By Brandon HENSLEY
Mike Lawler sat down in a chair Monday night to answer questions about his decision to step down as president of Crescenta Valley Historical Society. The way he talked about how eager he was to move on, it’s no wonder he sat; he’s been standing way too long.
Lawler was honored at the La Crescenta Woman’s Club, which included a festive holiday atmosphere. There were Christmas decorations strewn about, a dinner with plenty of holiday treats and an appearance by the CV High School singing group, the Charismatics.
And there was Lawler, looking worn down.
“I’m just tired,” he said. “And 10 years is just too long anyway, because it just gets static. You need something new.”
He’s been the president of the Historical Society for a decade, but age – he’s 55 – has brought new obstacles in the form of two hip replacements and a knee replacement, the latter he had done 11 months ago.
He said when that surgery was over, so was his drive to keep going with the society.
“All that anesthetic … something just broke in me,” he said. “There was some moment when I just said it was too much. I just want to sit and watch TV.
“I just got tired. It’s a lot of work, man, it’s a lot of work.”
Who knows how much of the grey in his big beard is related to the stress of his work, which includes taking numerous daily emails, phone calls and letters. He also holds monthly meetings and gives tours around town, some of which he calls the “dirty laundry tours” because residents get to see past murder sites or brothels. The tours are creepy, said Lawler, “almost too creepy.”
When he told society vice president Stuart Byles of his decision, Byles said, “I was wondering, ‘Geez, what took you so long?’”
That question seemed to be on several people’s minds on Monday. Both Byles and society contributor Jo Anne Sadler said 10 years at the forefront of an organization is admirable.
“Mike didn’t do everything, but he did more than any president would do,” said Sadler, who credited Lawler with helping her get a publisher for her book, “Crescenta Valley Pioneers.”
“I think Mike has set the bar so high that people are afraid [to take over],” she said.
Lawler dismissed that kind of talk. He said he doesn’t think anyone cares who takes over as long as things run smoothly. For now, a committee will run operations, which will include long-standing members Byles and Ellie Pipes, who waere at the first ever meeting of the historical society in the summer of 2002.
Lawler’s wife Pam will continue to be the newsletter editor and Lawler himself will still be active in the society to some degree, and is contributing to a book out early next year celebrating Montrose’s 100th anniversary.
His venture into becoming president started in 2002 when, after a few meetings, Lawler came on and volunteered to steer the ship.
“I just love local history and no one else was going to do it,” he said. Lawler is from the area.
“He’s great. He was the power,” said Pipes, who added Lawler is a quiet person compared to her.
He’s also friendly by nature.
“He’s so friendly and even if someone is bothering him he doesn’t show it,” said Sadler. “He’s so supportive. He’s always there at every event.”
Byles said the historical society would be “vastly different” if not for Lawler.
“There’s just no question,” he said. “It’s self-evident, all the stuff he’s accomplished. As one outside person said to me, this is one of the most pro-active historical societies he’s ever seen.”
Lawler said he’s appreciative of the community, and that the people have made it worthwhile.
“The main thing about this whole group has been the response of the people,” he said. “Other historical societies just don’t get this kind of buy-in from their membership.”
Still, Lawler’s mind seemed to be somewhere else when asked if he was excited about the evening paying tribute to him.
“I’m just really ready to be done,” he said.
Don’t tell that to Byles.
“I don’t blame him,” he said. “He’s got these health issues he needs to take care of. I don’t think it’ll keep him down for long in a couple years when his health is back. It’ll be a new phoenix rising from the ashes.”