulls all of this off without a car or a husband and continues to educate her child and keep her in a variety of activities. She manages to get to work, drop her child off at the YMCA, and pay her bills, and she’s back home in time to tuck her daughter in for the night.

There is not enough space to tell you air this woman does after dealing with sick and dying people all day. She’s also an officer on the Homeowners’ Association Board.

Thank you for listening and taking the time to honor and recognize these people.

Charlotte Brown


Dear Reader,

In these days of hard-to-find-people-who-go-the-extra-mile, here’s a man who outdoes himself. Gilberto Balcazar of AirRide of San Diego, a San Diego-based airport transportation service, has provided myself and my clients with almost 90 rides to and from the San Diego airport since 1994. Always on time, helpful with the luggage, and a safe and courteous driver, he goes beyond the call of duty.

This summer, “Gil” donated more than 20 hours of his own chauffeuring time to drive a few elderly people to and from their doctor’s appointments — they would have had no other way to get there. His efforts to provide the highest quality of service and help those in need place him on our list as San Diego’s number-one chauffeur. Perhaps he could be yours too!


Bill Denton

August 30, 1997

Dear Reader,

You have wonderful, interesting people, and then you have those who simply aren’t prosletytic religious, per se, but seem incarnate to be sensational, and live life in a matter-of-fact way, such that no recognition will ever become them, save on a one-to-one basis.

Firstly, we got Bob Johnson, a 55-year-old handyman I use on occasion, who started Golden Hill’s first herbal remedy store in the ’60s or ’70s. I think he’s really seen a lot of adversity in his time. Everyone who he helps, and there are a hundred I know, love his kind, attentive ways. He is kind beyond belief, but has an inalterable, treasured sense of humor. Always. A good attitude, always laughing off hard times. And he can attest to Leroy, for whom both he and I have the pinnacle of admiration.

Leroy Young is a white coonass, a name given in the swamps, bayous of Louisiana, eating possum, wrestling gators. Really. He left as a young man, because one couldn’t get a job in the South unless one was a Democrat. So, he moved West. Joined the Navy and was picking up dead bodies in Pearl Harbor 50 some-odd years ago. Rose to highest rank attainable by enlistment, master chief. Was renowned for yelling at commanders, and getting away with it.

He’s been doing plumbing work for me for nearly 15 or 20 years. And he’s 82 years young, still slinging wrenches and chewing out “greenhorns.” Mighty huge hands. I mean really huge. He’s been working with them for nearly a century. Just changed out a commode for me, in this heat. And the heat didn’t really bother him. It was always hotter in the swamps. Even though all his brothers and cousins bought many Cadillacs when oil was found in those swamps, there is absolutely no regret in his mind from moving West.

Every day there is a new joke. Now, he can tell jokes for hours. With that amusing and brilliantly paced N’Orleans-style lack of speed, with a chronic twinkle of chuckle in his eye; he peers over his glasses. Just absolutely funny, dead hysterical. And he knows he’s got you. Nothing ever gets to him. He told and told me not to worry, “It just doesn’t get you anywhere.” Always good for a joke.

First Christmas, I gave him a bottle of finest Scotch whiskey. Brought it over to his house to meet his wife Rosie, who actually outworks Leroy. No wonder he leaves the house early in the morning —so Rosie doesn’t work him under. As he says, his soul belongs to the lord, but his ass belongs to Rosie. Anyway, back to Christmas. He shows infinite gratitude and then carries the bottle over to the chest, which he opens, and inside must be over half a dozen bottles of the same, which he has accumulated over the years. Doesn’t know what to do with them, only an occasional beer. Then, as I am leaving his house, he hands me a box and says to wait until I get home to open it. In the car, I open it. It’s a fruitcake. A damn fruitcake!! Who likes fruitcake anyway?!! Next year, he gives me two, one for my mom, and the other for me to keep. This went on for several holidays, until one time, the fruitcakes just stopped coming. Was I ever grateful. Leroy is a saint among saints. Forever.

