Shared Stories: Love for a fish

Many of us have won a goldfish at a carnival game, and we do our best to take care of these beautiful, delicate creatures.  Yolanda Reyna recounts a touching story when one of these fish became her son’s first pet.  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 Yolanda Reyna

Robert (my ex-husband) adjusted to life without his dog Max. After our children Reina and Li’l Robert, we had our third child, a son, Daniel. 

It had been 11 years since Max had been taken away. We all seemed to be doing fine without any pets in our lives. 

Although, when Daniel turned ten years old, he was becoming curious about animals. I can recall him watching his favorite cartoon shows, such as “Little Bear” or “Franklin.” Franklin was a cartoon show about a turtle and his family. And, no, Daniel wasn’t curious about a bear or a turtle, thank God!  Well, a turtle would have been ok!  As time went on he would often ask if he could have a puppy, and of course, I’d say NO!

One day my children and I attended a harvest festival at their elementary school. It was a lot of fun. There were games, prizes, food, and music. Daniel had played a “Toss a ring-around a bottle” game, and he’d won! 

He won a goldfish! It looked so cute in the little bag filled with water (floating around with such little space).  It was a bold orange color.  Although, I thought it looked a little blue with its mouth drooping, giving that sad expression. 

When we took it home, we found a small bowl to place it in temporarily. Daniel had a responsibility to care for his first pet fish.  The next day he and I went to the local pet store to purchase a fishbowl and some fish food. 

Every day, before Daniel ate breakfast and dinner, he’d feed his fish without being told.  I had placed the fishbowl in the kitchen where Daniel had a good clear view of the fish.  He had so much love for it.  He was showing a lot of responsibility for a ten-year-old boy.  

He’d feed the fish, watch it as it would eat, and off to school he’d go!  Sometimes, he’d just stand there tapping his little finger on the bowl.  But I had the responsibility of changing the water. That was day after day. 

Occasionally, his father, big Robert (my ex-husband) would feed the fish, not realizing it had been fed. I’d say to him, “Daniel fed the fish this morning.”

“Oh,” he’d say.

Also, I’d catch Reina and Li’l Robert feeding the fish too, and I’d say to them, “Your dad fed the fish already!”

“Ahhhh! we want to feed the fish!” they’d say.    

 At times I found myself feeding the fish, thinking it hadn’t been fed!  Even as a mother, I worry about a fish!  It seemed we all had the same love for Daniel’s fish as he did! 

One evening, as dinner was being served, Daniel raced to the kitchen to feed his fish. Surprisingly, the fish was not in the fishbowl! 

Daniel said, “Mommy, where’s my fish?” 

I looked. I said, “I don’t know!”  It was a mystery.  We looked around and the fish was nowhere in sight! 

“Well,” I said, “it couldn’t have just got up and walked away,” or more like, “It couldn’t have just jumped out of the bowl!” 

But apparently, it did! 

I noticed it lying on the floor, lifeless, underneath Daniel’s chair in the kitchen!  Not even a flap from its fin.  

As my eyes set on the fish, I said to Daniel, “There it is!” 

My God, what happened? I asked myself.  Daniel and I looked at each other in disbelief!  Either someone took the fish out or it just jumped out itself!  There was no explanation. 

The only answer I had for my son was, “Daniel, your fish wanted to be near you when you sat at your chair.”

That seemed to have pleased Daniel, being that he was only ten years old or maybe he thought his mommy was just plain crazy!  Funny, if it did jump, which it had to have, it leaped right underneath Daniel’s chair.

When I told his father, brother, and sister what had happened, they were sad to hear the news. We realized we had all been feeding the fish without each other’s knowledge.  It just seemed the fish was being overfed and jumped out of the bowl, or it just jumped out to escape it’s living conditions.

Whatever the reason was, we will never know.  It was probably screaming, “Stop Feeding Me!” Rest assured, we did have a proper burial with respect to Daniel.

In the end, knowing how much my son showed love and care for his first pet fish allowed me and the rest of the family to show love and care too!

Paging Dr. Frischer: Bug bites


This has been a banner year for insect bites, and I’ve been hearing many more complaints from patients. It’s likely that our last long wet winter, followed by warm weather, is responsible. 
Which insects are causing the problem, and what can we do about it?

