A Fond Farewell

Goodbye to Hank Van Wingerden, one of the four great brothers from Holland who came to America in the 1960s and started a flower empire. He died last month at the age of 84.

The Van Wingerdens were flower growers in the Netherlands. When bureaucratic regulations and red tape had found their way into the flower industry, the oldest brother, Case, started researching other options. He told me that he found, through the university's geological system, that little Carpinteria had the perfect climate, soil and water for growing flowers.

So in 1967, the Van Wingerden brothers – Case, John, Bill and Hank (and a sister Agatha) pulled roots and replanted their families in Carpinteria to start the Dutch Brothers nursery. They began growing carnations, then later freesias and mums; and now gerberas are the big crop. The Van Wingerdens grow 90% of the Gerberas used in the United States today.

Like all the Van Wingerdens, Hank had a great work ethic, was generous to the core, and had a great sense of humor. I remember him on the greens at the Santa Barbara Lawn Bowls Club. He was just so funny, full of life and unabashedly silly just to give us all a good laugh; he was altogether delightful. When we had one of our parties there, we could always count on him singing enthusiastically (with his brother Case and sister) several Dutch songs from his homeland.

So Hank, may you blossom in Heaven.

A Navy League Salute

Here’s a tribute to one of the outstanding organizations of 2006: the Santa Barbara Navy League. This nationally recognized local council is the envy of other Leagues – from much larger cities across the nation.

When the irrepressible Connie Los moved to Virginia after heading up the Navy League here, some wondered who could ever follow her act? Then Karen Crawford stepped forward to assume the role as Navy League president, not only filling Los’s shoes, but hitting the ground off and running in them the entire year, bringing an even more calendar-cramming number of events.

Together with her dedicated and energetic board, she has done a wiz-bang knock-up job of organizing the council, building interest and tying it into the community through a number of activities and excursions.

The Navy League partnered with other community groups such as the Channel City Club to promote speakers Rear Admiral Leendert R. Hering, Commander, Four-star admiral John Nathman and performers such as the United States Navy “Country Current” ensemble.

In conjunction with Pierre Claeyssen’s Veteran’s Museum, the Navy League worked to honor the Navy at the 10th annual Military Ball. The League was there for the deployment of the USS Ronald Reagan (which the council adopted), provided a dockside tour for a navy submarine and saw the commissioning of its own AIRPAC Squadron Naval Sea Cadet Corps Unit.

At the California Avocado Festival and the Santa Barbara Harbor Seafood Festival, the Navy League sponsored a booth where people could write notes to men and women in the sea service, and learn more about the Naval Sea Cadets.

Whew! I salute the group and its accomplishments.

If you want to be in on the action, or are just curious to know a little more, call 879-1598 or e-mail sbnl@cox.net.

Silly Symphony

The Symphony Pops concert has become a fun, informal entertainment tradition to welcome in the new year. This time the theme was “classic cowboy” as the symphony performed movie scores from famous Westerns as a salute to the Duke. (This spring is the 100th anniversary of Marion Michael Morrison – aka John Wayne.)

All this to be said, many concert attendees were then dressed in western wear – such as Fredda and Harris Meisel, and Mary and Louis Sanchez.

Since it was New Year’s Eve, the Symphony was passing out noisemakers and party hats – sparkling crowns and tiara and top hats in shiny metallic colors.

Entering the Arlington we could see that to set the stage (so to speak), all the orchestra members, professionally attired in tuxedos and formal black dress, also had on an array of ridiculous party hats. It was a hoot.

Then, when the orchestra started tuning up to concert “A,” well, every other guy in the audience who had a paper party horn started blowing that along in musical accord as well.

Fantastically fun concert, the humorous high note of which was the spunky Patricia Gregory as “guest conductor” for one selection. Her friends bid for the role on her behalf at a previous fundraising auction. Described as a great patron of the arts, Gregory, who barely stands five feet tall, conducted the William Tell Overture, with a singularly iconoclastic baton technique and conducting style. I wished someone had taped it – the symphony could have made a fundraiser out of it on Pay-Per-View. She brought down the house, and our 2007 was off to a great start.