And finally, there is Byron Dawson, who I call the spiritual leader of the neighborhood. Here’s a man whose brothers and many sisters have already died in the ghetto from guns, drugs, AIDS, and this 38-year-old just cannot do enough for others. Never seen anyone so grateful to be alive. He will talk philosophy in your ear for hours, with such justice and concern for people. Raising a son. just cannot-do enough for the community, and then back to work, where he guides a program for adolescents who are one birthday away from going to prison, Just can’t do enough.

Haven’t proofed this. Just trying to get it to you, been trying for weeks. Now it’s 5:45 in the morning Saturday, and I’ve not yet gone to sleep. Just trying to clean up my office and remembered that I owe you this little story. I, of course, am thoroughly anonymous.

Lovely Men, truly.

September 2, 1997

Dear Reader,

BETTER THAN THE BEST is Chris Martinez’s quality workmanship at Chico’s Shoe Repair Shop adjacent to the North Park sign on University Avenue.

From the most extensive to the simplest shoe repair, even if a customer is purchasing only laces, they are greeted with a SMILE to be remembered. After professional care, without the thought of asking, repaired shoes shine from polish too.

With no more than a few minutes’ drive from most bedroom communities, I stand proud to write the Reader that I have located the BEST. No longer a secret among the discriminating who admire those qualities seldom experienced today.

Russell St. John

Dear Reader,

It doesn’t cost anything to be pleasant. Imagine my surprise the first time I drove up to a fast-food speaker and could actually understand the voice that came out of it! But the best was yet to come, for not only was that disembodied voice pleasant to hear and courteous, it really sounded happy to be the one to take my order.

When I drove up to the window, there was a nice-looking young man, smiling at me. He didn’t take my money and turn his back on me, but talked with me while my order was being prepared. He just made me feel good the rest of the evening. And I’ve certainly gone back there many times since. His name is Jimmy Fuqua and he works at Carl's Jr. at Third Avenue and Moss Street in Chula Vista. What a pity that his attitude and behavior are the exception and not the rule.

Jeanne Tourville

Dear Reader,

San Diego is a city of renters. When an owner doesn’t want the hassle of dealing with us anymore, he/she often hires a property-management person or persons. Their lot in life is to handle the problems of other people, both owners and tenants.

As an assistant to Steve Richards, broker/owner of Steve Richards Realty, I have an opportunity to watch the property-management department on a daily basis.

Baby, if this isn’t dirty work, I don’t know what is!

They get calls from owners wanting more money from their accounts, not realizing how much it costs to repair and update their properties. They get calls from tenants who are aghast no one has even been sent to fix their drapery rods. Once I intercepted a call where a girl wanted to complain that the lightbulb over her medicine cabinet was out! They deal with the countless walk-ins who can get pretty upset when they are told there are no available three-bedrooms on the beach for $8OO or less. They deal with vendors who may decide to go to Cabo for a week without telling anyone... not real great if an emergency arises. On occasion, a tenant may vanish in the night, leaving the property-management women to clean up all the dirty dishes, furniture, and whatnots (!!) the person was unable to deal with anymore.

It gets pretty funny sometimes, but it’s definitely difficult work and often downright dirty. Through it all, Susan and Mary Ann maintain their good humors...most of the time. Anyway, I really like and admire them and that’s why I’ve shared this with you.

Glad to be in the real estate division,

Coty D. Raposa

August 29, 1997

Dear Reader,

This letter is in response to your attempt to find the hardest workers in the under-appreciated jobs around San Diego. I happen to know a woman who is a day-care aide and watches my daughter. Let me just tell you that her job is often forgotten in its importance for our families and society and is always underpaid!

Her name is Graciela Mendoza. She works at Calvary Christian Preschool in Linda Vista. Gracida works there in the afternoons, after she finishes her two other part-time jobs. I have never seen a person give so much of herself unselfishly to children. She happens to be one of the only people in this scary world that I trust my daughter with unconditionally.