■ Mosquitoes are the most common source of bites. In fact, there is a new invasive and aggressive species found here in Southern California called Aedes aegypti, They are black with white stripes, and don’t behave like typical mosquitoes. They will aggressively follow their victim, and bite during daytime hours, unlike the typical dusk biting behavior of most other mosquitoes. 

For the most part, mosquitoes are found near standing water, even very small quantities of water, where they breed. Their bites cause local pain, itching, swelling and redness. Typically, within 20 minutes there is an itchy bump. It peaks within two to three days, and then goes away. 

Some people, particularly young children and highly allergic people, can develop dramatic swelling surrounding the bite, and even a low-grade fever (often mistaken for cellulitis). 
Mosquitoes pose an additional problem; they can transmit serious diseases. Locally, there have been cases of West Nile virus, St. Louis encephalitis, and Zika virus. Worldwide, they also transmit malaria, yellow fever, dengue fever, La Crosse encephalitis, and chikungunya virus.

■  Spider bites pose a variety of problems, depending on the variety of the spider. Symptoms of bites can include itching, rash, bite site and muscle pain, sweating, trouble breathing, headaches, nausea and vomiting, fevers, chills, anxiety, restlessness, and even high blood pressure. 

Venomous spiders found in the United States include the black widow, brown recluse, and hobo. Although they are especially dangerous to those who work outdoors, we all know that they do occasionally find their way inside. 

Stay calm, wash the skin with soap and water, apply cold water or ice, elevate the bite, attempt to identify the type of spider, and see your doctor if necessary.

■ Ticks can transmit several infectious diseases, including Lyme disease (which is rarely seen in California).

■ Flea bites are usually only a nuisance. It’s possible for the site to become infected, though, by scratching that annoying itch!

■ Houseflies can’t actually bite. They can, however, transmit intestinal infections in conditions where the water and general hygiene are poor.

Some insects can cause a general (systemic) allergic reaction. These are uncommon but can be caused by mosquitoes, ticks, fleas, blackflies, deerflies, louse flies, horseflies, centipedes, kissing bugs, and notably…by the sting of a bee. 

The most serious (but rare) generalized allergic reaction is anaphylaxis, with hives, wheezing, vomiting, low blood pressure, and even loss of consciousness. Anaphylaxis needs immediate treatment with epinephrine. Anyone with a history of anaphylaxis should see an allergist for further education and evaluation, and carry an epinephrine autoinjector.

How much trouble should we go to in order to prevent insect bites? It depends on how significant the risk is. If we travel to a foreign country where a mosquito bite can lead to malaria, then it is critical to protect ourselves. 

Strong chemical products (like DEET and Permethrin) are very effective. However, milder insect repellents may be enough in areas with lower levels of disease. Botanical oils, including sandalwood, geranium, and soybean, have been used to repel mosquitoes and ticks. However, they aren’t nearly as effective as DEET or permethrin.

Of course, for those simple insect bites, treatment focuses on the relief of symptoms. Wash the area with soap and water. Reduce any local swelling with ice or a cold pack. Reduce any itching with a topical cream (containing calamine, steroids, or pramoxine), or an oral medicine (products like Claritin or Dimetapp can help during the day, and an antihistamine like Benadryl can help at night).

Whether at home or away, know your risks, and take measures as needed to protect yourself.
Dr. Alan Frischer is
former chief of staff and former chief of medicine at Downey Regional Medical Center. Write to him in care of this newspaper at 8301 E. Florence Ave., Suite 100, Downey, CA 90240.

Funeral services scheduled for Felix 'Juan' Valles


DOWNEY -- Felix “Juan” Valles passed away Dec. 6 in his home surrounded by family.

Felix was a resident of Downey for 35 years with his wife, Rosa. They were middle school sweethearts and were married for 51 years. 

He worked as an elevator mechanic for 30-plus years until he recently retired and was a member of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church in Downey. 

Felix’s love for his family and friends was well known to the community he lived in. He was always there to lend a helping hand to his family and friends. His neighbors all knew who Felix was on the “Island” as he would wave or honk at anyone who passed by. He always knew how to make anyone around him laugh and feel welcomed. 

