Shared Stories: My First Crush

There are many who can identify with Kacie Cooper’s sweet memories of her first crush.  Shared Stories is a weekly column featuring articles by participants in a writing class at the Norwalk Senior Center. Bonnie Mansell is the instructor for this free class offered through the Cerritos College Adult Education Program.  Curated by Carol Kearns

By Kathy “Kacie” Cooper

His name was Keith and his family lived on the next street from us.  His mother and my mother were best friends.  He was the third-born child of seven kids.  I was the third-born child of four kids.  At my young age I guess I thought this had to be a sign from heaven - we were destined for each other.  

Keith was a stocky sort of a young man with eyes like Paul Newman and hair that matched Robert Redford’s.  But it wasn’t until many years later, probably 3rd grade, that I realized my attraction to him.  

All through elementary school he was a very illusive chap to find.  I could never find him at recess, so I would wait at the end of the hall, holding on to the metal pole, hugging it, trying to look inconspicuous while searching high and low, just to get a glimpse of Keith.

Finally, by 5th grade, two years later, I had gotten tired of searching, so I decided to start playing tetherball. By the end of that year, Keith had finally mustered up enough courage to get in line for a game of tetherball.

By then I was the tetherball queen. Kids waited in line to play the queen.

“Can I play?” he asked me. Was he talking to me? I guess he was. Oh my! Of course, I was too shy to answer. I clumsily threw the ball to the next person in line, hitting them right in the kisser, and then ran off as fast as I could. I was just so petrified. I thought I’d be sick to my stomach. Keith had finally spoken to me!

All through junior high he and I continued this hide-and-seek approach to love.  Then, in high school, Keith started hanging out with my brother Michael and would come over to our house almost every day.

Still I would hide from him.  One day, hiding in my bedroom, quietly opening the door, I saw Keith slowly closing the front door to leave.  But before he did, he saw me, stopped, and shot me the cutest smile I had ever seen on him.

I always knew Keith was shy.  I think he knew I was shy too. One time I thought maybe Keith and I would have made the best of friends, had I been a boy like my big brother Michael.

A year after graduating, my brother Michael told me that Keith’s girlfriend had just had a baby girl.  I was so hurt.

Years later, Michael got married, had two daughters, and Keith started hanging out with some other guys.

Then one devastating night Michael came to me with tears in his eyes and informed me that Keith had died unexpectedly. My heart was crushed. 

Michael cradled me in his arms and comforted me and I did the same for him.  I don’t know which one of us was hurt more.

Our first crush is the most innocent, the purest, of loves.  I never could find Keith here on Earth but let me tell you – if I get to heaven, this time, believe me, I will find him.

Plans move forward on downtown Downey improvement district

DOWNEY – Plans for a potential community benefit district (CBD) are now in the hands of property owners, as the City Council gave staff the go-ahead on Tuesday to move forward with efforts that could further revitalize downtown.  

 Downey is considering a community benefit district to raise money for downtown improvements. Photo by Joan Anderson,

Downey is considering a community benefit district to raise money for downtown improvements. Photo by Joan Anderson,

According to a staff report presented to council members,  there has been an increase in demand of services – including street sweeping, steam cleaning, security, and public art,  – due to the rapid growth of Downtown Downey.

The creation of a CBD would in theory provide downtown property owners with finances to better control and fund special events, marketing, promotional activities, public space development, security, beautification, property enhancements, and a property owner led governance body for the administration of the services.

If approved, the CBD would raise over $253,000 annually for the downtown.

The district would consist of approximately 10 to 12 square blocks, consisting of 90 parcels and 59 property owners. 

It would be generally bounded within parcels on the north side of Burns Avenue, parcels on the west side of La Reina Avenue, parcels on the west side of Brookshire Avenue, and parcels on the north side of 3rd Street / New Street / 4th Street and the parcels fronting the east side of Downey Avenue between 3rd and 4th Street, excluding the undeveloped parcels east of US Bank, but including City Hall.

The city owns property within the new district, which spurred concerns from Mayor Sean Ashton as to how the CBD might be perceived amongst other business owners within the area.

“We’re 18 percent of it technically, but I don’t think we’re doing this for us to control it,” said Ashton. “I want to make sure that if these people are volunteering to be part of this, they’re the ones that have the say as to how the money is spent. That’s my big concern…They’re going to have the say since it’s their money; they’re gonna have the say as to how it’s spent.”

Council member Alex Saab tried to quell the mayor’s worries by clarifying the intent of the CBD.

“The idea is not for the city to control this, because it defeats the whole purpose,” said Saab. “The idea of this is who knows more about the downtown district than the businesses themselves?”

In an interview Wednesday, former mayor and business owner Kirk Cartozian said that he “tends to trust” the process, saying that “it’s worked very well in a lot of cities.” 