Leah Cafagna

Dear Reader,

There is this wonderful Jamaican fellow named Winston B. Christian who owns an interior landscape company called Plantscapes Unlimited. For years and years he comes, once a week, to care for the live interior, greenhouse-type plants that our corporate fathers have so kindly placed throughout my workplace.

This kindly Rasta fellow— I know he has dreadlocks under his hat because, after 12 years, he finally admitted it — is the highlight of my week. I look forward to his warm smile and his lilting Caribbean patois. He always greets me with, “Good morning Agnus,” and, “How was your weekend?” You see, I am quite elderly and I live alone. My workplace is a small cubicle, and I don’t have much contact with people. Winston takes such good care of my plants in my cubicle. He claims that he’s in such close touch with nature that he only needs to look at a plant to know exactly what it requires. He always stops and takes the time to talk to a little old woman, to give me a tidbit of advice about my ficus tree and such. I admire his work very much and so I thought that I should write this note.


Agnus Wagman

Dear Reader,

Jesse the Janitor

She polishes with a hush only invisible grease on the elbow

teaches Tagalog if you are wise enough to ask waxes poetic as a mom

arrives like a chime on the hour scrubs clean the sit-down day gifts us with not having to do what everyone should do anyway cleaning up after.

Gale S. Barlow

Dear Reader,

Mr. Arthur brightens our hospital with his hands and his cheerful heart. We all expect a hospital to be spotless, but few of us realize the amount of constant work this entails. Arthur takes the Herculean task in stride, always cheerful, always armed with an encouraging word of helpful direction to a visitor. (If you are lost in a hospital, ask a janitor—they know every inch of the place.)

Arthur raises the flag in the morning, helps subdue the occasional wild man in the emergency room, sparkles the halls, takes out the mountains of trash,

and spends the rest of the time just being the most upbeat and hardworking 65-year-old man I have had the privilege to know.

Michael T. McKenna, M.D.

August 4, 1997

Dear Reader,

Every morning, Columba Reyes empties my trash cans on her custodial rounds at the UCSD Applied Physics & Mathematics building. She occasionally says “Hello” (when spoken to) and always maintains a fastidious pace as she moves from office to office. She reminds me that the American work ethic Is still alive and well. She is literally a blue-collar worker in her blue work shirt, pressed jeans, and spotless white tennis shoes. Her presence is a reminder to me that, as employees, we are expected to earn our pay and not to just occupy a desk.

She leaves me little room to complain about leaving my young son at day care every morning for my job as a programmer/analyst. Columba has three children of her own and a tiring, “dirty” job. Somehow, she still musters up the energy to sweep and mop out floors and to crush the mountains of computer boxes we discard every day. In all of the office buildings I have ever worked in, I have never seen someone work as hard as Columba. Even as I asked her permission to nominate her for the best custodian in San Diego, she didn't pause as she changed my trash can liner. If ever someone deserved recognition as an outstanding custodian, it is Columba Reyes.