He was an avid sports fan following his teams Dodgers, Cowboys and Lakers.

He is survived by his wife, daughters, grandchildren, siblings and family.

Visitation will be on Monday, Dec. 18 from 5–9 p.m. at Forest Lawn Cypress – Church of Our Fathers with prayer vigil/rosary from 7–8 p.m., located at 4471 Lincoln Ave in Cypress. 

Funeral services for Felix will be at Our Lady of Perpetual Help on Tuesday, Dec. 19, at 10 a.m., located at 10727 Downey Ave. in Downey. Following the services, Felix will be laid to rest at Forest Lawn – Long Beach. 

Poor, minority students receive lesser quality arts education, study finds

LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles County Arts Commission released findings last week from an 18-month survey of arts education in K-12 public schools. 

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The Arts Ed Profile was administered to all 2,277 schools across LA County, including 81 districts, four charter school networks as well as a few individual charter schools. 

It represents data from the 2015-17 academic years and identifies the breadth and distribution of arts education in Los Angeles County. 

In addition to the report, the LACAC has created an online Arts Ed Profile tool, which allows users to explore the data in for themselves. Some of the report’s key findings include:

Arts instruction is offered in nearly every school in LA County and most schools offer two or more disciplines, but very few schools in the county offer year-long arts instruction to all students.

Equity continues to be a challenge in arts education. English learners, students on free and reduced-price meals (a proxy for low income) and students of color tend to receive less arts instruction and at a lower quality than their counterparts—especially in elementary grades.

In general, the quantity of arts instruction is higher in elementary grades (PreK-8), while the quality of instruction is higher in secondary grades (9-12).

Grades 7-8 are the peak years for arts instruction. During those years, instruction in all artistic disciplines is offered at nearly every school.

Teaching artists and arts nonprofits play a critical role in arts education, providing instruction in more than half of all public schools in LA County.

The findings from this report were released as part of the Arts Now: LA County Arts Education Summit at the Japanese American National Museum in downtown Los Angeles.

Lady Vikings win eighth straight basketball game

DOWNEY -- The Downey High School girls’ basketball team currently has an overall record of 8-1 and will begin league play when they host Paramount at Downey on Jan. 10. 

Downey was defeated by Los Alamitos at Downey 58-50 on 11/21 in their opening game and have won eight straight games since then. 

The Lady Vikings hosted the 40th Annual Downey Varsity Classic Nov. 24-30. Downey defeated CAMS 60-19 on 11/24 in their first game, defeated Nogales 56-27 on 11/25 in their second game, defeated Torrance 69-32 on 11/28 in their third game and defeated La Palma Kennedy 58-41 on 11/30 in their fourth and final game. 

The Lady Vikings finished their own tournament with a record of 4-0.

The Lady Vikings also competed in the Duarte Tournament Dec. 4-9. Downey defeated La Canada 54-42 on 12/4 in their first game, defeated Duarte 65-49 on 12/6 in their second game, defeated Montebello 57-18 on 12/8 in their third game and defeated Upland 66-47 on 12/9 in their fourth and final game. The Lady Vikings played Legacy High School of South Gate yesterday (score unavailable at press time). 

Downey will participate in the Southern California Holiday Prep Classic over Christmas Break December 27-30. The Lady Vikings begin league play on January 10th and will travel to cross-town rival Warren for the first of their two scheduled league meetings on Jan. 19. 

Downey finished last season with an overall record of 22-7 and a S.G.V.L. record of 9-1. The Lady Vikings were eliminated by Camarillo at Camarillo in the third round of the C.I.F. Division 2AA playoffs. 

WARREN GIRLS BASKETBALL: The Warren High School girls’ basketball team currently has an overall record of 3-1 and will begin S.G.V.L. play when they host Lynwood at Warren on Jan. 10. 

The Lady Bears will host cross-town rival Downey on Jan. 19 in the first of their two scheduled league meetings.