However, he emphasized that it must be done right. Cartozian is one of the owners of the former Avenue Theater property, which falls within the boundaries of the potential CBD.

“It has to be implemented properly,” said Cartozian. “You need a board or body to make decisions for the benefit of the businesses.”

Council members voted unanimously in favor of the district at Tuesday’s meeting, with Councilmember Fernando Vasquez abstaining. Vasquez owns property within the projected new district.

Staff will now mail out ballots to each property owner within the district, with votes cast returned to the City Clerk.

Votes will be tabulated at a public hearing that is scheduled for July 24.

13 Downey schools chosen for national honor roll

DOWNEY – It was announced last week that Downey Unified schools have been selected by the Educational Results Partnership (ERP) as 13 of the 1,798 public schools in California to receive the title of 2017-18 Honor Roll School. 

The program, sponsored by the Campaign for Business and Education Excellence (CBEE), is part of a national effort to identify higher-performing schools and districts that are improving student outcomes. 


Along with this distinction, the Downey Unified School District as a whole was selected as one of 24 public school districts to receive the paralleling title of 2017-18 Honor Roll School District.

The schools within Downey Unified that have received the title of 2017-18 Honor Roll School are: Alameda Elementary, Carpenter Elementary, Doty Middle, Downey High, Gallatin Elementary, Griffiths Middle, Lewis Elementary, Old River Elementary, Price Elementary, Rio San Gabriel Elementary, Stauffer Middle, Unsworth Elementary and Williams Elementary.

The 2017-18 Honor Roll is developed by ERP, a nonprofit organization that applies data science to help improve student outcomes and career readiness. 

Schools that receive the ERP Honor Roll distinction have demonstrated consistent high levels of student academic achievement, improvement in achievement levels over time, and a reduction in achievement gaps among student populations.  For high schools, the ERP Honor Roll recognition also includes measures of college readiness.

 “We are so proud to be recognized by leaders in the California business community as an Honor Roll District,” said Downey Unified Superintendent, Dr. John Garcia. “Our teachers, staff and administrators work tirelessly to keep the focus on high expectations, student academic achievement and continuously improve our practices. This hard work and dedication is paying off for all of our students.”

Carlos Avalos enters school board race

DOWNEY – A second candidate has emerged for the vacant Downey school board seat. 

Carlos Avalos announced this week his intention to pursue the Area 3 seat left vacant by the resignation of longtime board member Willie Gutierrez. The district covers northeast Downey. 

Community leader Giggy Saab announced her candidacy two weeks ago. 


Avalos is director of facilities and maintenance for the Lennox School District. According to his biography, Avalos grew up in Downey, attending Alameda Elementary, South Middle School (now Sussman), Downey High and Columbus High. 

He earned an AA degree in Business Administration from Cerritos College before transferring to Cal State Dominguez Hills to pursue his degree in Public Administration. He’s currently enrolled at the University of La Verne to complete that degree, he said.

“I’ve decided to run for the vacant seat in Area 3 because I know the value of public education,” Avalos said. “Being a product of the Downey Unified School District, I understand what this community is about and I’m ready to support the success of every single student. 

“I’ve been a school employee for about 12 years now and I understand the difficulties we all face.” 

Avalos is past president of the Classified School Employees Association and has served on several district committees, including the School Safety Committee and Classified Management Negotiations Team. 

As a board member, Avalos said his priorities would be “school safety, strengthening our STEAM curriculum, and providing opportunities for parent involvement to help students achieve success.” 

Avalos has been married for 11 years. The couple has two daughters. 

When communities rally behind education, everyone wins

By Beatriz Gutierrez

When it comes to education there are a multitude of factors at play in delivering a quality educational experience to our children. As the new Executive Director of the Soleil Academy Charter School in Lynwood, I know community support of our students is paramount to their academic success.

Our kids are challenged with external forces more than ever before including family matters, peer and social issues, technology usage and personal development taking their focus away from their studies.

Therefore, it is important for students to have a support mechanism to steer them back onto the pathway to graduation and a fulfilling academic career.

Communities that value education help establish safer neighborhoods and are better informed and better-connected as citizens. High performing schools also add value to area properties making the community more desirable to live-in, attracting new businesses and community members.

In fact, a recent poll by the Public Policy Institute of California indicates that California voters rank education as a top priority in this year’s governor’s race. This makes it clear that Californians have education as a top-of-mind issue.

To keep our promise of a better future to our kids, we must invest, in a personal manner, to help motivate their learning process – whether through volunteering at a local school, serving on a school committee or board, or donating in-kind services or supplies to a teacher or classroom – every little bit helps students in their efforts.

Our goal as teachers, administrators, family and community members should be to have every child graduate from high school - a 100 percent graduation rate. This is ambitious and not without its challenges. How we can support this goal is through daily actions that show kids what hard-work, diligence and determination can do to improve their lives.

