Two local icons prepare to leave long-held positions in the Crescenta Valley.
By Mary O’KEEFE
It may be difficult for many in the Crescenta Valley to believe but Mr. Sowers is retiring from Rosemont Middle School.
“Rosemont was here before I started and it will be here after I leave,” Sowers said.
But there are many who question if that is true. For 44 years Ron Sowers has been a consistent member of the Rosemont staff. For 20 years he was a teacher. He taught wood shop, print, metal, industrial technology and electronics.
“Back then Rosemont was a three-year school – seventh, eighth and ninth [grades],” he said. “I can remember standing in front of my class the first day as a teacher. The first thing, that first day, I thought, ‘Wow – I am responsible for all these kids.’”
And he has felt that responsibility ever since. Sowers was promoted from teacher to assistant principal and for the last 26 years has been the school’s disciplinarian. It was his office that students dreaded walking into.
“These kids [at this age] are going from dependency to independency. Some make it with no problem, some [struggle],” Sowers said.
He added that when he began at Rosemont the big disciplinary issue with kids was smoking and today it is “other things.”
The school has drug-sniffing dogs that randomly walk through the school.
“In 10 years we have had only one positive hit,” Sowers said. “We even do a demonstration in the classroom.”
Sowers said he never thought the school would have to take this type of precaution but times have changed, although kids … not so much.
Through the highs [pun intended] and the lows, Sowers has always put the kids first even when they are sent to his office. His philosophy is if the student has done something wrong to own up to it, take the consequences and move on.
“I was in the parking lot of Ralphs and this car stopped right in front of me. A kid got out and said, ‘Thanks for not giving up on me. I learned the hard way,’” he said.
The kid had gone to jail and told Sowers he had thought of him and how he believed in him.
Sowers has many stories of former students who have told him they learned from him and appreciated his stewardship.
“When I see a kid who had a [tough time] and had dropped out of school and then see me and say, ‘I am graduating’…” Sowers stops and just shakes his head. “And I am so proud of the kids that are just going along doing what they are supposed to do.”
It will be difficult to leave Rosemont but he and his wife Joanne have plans. They are buying a new trailer and plan on traveling across country.
“I want to see the leaves change [in the fall],” said the native Californian.
For years he worked the tech crew at Pasadena Nazarene Church. With his newfound free time he will be able to help out more with church programs.
Joanne retired from Rosemont after 27 years as a teacher and has not exactly been sitting in a rocking chair since. After her first year of retirement she picked up her trumpet and joined the Pasadena City College band and marched in the Rose Parade. She has not seen Niagara Falls, so that is another destination, as well as traveling to Idaho to see daughter Jennifer. The couple also plans to babysit the grandkids for his daughter Amy who lives in the area. There also appears to be some Pilates in his future since both of his daughters own and operate Pilates studios. Amy owns WundaBar Pilates in Montrose.
Before he leaves on his many adventures, Sowers has to get through his last promotion ceremony on June 3, which will not be without tears from him, the students and staff.
“Rosemont is an outstanding school,” he said. “This is a marvelous staff, from administration to custodians and teachers.”
And what will he be doing the first day of retirement?
“I plan on sleeping in, going to Starbucks and then to breakfast – in Palm Springs,” Sowers said.
And why? Because he can.
By Mary O’KEEFE
fter 46 years, Wanda Bergstrom will put the coffee pot down and retire from City Hall Cafe.
“These are not just customers, they’re friends,” Bergstrom of her “regulars” that come to the diner. “I have seen [customers’] children and their children’s children.”
She decided to retire on June 5 because June 4 is her 76th birthday. For her it was just time.
“My mother worked here for many years before I started here,” Bergstrom said. Her children and grandchildren have also worked at the diner.
Bergstrom now works early mornings. She is always ready with a smile and that pot of coffee though she admits that there have been a few cranky customers throughout the years. Bergstrom sees them as a challenge.
“When someone comes in and are very disagreeable, the world is treating them badly … my challenge is to make them smile before they leave,” she said.
Bergstrom has raised four kids and, of course, there have been good times and bad times but the constant has been City Hall.
“When I come to work I put a smile on my face,” she said.
To say this restaurant has strong family ties is an understatement.
“I met her daughter here and married her,” said Mark Wagner,
He started coming to the restaurant 25 years ago.
“It’s a great place,” he said.
He noticed Shelly (Bergstrom’s daughter) when he first came in. They began to talk and, like most regulars, the restaurant became the place to go to meet friends.
“We danced around each other for a while,” he said. But they married in 2001.
“This is a hard job. [Bergstrom] is up at 4:30 every morning,” Wagner said.
Bergstrom has become part of the City Hall history and is responsible for the most notable traditions. Walking in the diner the first thing customers notice are the pennants that line the walls. Bergstrom, a loyal Dodgers fan, put a pennant up from her favorite team.
“A customer came in one day and asked where her Ohio State pennant was. [Bergstrom] told him she would put it up if he brought one in. He did,” according to “Images of America Montrose” by Robert Newcombe.
Another City Hall Café tradition is the coffee mugs that hang on the walls. This was started when a customer, a reporter from the Herald Examiner, complained about the coffee mugs.
“He had huge hands and he complained the cups were too small. I told him to bring his own coffee mug in, and he did,” Bergstrom said. “I hung up this little rack (she pointed to a small rack near the coffee machine) and it just grew.”
She has seen the ownership of the City Hall Café change three times. About 40 years ago Young Rhee purchased the Café.
“I can’t say enough nice things about Young. We have worked together for 40 years,” Bergstrom said.
Although Bergstrom is still smiling and still loves her customers, she said it is just time to retire.
“I wish I could stay longer, but my body is telling me it’s time,” she said.
And although her husband of 57 years retired 16 years ago, Bergstrom’s retirement will not only allow her to sleep in but he will as well.
“He comes down here every morning to help me set up [the tables],” she said.
She will miss both her regulars and new customers that are discovering City Hall Café for the first time. But retirement means spending more time with her kids, grandchildren and great grandchildren.
“And if we decide to do something we can just do it,” she said. “I have never had that freedom.”
For those who want to say goodbye to Wanda Bergstrom, they are invited to join her retirement party on June 5 at City Hall Café, 2327 Honolulu Ave. in Montrose at 5 p.m.