Warren recently competed in the Ocean View Seahawk Classic Tournament held Dec. 4-9. The Lady Bears defeated Lakewood 48-38 on 12/4 in their first game, defeated Cypress 49-48 on 12/6 in their second game, were defeated by Oxford Academy 62-39 on 12/8 in their third game and defeated Sage Hill 57-46 on 12/9 in their fourth and final game. The Lady Bears also played Whittier at Whittier on Tuesday (score unavailable at press time).

Warren will also be competing in the Larry Doyle/Dan Wiley Basketball Tournament over the Christmas Break from December 26-30. The Lady Bears are scheduled to play Tustin in their first tournament game on 12/26 and will see who they play in their second game based on the result of their first game.

The Lady Bears finished last season with an overall record of 15-13 and were 5-5 in San Gabriel Valley League play. Warren was defeated by Carter at Carter 53-50 in the second round of the C.I.F. Division 2A playoffs. 

CALVARY CHAPEL GIRLS BASKETBALL: The Downey Calvary Chapel girls’ basketball team currently has an overall record of 3-5 and recently competed in the Grizzly Classic Tournament held Nov. 27 through Dec. 1. 

The Lady Grizzlies defeated Samueli Academy 45-37 on 11/21 in their first game, defeated Calvary Baptist 56-22 on 11/27 in their second game and defeated Connelly 35-27 on 11/28 in their third game.

DCC was defeated by Ontario Christian 47-13 on 11/30 in their fourth game and were defeated by Mary Star of the Sea 54-33 on 12/1 in their fifth and final game. DCC finished their own tournament with a record of 3-2 and fourth place finish.

DCC was defeated by Santa Ana Calvary Chapel at Santa Ana Calvary Chapel 50-30 on 12/4, were defeated by Capistrano Valley 44-32 on 12/5 and were defeated by Loara 55-39 on 12/5. The Lady Grizzlies played Saddleback at Saddleback on 12/9 and Samueli Academy on Tuesday (scores unavailable at press time).

DCC will play Cantwell-Sacred Heart on 12/19 in the Santiago Tournament and will also compete in the Cavalier Classic Tournament December 20-21. DCC will play San Bernardino on 12/20 at 4:30 p.m., Central City Value on 12/20 at 6:00 p.m. and Estancia on 12/21.

DCC finished last season with an overall record of 17-8 and an Academy League record of 7-5. The Lady Grizzlies were defeated by Westridge 42-34 in the wild card round of the C.I.F. Division 5AA playoffs. 

CALVARY CHAPEL BOYS BASKETBALL: The Downey Calvary Chapel boys’ basketball team currently has an overall record of 1-3 and recently competed in the Grizzly Classic Tournament Dec. 4-8. 

The Grizzlies defeated Anaheim Discovery Christian 74-48 in their first game on 12/4, were defeated by Ontario Christian 54-45 in their second game on 12/5, were defeated by Southlands Christian 54-49 in their third game on 12/7 and were defeated by La Quinta 66-40 in their fourth and final game on 12/8.

DCC also competed in the Santa Ana Calvary Chapel Four City Classic Tournament held at Santa Ana Valley High School December 11-13. The Grizzlies played Los Amigos of Fountain Valley on Monday and played Santa Ana Calvary Chapel on Wednesday (scores unavailable at press time).

The Grizzlies are scheduled to play Santa Ana at DCC on 12/19 and El Segundo at DCC on 12/21. The Grizzlies will also be competing in the Estancia Coast Classic Tournament over the Christmas Break December 27-29. DCC is scheduled to play Estancia on 12/27, Bolsa Grande on 12/28 and Savannah on 12/29.

The Grizzlies finished last season with an overall record of 8-18 and an Academy League record of 2-10. The Academy League consists Crean Lutheran, Calvary Chapel, Brethren Christian, Oxford Academy, Sage Hill, St. Margaret’s and Whitney. 

Newspaper publisher fined in defamation case

Brian Hews, left, and former L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca.

Brian Hews, left, and former L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca.

CERRITOS -- The publisher of a local weekly newspaper was fined $2,500 for withholding evidence as part of a defamation lawsuit filed against the publisher, a newspaper reported. 

Brian Hews, publisher of Los Cerritos Community News, reported last year that Central Basin Water board director Leticia Vasquez and Montebello councilmember Vanessa Delgado attempted to extort money from a Newport Beach real estate firm in 2016. 