As an educator with over 10-years of service in the classroom and as an administrator, I have chosen to engage students directly, so they can reach their full potential academically and in their personal goals.

As a former Lynwood Unified School District student myself, it always made me happy to see parents assisting the teaching staff and administrators in the classroom, volunteering at school functions and serving as mentors. As an administrator of a newly opened community public school, I encourage parents and members of the community to learn more about Soleil Academy and every other school in the area to see how you can become a driving force for positive change in a young person’s life.

As we rally together we can create bonds of support bringing knowledge to our students and making education a primary focus – creating a win-win for all.

Beatriz Gutierrez is an educator who attended the Lynwood Unified School District as a child and later was accepted to become a Corps Member with Teach for America and a Fellow with Building Excellent Schools. She currently serves as the executive director of the Soleil Academy Charter, a public school open to all students.

Shared Stories: Homage to my abuelita

Vicente Madrid honors his grandmother with this memoir of her love and the critical role she played in his family. Shared Stories is a weekly column featuring articles by participants in a writing class at the Norwalk Senior Center. Bonnie Mansell is the instructor for this free class offered through the Cerritos College Adult Education Program. Curated by Carol Kearns.

By Vicente Madrid

Speaking in the dialect of la Capital where they don’t just say it, they sing it, the shaman explained the intention of el Dia de los Muertos. 

“The purpose of the ritual,” he said, “is to remember those who have gone before us. We believe that one dies three times in this life. The first is when you’re heart stops beating. The second is when you’re buried and returned to Mother Earth. The third and the one nobody wants, is when you are forgotten. Hence the notion of honoring loved ones by creating works of art, literature, altars and sweets to eat in the form of skulls and skeletons as metaphors for loved ones who have transitioned to the next world.”

It is in this spirit that I commemorate the birthday of my abuelita Carmen Ramirez de Aceves. On May 4, 2018, Abuelita turned 113 years old. Those who were present in our family will tell you that without her sacrifices, we would not be here today. 

Even though she was on call from the canneries where tuna ships docked at the harbor, Grandma made time to slow-cook traditional Hispanic delicacies. No one has even come close to duplicating the taste of her fideo and nopales de camaron. The first bite of her home-made tortillas made from scratch, straight from the fire with a dash of butter, is locked in the memory of my taste buds.

Vicente's Grandma 5x7 (2).jpg

In addition to cooking, Abuelita’s forte was her demeanor. A woman of uncompromising principles, proud of doing everything for herself and owing nothing to anyone, she was the rock in our family.  

Discourse was by no means wasted on small talk or chitchat; everything she said was important. Her honesty was brutal and her word was gold. When Dad died, she took full responsibility taking care of her mom, my mother and five fatherless children under the age of nine.

With no formal education, she made sure we never went hungry, paid the bills and sent us to school with new shoes and clean clothes.

To my knowledge, Grandma never drove a car. With broken English, she managed to find work and commute with coworkers who lived nearby.  Her main transportation was the red streetcar that stopped across the street from our house on Willowbrook Avenue. She also rode the bus and an occasional taxi.  

After the Watts uprising when streetcars became obsolete and taxicab service was suspended in Compton, she relied on her daughter and grandkids for travel.     

I thank my lucky stars for the typesetting position at my job in downtown L.A.  Although short on sleep, the night shift created the opportunity to take Grandma shopping, on road trips and doctor’s appointments.     

In those days there was no “me too” movement; women fended off unwanted proposals by telling superiors where to go when they overstepped their boundaries. Encouraged by coworkers, Abuelita practiced the phrase “go to hell.” However, it sounded like “go tu hill” when she said it. 

“What hill?” I asked, “there’s no hills here.” Bless her heart, who knows how many times she was obliged to employ that expression at the canneries in San Pedro harbor.     

Every morning when I pass by her picture, I shower Grandma with praise. My chant starts in English and converts to Spanish in case she’s listening.  Buenos dias Abuelita, te amo. Gracias por todo lo que isiste para nosotros.  Descanse en pas. Te miro en el otro lado. 

Good morning Grandma, I love you. Thank you for taking care of us. I’ll see you on the other side.

Letter to the Editor: No to Frine Medrano

Dear Editor: 

As we approach the June 5 primary election, here are some things for my neighbors in Downey and District 58 to consider:

If you support the recent gas tax /price increases, then you should vote for Frine Medrano.

If you support the recent car tab/registration fee increases, then you should vote for Frine Medrano.

If you support the early release of criminals back into our neighborhoods, then you should vote for Frine Medrano.

If you support more homeless camps and homeless people wandering our streets, then you should vote for Frine Medrano.

If you support more increases in our income taxes, then you should vote for Frine Medrano.

If you support the elimination of Proposition 13 (the only thing keeping our property tax rate somewhat reasonable), then you should vote for Frine Medrano.

If you support more government control of your life, then you should vote for Frine Medrano.

If you support our tax dollars, intended for road repairs, diverted to other projects (bullet train), then you should vote for Frine Medrano.

If you support the values of former Senator Tony Mendoza, then you should vote for Frine Medrano.

This is the second time that Ms. Medrano has run for a political position in the last couple of years. In a recent Downey Patriot article dated April 19, 2018, Ms. Medrano implies Councilman Rick Rodriguez only won the 2016 City Council election because Downey’s Third District is a “conservative” district.  Whether the Third District is, or isn’t, a conservative district isn’t the reason that Mr. Rodriguez won the election. 

Mayor Pro Tem Rodriguez won the election because he was a good candidate, he knows and cares about Downey and offered common sense, effective solutions to the concerns we face in this city.  And thankfully Mr. Rodriguez was elected because he has turned out to be an outstanding councilman. 

I live in the neighboring city district, District 2, but every time I call Mr. Rodriquez, he answers the phone and does his best to address any concern that I bring to him.

Yes, Ms. Medrano, as a resident of Downey, I would say that not only have you lost touch with District 3, I would say that you’ve lost touch with the entire city of Downey, having spent several years in Sacramento working for a representative from a different district. 

Ron Boren

Marshall R. Skinner, Jr.

February 28, 1935 - May 12, 2018

Marshall R Skinner Jr.jpg

Marshall R. Skinner, Jr, 83, passed away on Saturday, May 12. He is survived by his son Rob Skinner, daughter-in-law Kelley Garcia; stepdaughter Debra North and son-in-law Mike North; stepson Jim England and daughter-in-law Sue England; granddaughters Kelsey England and Julie Barcia, as well as his great-granddaughter Isabelle and great-grandson Lucas.

Marshall, a Korean War veteran of the Air Force, worked for 40 years and retired from the aerospace industry. In his spare time, he enjoyed traveling, exploring the desert, and working on antique engines as well as on his collection of Packard cars.

He is preceded in death by his wife Phyllis and his daughter Marcia.

Services will be held at Hillside Chapel at Rose Hills on Tuesday, May 22 at 11 am with a short reception following at his home.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that you make a donation to the American Heart Association.

Alice Mae Fray

August 18, 1929 - April 1, 2018

Alice Fray Photo.jpg

Funeral services were held on April 27 at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church in Downey for Alice Mae Fray. Ms. Fray was born on August 18, 1929 in New Orleans, Louisiana, to parents Irvin Bernard Hoover and Bernice Herbert and died on Easter Sunday, April 1, at PIH Hospital in Downey.

She studied at Newcomb-Tulane College in Louisiana, was a medical secretary and later a stewardess for Delta Airlines. She was also a real estate agent and property manager. She donated her time to the Catholic Women’s Guild where she met many good friends.

She was a member of the Board of the Downey Symphonic Society, the Downey Symphony Guild, the Assistance League, and the American, California, and Los Angeles County Medical Association Alliances.

She is survived by her daughters Martha Roehl, Nancy Romero and Janet Jacobs; her sons Alan, Darryl and Thomas; her brother IB Hoover; her grandchildren David, Mark, Garret, Amanda, Jonathan, Cristin and Jenna; and two great grandchildren Tyler and Kylee.

Internment was at Riverside National Cemetery in Riverside. Funeral arrangements were entrusted to Miller Mies Downey Mortuary.

Letter to the Editor: Problems in Downey

Dear Editor:

The traffic on Florence and Haledon is terrible between the hours of 7:30 am until about 8:30 am. People are so inconsiderate that they do not allow traffic to go onto Florence from Haledon. The gridlock is awful.

Maybe the city should consider a "Keep Clear" on this intersection since no one can get by on these hours of the morning. It apparently works on Florence and Arrington.

Also, the traffic on Lakewood and Gallatin is terrible in the later hours of the day. People continue to make a left turn into the driveway into the Ralph's market, which is illegal. The people going into McDonald's also cut across the double double lines making a left just because they don't want to wait.

We need a solution to this problem. Maybe a police officer issuing tickets, or just a cement divider like you have put everywhere else. 

The landscaping on Lakewood Blvd between Florence and Mueller is out of control. The residents who own those homes do not realize that their bushes are hanging over to the sidewalk. Some residents have their fences falling down which is dangerous since people walk through that street. Maybe code enforcement should notify these residents so they can resolve the issues. 

We attend the gym at the Downey Landing, LA Fitness, and behind Pier 1 Import there is a water valve that has been leaking for over a month. Someone needs to correct that problem, since there is still a water storage.

M. Contreras