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Know Your Neighbors

11 Nov 2020
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Ozzie and Harriet was a sitcom that ran from 1952 to 1966, starring the real-life Nelson family. Ozzie, the dad, was a bandleader; Harriet; the mom, was a singer; their two sons were David and Ricky (with the latter becoming a famous recording artist). The Nelsons portrayed a “typical” American family, where dad was a well-meaning if slightly bumbling guy; mom was all-knowing and loving; and the sons got into trouble and learned their lessons, with lots of laughs thrown in. Children who grew up in those years held up the image of an Ozzie and Harriet family as a standard of comparison for their own, generally more dysfunctional, households. “I don’t know why you want to write about me,” says Brett Thompson. “In my family, we really were just Ozzie and Harriet.” Thompson, 71 and a Sun City Palm Desert resident, was born in Omaha, Neb., but raised in…
28 Oct 2020
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I first met Terre York in 1996 when she drove her van, fully outfitted as a mobile chiropractic “office,” into my driveway. “There was an idea floating around at that time for mobile chiropractic services,” York says. “One of my patients had become a truck driver, and I realized we had truck stops all around our area, and drivers could use the services. But truck-stop legal counsel said they were concerned it would be seen as a prostitution service. I said, ‘If I were a 6-foot-tall guy, would you still think that?’” York was born in Wisconsin 72 years ago, the eldest of four, before her family moved west; she was raised in Canoga Park, in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles. “My mom had come from northern Minnesota and was part Ojibwa (the Native American tribe with the fifth-largest population in the United States). As a child, she…
14 Oct 2020
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Rancho Mirage’s Rupert Macnee has a story that could easily be the subject of one of his documentary films. Macnee, 73, was born and raised in London. He went off to boarding school at 13, thanks to a generous godmother, and found his way to Princeton University, where he earned a degree in public and international affairs—before heading into a career as a freelance documentary filmmaker. (Full disclosure: I have had a personal relationship with Rupert Macnee for nine years.) But his backstory includes him feeling abandoned by his actor father, Patrick, who became famous after playing secret agent John Steed in the British television series The Avengers; hiding with his mother and younger sister from knocks on the door demanding rent; learning from his way-ahead-of-her-time lesbian godmother how to write proper letters, as well as fish, shoot and behave like a proper gentleman; and desiring to make films, starting…
01 Oct 2020
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Steve Stockton says that his best decision in life was getting married and having a family. However, his work as an optician—which allows him to change people’s lives by giving them the ability to see clearly—is just as important. Stockton, 59 and a Palm Desert resident for the past year, works for OneSight, a nonprofit organization “committed to eradicating the global vision care crisis in our lifetime.” According to the organization’s website, OneSight has helped more than 9 million people in 46 countries since 1998. “I was in Costa Rica,” Stockton says, “and went back there after 10 years for the anniversary of our OneSight program there. I saw a woman I had helped on that earlier trip, and she still had the same pair of glasses that had transformed her ability to see. For a little boy from Ogden, Utah, to be able to make that difference, around the…
16 Sep 2020
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When we patronize a service business, if the person with whom we interact is polite, pleasant, personable and a true professional—it makes a huge difference. That describes Desert Hot Springs resident Randy Ralke, who holds down the fort at Post’n Ship in Rancho Mirage. Although he’s originally from Minneapolis, Ralke describes himself as a true “valley boy.” He moved to the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles with his mom and three siblings after his parents divorced. “My mom had a friend,” he recalls, “who had moved out a year earlier, after her husband had gone to a retreat of some kind, had a heart attack and died. She encouraged my mom to make the move.” Ralke is a natural redhead, which got him bullied as a kid. “I was always seen as different,” he says. “Kids would use lots of nicknames, and it hurt. But it’s also what made…
02 Sep 2020
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Shirley and Terry LeMaster were seemingly destined to find each other—even though they took different paths for much of their lives. Terry, 77, is originally from Morgantown, W.Va., but moved around a lot. His father worked at a gunpowder plant during World War II. “I was raised by my grandparents some of the time, in Orange, Texas,” says Terry. “My dad was a quiet, reserved man who was not emotional at all, but he was very warm-hearted and had a smile that would light up the room. My sister died of leukemia when I was about 9 or 10, so I was pretty much raised as if I were an only child. I remember that I once saw my father cry, and that gave me permission to be emotional. “My mom was something of an anomaly. She was college-educated and had always wanted to be a doctor, but women weren’t…
19 Aug 2020
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They work together, act together, cook together and laugh together. Dori and Rupert Smith are an example of how committed couples can inspire and support each other to become the best they can be, both individually and as a couple. Dori, currently president of Democrats of the Desert, was born 70 years ago in Madera, Calif., before being raised in Virginia. She was born second in a family that includes two sisters and a brother. “My mom grew up typically Italian in New York,” she says, “and I would describe her as ebullient: She loved to dance and was a lot of fun, but she also was the one who helped to unionize the tool-and-die company where she worked when we were kids. My dad was a hard-working man who just wasn’t around a lot. “I was once told that the second-oldest always gets into trouble, and I certainly did.…
12 Aug 2020
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One of the most interesting cases Megan Beaman Jacinto has handled as a civil rights attorney involved a class of farmworkers. About 70 percent of the 60 workers in the crew were female—and in need of protection from gender discrimination. “One day, about 32 showed up at my office,” she says, “and I ended up with 42 clients in a suit for discrimination. Their supervisor was always on them about what tasks they could perform and (wanted) to bring more men into the crew, and if they didn’t, then they were terminated. This is common for farmworkers. I sued for discrimination, and it took until we were readying for trial for a settlement to finally get done. It had taken four to five years. This is one of the cases I’m most passionate about.” Beaman Jacinto grew up poor in rural Iowa. “Where I came from,” she says, “it was…
22 Jul 2020
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Elder-law attorney Michael “Mick” McGuire, 73, says he keeps trying to find a way to retire. “But when the pandemic hit, that went on the back burner.” McGuire, a La Quinta resident for seven years, used to visit the desert from Long Beach—until his wife of 30 years, Vivien, a public defender, made him to decide to relocate. McGuire was born and raised in Pittsburgh, and his birth family included grandparents who had emigrated from Ireland. They had four daughters and were scrounging for work during the Great Depression. “My grandfather died in his 30s, and my grandmother was one of those people you’re blessed to have in your life. She cleaned houses to support her daughters. “My mom had no education past the ninth-grade, and they were always one step ahead of the landlord. My mom always used to say, ‘If things aren’t going your way, just get on…
08 Jul 2020
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I first met Mary Borders after I saw her dance. It was at a gathering in Palm Springs in 1997 to honor the 84th birthday of civil rights icon Rosa Parks. To the accompaniment of drums, Borders danced a free-form combination of modern dance and African tribal movements. Her style was lyrical, fluid and emotional. It was mesmerizing. Borders, now 72, lives in Perris after being a long-time resident of Rancho Mirage and Cathedral City. She was born and raised in South Central Los Angeles and raised by an aunt (“who I think of as my mom”) along with her grandmother, and four cousins who are “like my sisters.” “My aunt would always tell us that when we grew up, we would go to college and be able to be self-sufficient,” Borders says. “We weren’t to rely on a man for a living. She’d say, ‘You can do it yourself.’…

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