Vasquez denied the charges and sued, accusing Hews of fabricating the story “out of thin air.” 

The Gateway Guardian Newspaper, a competing newspaper in Cerritos, reported that Hews was fined $2,500 on Nov. 6 for withholding evidence without legal justification. 

The newspaper also reported that Hews “finally admitted” in court that the sources for his stories were Central Basin board members Art Chacon and Phil Hawkins. 

Vasquez told the Gateway Guardian she plans to amend her lawsuit to add Chacon and Hawkins as defendants. She filed an injunction “to prevent future fake news stories” by Hews and is seeking compensation for damages and attorney’s fees. 

As part of the lawsuit, Randy Economy and Jerry Bernstein, former journalists at Los Cerritos Community News, filed sworn declarations in which they claimed Hews regularly published false stories about public officials he feuded with or who did not support his newspaper via advertising.

Asked for comment, Hews told the Patriot to “f--- off.”

Broadway star Lindsay Mendez returns for 1-night show in Long Beach

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NORWALK -- Norwalk’s Lindsay Mendez, who has achieved much success in New York’s theater circuit, will return for one night only in “Back from Broadway,” playing this Sunday, Dec. 17, at the Beverly O’Neill Theatre at the Long Beach Convention Center. 

Mendez starred as Jan in the 2007 revival of “Grease” before being cast as Elphaba in Broadway’s 10th anniversary production of “Wicked.” She followed that up with the 2011 revival of “Godspell.” 

Mendez -- who is the daughter of former Norwalk mayor Mike Mendez -- earned widespread praise for her performance as Rose Fenny in the 2013 Off-Broadway production of “Dogfight.” She was nominated for a Drama League Award in the Distinguished Performance category, as well as nominations for a Drama Desk Award and Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding Actress in a Musical. 

Mendez returns to Broadway this spring as Carrie Pipperidge in the revival of “Carousel.” 

Tickets to see “Back from Broadway” can be purchased online at or by calling the Musical Theatre West box office at (562) 856-1999, ext. 4.

Mayor's Corner: 2017 in review

Hello Downey,

With the end of the year approaching, it is a time to reflect on the amazing year we have had in our city.  Our city has many accomplishments for which to be proud. 

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My wife and I have had the greatest gift and accomplishment of all: the birth of our beautiful son, Ethan Omid Vasquez. As I venture into parenthood, I see the world with new eyes, and I am prouder than ever to live in the City of Downey and raise my family here. 

At the beginning of the year, the city council met with city staff to lay the foundation and strategize on how to reach the city’s goals. The goals are based on the five overarching principles of Fiscal Responsibility; Efficiency and Adaptability; Economic Vibrancy; Quality of Life; Safety and Infrastructure; and Public Engagement. 

Thanks to our city staff’s diligent work, our budget remains responsible and fiscally conservative while still addressing our promise for economic vibrancy. Included in the budget were funds to conduct an Imperial Highway Economic Study to learn how we could revitalize the Imperial Highway Corridor. 

The city also made significant changes in its overall compensation, retirement and healthcare structure.  It has sought federal, state, local and private funding for projects to support our parks, library, police, fire, water and community development needs; and supported state and federal legislation to increase funding for infrastructure projects. 

This was all in an effort to continue to maintain the quality of life residents have come to expect.  Our city as a whole is growing and buzzing with excitement. As its motto states, the Future is truly Unlimited. 

Public safety will always be our top priority. The Downey Police Department has added new staff and officers to its force. To date, we have 121 sworn officers. Earlier this year, I along with my council colleagues approved the passage of the Downey Police Civilian Volunteer Patrol Program. Residents have been trained to help patrol our streets and have served as an added set of eyes and ears for the Police Department. 

Another program approved this year was the Park Ranger program. The dedicated Downey Park Rangers solely patrol our parks to ensure the safety of all. 

The Downey Fire Department rolled out the Smart911 System.  Smart911 is a free service for all residents that allows users to provide information about themselves and their family when calling 911. This will allow police and fire personnel to get up to date emergency information when responding to situations where seconds can save lives.