  • Sincerely,
  • Christine Bagwell
  • La Jolla

Dear Reader,

Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday — typing as fast as I can to meet those litigation deadlines. Hurry, hurry, hurry, get those copies made, get those papers served, get those pleadings filed, make those phone calls, get those time sheets entered, get those agreements faxed, call the title company about those deeds of trust, e-mail now, fax now, copy now, call now, this is a priority rush before that last rush before that rush I gave you first thing this morning. Have you indexed those pleadings yet? Have you caught up with my filing? Have you found that last settlement agreement I buried someplace on my desk? Faster, faster, faster, now, now, now! Do you have anything for me to review yet? Has that fax come in yet? Do you have anything for me to sign yet? Have you run the fourth version? Have you red-lined the fifth version? Have you scheduled the court reporter? Have you calendared that discovery? Can you stay a little late tonight? Can you come in a little early tomorrow morning? Can you take a later lunch? What are your plans for this weekend? Saturday morning at 10:30, I limp into TOPS on Goldfinch Street in Mission Hills. My neck is stiff, my arm aches, my right shoulder rotation is limited; nerves in my back feel pinched. My “angel,” Penny McGee, meets me in the reception area and invites me into her “laboratory.” The room is dimly lit, the air is very warm, the cotton sheets are very soft, the table is luxuriant. A CD is playing softly — either Acoustic Sanctuary or Celestial Soda Pop. There is a scent of eucalyptus in the air. While Penny waits outside, I undress quickly — I need this therapy now! I climb onto the table, lie down and cover myself with the sheet. Penny comes in, closing the door behind her, with the “Do Not Disturb” sign posted. If the weather is extremely warm, she applies witch hazel to my skin to instantly cool me. I roll onto my stomach and she starts the massage on my neck and shoulders. She uses whatever pressure is comfortable, my preference being a deep tissue massage. With each touch of her blessed hands, I feel some tension leaving my body. She touches every muscle in my neck, shoulders, arms, and back. Pressure is applied to trigger points to dimmish the rate at which neurons tire. I sometimes feel and hear a slight popping. She works without speaking. I feel my muscles letting go. I sometimes experience a sudden jump such as is experienced when muscles spasm just before falling asleep. The muscle contraction which was entrapping nerves is relieved. She moves down each leg, working each ankle, foot, and toe.

She asks me to roll over. She then reaches over to a portable heater and places a large, soft, very warm towel under my neck. Without thinking and completely involuntarily, I moan out loud, my whole being giving up the stress. Now that I’m on my back, she works my head and face around my eyes and sinuses, the front of my shoulders, my arms, wrists.

hands, and fingers. I am floating out in the meadow from where the music is coming. Giving attention to my sternum, thighs, and calves, when she again reaches my toes, I realize my hour is almost over. She asks if I have any concerns, then leaves the room while I slowly dress. My body is limp, my soul has been cleansed, my blood is circulating freely. I have a full appreciation of why a newborn baby is nurtured by its mother’s touch and how kittens feel after being lovingly stroked. Should I win the lottery, she will be my full-time personal masseuse. I WILL NOT THINK ABOUT MONDAY!

A graduate of Mueller College of Holistic Studies, Penny must have been the valedictorian. She is an artist extraordinaire!

Bonnie Hugyez

September 2, 1997

Dear Reader,

Enclosed is my entry regarding “those who do the dirty work." The subject is my massage therapist, Sherman Adelman.

Sherman Adelman was 51 years old when he decided eight years ago to give up his job as a sales representative and become a massage therapist. Prior to that, he had been an insurance salesman, and before that, a high school history teacher.

“I made a decision to be a massage therapist because I enjoy making people feel better,” says Sherman.

He and his wife Rollie (who answers the telephone and does the massage-table laundry) have built up a regular clientele, including myself (his first “body”), who greatly appreciate his magic ministrations.

As a massage therapist, Sherman has many amusing stories to tell, like the one about - the man who arrived for a massage at midday in bathrobe and slippers, and the woman who insisted on calling him “Doctor." Of course, some prospective clients ask if he performs certain unspeakable acts as an adjunct to massage. Sherman has learned to say NO, courteously but firmly.

My cervical spine suffers from too many years in front of a typewriter and computer. I am convinced that Sherman has saved it from complete disintegration.

I highly recommend “Massage by Sherm.”

Lynda laws


Dear Reader,

I would like to tell you about one heck of a special guy. His name is Pierre A. Westbrooks and he is an intake clerk for Detox. This Detox is located at 1111 Island Avenue and is run by the Volunteers of America.

Pierre goes to his job every day filled with the ray of sunshine of hope. He truly believes that he can make a difference to the various clientele who make their way through Detox’s door.

Clientele of every type come through the door, either willingly seeking help or sometimes handcuffed and kicking and screaming. However, Pierre treats each one with as much dignity as possible and makes sure their stay at Detox is safe. If a client asks Pierre for help whether for admission to the five-day program, or 12-Step meetings, Pierre really goes out of his way to help them. I like that he waits to see if they want help first. And if only one client out of the entire full house (Or should I say from all the green mats?), asked for help, Pierre would help that one person and consider it a good day.

There have been occasions when intoxicated clients have become verbally and, worst of all, physically abusive. It has frightened me more than once to hear about Pierre having to stop a client from hurting another client or one of his coworkers. All of which he has done, to my dismay.

I know of several occasions, Pierre has driven physically ill and intoxicated patients to the hospital because they were in need of immediate medical attention.

Pierre always has a warm and generous smile for his coworkers and the clients. There have been times when clients would ask for him by name or wait until his shift began.

I have been approached by a gentleman who was a client at Detox, and he told me how much Pierre helped him during those first trembly, unsure days of sobriety. He told me about a diagram Pierre drew. This diagram illustrated a herd of animals. The stronger, larger animals were circled and facing out. The weaker and smaller animals were in the middle of the herd. The man told me that he could see how at this time of his life, he was that weak small animal and how he could see that he did need people who were stronger and larger to protect him.

I think all of the workers at the downtown Detox should get an applause. But I do believe Pierre stands out as that beacon of hope for the lost, the voice of comfort and concern for the weary, and, last but not least, and when you meet him, you will agree, Pierre is definitely that larger, stronger animal circling the ones that are weak.

Thank you for your time.


August 3, 1997

Dear Reader,

Far more worthy of admiration than athletes, politicians, or entertainers are the categories you list in the Reader.

I nominate Barbara Zurowski for “San Diego’s Best.” She is a home nursing aide for UCSD who entered my life after my being hospitalized for bleeding ulcers, the result of OTCA used for pain. I am in my 80s and really alone without family in San Diego. I was really hopeless.

Then Barbara came into my life. It wasn’t the physical care she gave me. Those were her job duties. It was her cheerful laugh, the little surprises she brought, the feeling that someone cared. I regained enough courage to have both hips replaced and am functioning.

In the meantime, Barbara has had an appendectomy and breast cancer. She is widowed, in her 40s, and also alone in San Diego. Her goal is to be an LPN. Think what recognition would mean to her.

Vivien H. Cowhey

Dear Reader,

Best pedicurist? That’s easy! Ninette Stanton at Blue Mondays Salon in Hillcrest.

I’ve been going to Ninette for years, and she puts the same 110 percent into each and every pedicure. She’s always trying new foot-care products and gadgets (e.g., heated foot booties) to enhance her service. Ninette is a true professional — always friendly, courteous, and concerned about her clients. She always goes the extra mile to be sure she’s giving a quality service. Something that’s not always easy to find these days.

I hope you’ll recognize Ninette for her hard work and caring attitude!

Jan Meet wood


Dear Reader,

The dirtiest work in San Diego is done by Dove Clancy, the owner of Critical Cleaning, who cleans up places you wouldn’t want to look at, much less enter. She cleans messes far worse than the disgusting homes which disgusting residents trash out with their multitudes of filthy pets, friends, and children, filled with trash, excrement, and human waste.

Dove is called on by police and coroners for “biological cleanups,” like suicides, murders, and mayhem, blood, vomit, and body parts. She is also licensed for other hazardous dirty work, such as removal of cancer-causing asbestos from schools and hospitals. Cleanups include other places where angels might hesitate to tread, such as military firing ranges where live ammunition may be present. The amazing thing is the “white glove” results at many of these places, including environmental laboratories where government inspections require a spotless environment.

Another reason I feel that Dove is the best is because of the help she has given me over the years. As a (male) single parent, my time is more than filled by work and taking care of my daughter. Unfortunately, I have asthma, so, even if had the time and the energy for housework, I could do it only at risk of a life-threatening ATTACK. Dove has gone above and beyond the call of duty for us and compassionately tailored her rates to what we could afford.

I vote for Dove as number one of those who do the dirty work, and number one as a human being with the kind of standards and ideals which seem to belong to another time.'

Mitchell Perey

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