As I approach my last year on the Downey City Council, I want to thank the past and present council members, city staff and the community for the trust you have placed in me and for every piece of support I have had the pleasure to receive in the past seven years.  

I would like to thank my family; my parents for all the sacrifices they have made to help me get to this point; my sisters for their commitment and the laughs along the way, and a special thanks to my wife, Donna, for always being supportive of me throughout this entire process. I am eternally grateful to you all.

It has been an honor and a privilege to serve the residents of the City of Downey.

Fernando Vasquez  
Downey Mayor


Anna M Farina

May 25, 1956 - November 25, 2017


Anna M Farina, age 61, passed away unexpectedly on Saturday, November 25, 2017 surrounded by loved ones while attending a wedding celebration in the redwood forest of Navarro, CA. She graced the Downey community for nearly 30 years. Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina on May 25, 1956, she emigrated to the United States in 1981 and settled in Downey in 1988. Her five children grew up through the Downey Unified School District and two of which have returned to teach in the district.

She was not only a mother to her five surviving children but also a mother to anyone in need of comfort, compassion, or generosity. Every Thanksgiving, her home would play host to others who were displaced or otherwise did not have a place to call home. A breast cancer survivor, she will be remembered as a vibrant woman who shared love, compassion, humor, and wisdom with the World.

Anna took the most joy and purpose in being a mother and a Nana to her eight grandchildren. She enjoyed entertaining them with puppet shows, crafting, creating impromptu stories and songs, and singing Argentinean nursery rhymes.

The morning of her last day on Earth, while practicing yoga for one of the first times with some wedding guests, she asked to share some of what life has taught her. “Life will bring on challenges, but don’t let your heart harden. My wish for you is to keep your hearts soft. Keep them soft and light.” She was, and continues to be a beautiful reminder to LOVE without limits.

Anna leaves behind her 5 children: Pablo, Franky, Danny, Michelle, & Stephanie; 8 grandchildren; sister Andrea Bernal; mother Candida Rosa Ahumada; 6 nieces, 4 nephews, and the countless others who called her their second mother.

For those who were touched by Anna’s life, the family will be holding a public memorial service in her honor on December 16th at 11am at First Baptist Church of Downey.

The family has set up a gofundme page to assist with expenses related to the memorial service.

James Harleston Linden Sr.

May 26, 1929 - November 25, 2017

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James Harleston Linden Sr., born May 26, 1929 in Grayson, Texas, a resident of Downey the past 60 years, passed away at his home on Saturday, November 25, 2017 surrounded by his family.  A beloved father and husband, James was preceded in death by his wife of 47 years, Peggy Linden, and grandsons Christopher Clark and Michael Linden and great-granddaughter Angel Guzman. James is survived by his wife of six years, Phoebe Linden, and his children: David Linden (David (Cassandra), Summer Linden); James Linden Jr. (Carrie, James, Richard and Peggy Linden); Scott Linden; Deanna (Esquiel) Linden Guzman (Chimimara Clark, Crystal Clark, Christopher Clark **D.O.D. 10/28/99, Camie (Jorge) Calzada, Eloy (Becka) Guzman); Robin (Evelyn) Linden (Lauren, John, James, Hayden); Vel (Michael) Akseven (Tanner Akseven); Wendy (Frederick) Linden (Albert (Veronica) Parral); Misty (Stephan) Hausmann (Tabetha Sandberg, Linden Hausmann); Pix (Darrel) Linden (Raine, Abby); Dutch (Kristine) Linden (Justin, Emily, Hunter, Aurora); and Jerry Hoffman.

James served this Nation honorably in the United States Army and the United States Marine Corp, in which he served two deployment tours in Korea. James was a businessman in South Gate for over 35 years, as well as a member of the South Gate Elks Lodge and South Gate Optimist Club, and serving as president of the South Gate Chamber of Commerce from 1984-1985.

James had a flair for cracking jokes and always being a positive person; even on his death bed he still managed a little bit of that familiar humor. There will be a private family and close friends memorial on Saturday, December 9, 2017.  In lieu of flowers please make a tax deductible donation in James Linden’s name to the Downey Rose Float Association ( or the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (