Noe Valley Voice September 2002

Noe This 'n That

By Laura McHale Holland

September. Wide-eyed children line up at school doors throughout Noe Valley. Carefully folded sleeping bags and tents rest in closets. The Sopranos are back, HBO Sunday night. And the first anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington, D.C., reverberates everywhere, from public forums to our most private thoughts.

September. Amid our collective mourning for those who can no longer gather with friends and family in neighborhoods much like ours, it is a relief to remember the joys of life. There is much to celebrate in our little neck of the woods.

Dona and Ray Elsbernd, for instance. On Sunday, June 23, the couple celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary with a blessing in St. Paul's Church by their pastor, Father Mario Farana. Residents of 28th Street since 1952, the Elsbernds raised two sons and a daughter here: Bill, Joe, and Diane. All three brought their spouses to the blessing and subsequent party at Yianni's Greek restaurant on Church Street. Also attending were grandchildren Meghan, Sean, and Matthew, and a host of other relatives, as well as many friends from the parish. Folks flew in from as far away as Idaho, Maryland, and Massachusetts.

"We enjoyed it very much," says Dona, 82. "A lot of pictures of our years of marriage and even before then were displayed, pictures from when we were real young and grew up in Blackfoot, Idaho. I went to school with Ray's twin sisters." Ray is now 85.

Married in San Diego during World War II, the couple settled in San Francisco shortly thereafter. Ray landed a job overhauling and repairing aircraft at Alameda Naval Air Station, and later shifted to planning and estimating work. He retired from the station in 1980, after 35 years on the job. Dona is also retired, having worked for the San Francisco Unified School District in food preparation until 1985.

And here's a little advice from Dona on how to have a happy marriage: "You just have to learn to accept, and be tolerant, and try to be understanding, and always have a kiss at night before you go to sleep."


Two lovebirds who just might heed that advice are Azia Yenne and Michael Bolos. They were married Aug. 10, 2002. It was a real Noe Valley affair. Azia manages Small Frys, a fetching children's store on 24th Street, which her mom, Carol Yenne, has owned for the past 11 years.

"The fun thing is that the Noe Valley Bakery did the cake -- white with mango and chocolate frosting. It was gorgeously decorated with what looked like pearls and little gold jewels. Indigo V did spectacular flowers -- orchids for the bride and roses for the maid of honor. Glen from MOP did almost everyone's hair. Beverly Tharp from the Voice did the pictures, and Azia and Michael were married by Father Michael Healy at St. Philip's," muses the happy mother of the bride. "And they were introduced by J.R. Hubbard. He works at Noe Valley Auto Body Shop, which is also on 24th Street."

Now that they've returned from their honeymoon in Maui, the newlyweds have settled into a flat on -- guess where? That's right, 24th Street. Unfortunately, Bolos does have to leave 24th Street often. He works in the University of San Francisco's computer department.


One person who doesn't have to leave the neighborhood to go to work is Philip Mathews. An architect, Mathews lives and works in a very contemporary Eureka Street home, which he designed and built along with partner Ed Graziani. On June 27, at a banquet at Moscone Center, Mathews' design was given a 2002 Gold Nugget Award of Merit by PCBC (Pacific Coast Builders Conference). His was one of only three awards given in its category: custom homes under 3,500 square feet.

"It was a nice thrill to get an award, because any project like this entails a lot of time and effort, not only my own but that of many others," Mathews relayed in August via e-mail from a cruise ship on the Baltic Sea.

The home, located at 398 Eureka Street, was designed for frequent home entertaining and to offer maximum flexibility, he says. The garage, which doubles as Mathews' design studio, has glass doors that allow light to flood in during the day. The two-story living room also serves as a library and conference room for formal client meetings.

Though some of the neighbors initially opposed his home's size and design, Mathews hopes they now will take a second look. "Ed and I wanted to build a modern house full of light. In a sophisticated city like San Francisco, we should have buildings that reflect a range of tastes, and current styles as well as old."

PCBC initiated the Gold Nugget Awards in 1963 to recognize builder and developer excellence throughout the western U.S. It has since expanded to include Pacific Rim countries. This is Mathews' first PCBC award.


Some young award-winners to note are members of the Douglass Playground sports teams. They brought to the Douglass Clubhouse two championship trophies in the 11-year-old and younger category for San Francisco Recreation and Park's Sunset Division League.

First-time co-ed flag football champions are Andrew, Max, Ben, and Matthew Bologna, Lewis DeTubly, Lorin Brock, Peter Florin, Jared Gropp, Jesse Barrows, Ryan Mullaney, and Martin Steinkamp.

The repeat basketball champions are Marcus Wells, Andrew Bologna, Justin Baker-Rhett, Lewis De Tubly, Jesse Barrows, Spencer McDonald, and Gabe Hersh.

"There are several kids in this group to watch," says recreation director Ben Price, who coached both teams along with fellow director Allison Kent. "They are superior athletes for their age and will surely get recruited to play for local high schools in the city, and eventually in Division One colleges."


One tiny tot who seems destined to be an athlete of some kind is Miles Alexander Wittig.

Miles was born July 21, 2001, at Kaiser Hospital in San Francisco. His dad Eric Wittig's primary job is teaching sailing at Olympic Circle Sailing Club in Berkeley. For fun on his days off, he teaches flying at Hayward Airport.

Miles' mom, Gretchen Wengenroth, reports that their active 1-year-old "already loves sailing, crosscountry skiing, and camping. He also likes wheels and gadgets, and he's good with his hands, good with problem-solving. He's very physical, loves to kick a ball, and takes swimming classes at the Recreation Center for the Handicapped."

You might think that such a dynamo would be a handful, but it turns out that parenting him "feels like the most natural thing in the world," Gretchen says. "I was really ready to be a mom.... I had one more thing I wanted to do [in life], and that was have a baby and raise him. It's been surprisingly easy. His dad feels like he's changed his life more than I do. Putting your needs on hold for a while is restricting in some ways, but it's an exciting challenge, too. And now that Miles is mobile and walking, he and his dad are developing a very close bond."

Wengenroth, who has a master's degree in recreation administration, has returned to work part-time as a surgical technologist at Kaiser. But her schedule leaves her plenty of time with Miles snuggled next to her as she drinks her morning coffee in their 24th Street home.


Hats off to the home-building volunteers from the Noe Valley Ministry. They have joined approximately 70 Bay Area congregations to help finance and build San Francisco's first Interfaith Habitat House through Habitat for Humanity. The Ministry signed on to the project last summer and has donated $1,000 to the effort so far.

On Sept. 14, church members will participate in their second workday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the construction site on Campbell Avenue in Visitacion Valley. Their first workday several months ago consisted primarily of demolishing a cobblestone retaining wall with jackhammers. Let's hope they get to pound a few nails this time. If your congregation, temple, or other group wants to get involved, call Tim Veeck, Interfaith's San Francisco coordinator, at 406-1555, ext. 105.


Speaking of getting involved, what would you do if one of your friends was being attacked by a group of gang members wielding a baseball bat? The youth mentioned in this month's Police Beat on page 15 says he jumped into the fray and tried to help. He didn't know someone in the group was carrying a knife.

"It went in below my left armpit, cut one of my ribs in half, and cut my liver," he said while recuperating from his home near Upper Noe Recreation Center, where the stabbing occurred on July 26. "I regret going out there, but then I don't regret it, because my friend is okay, so I guess I can just move on with my life," added the 17-year-old, who preferred to remain anonymous.

The good news is that he is expected to recover fully and is looking forward to returning to his part-time job at a camera shop. And many people who have known him since he was a winsome toddler playing in the sand wish him well. Perhaps one day he'll be a photographer.


It helps to know a photographer. Noe Valley resident John Calder's friend Maggie Hallahan is a very successful photographer, and she instigated the Calders being the poster family for this year's Bay to Breakers race in May. In the picture, Calder stands with his daughter Katie, who is now a sophomore in filmmaking at SOTA (School of the Arts); son Seamus, an eighth-grader at Rooftop and an actor in ACT; and son Conor, who just started fourth grade at Alvarado School.

"Anytime Maggie needs a cute family, she calls on me," says John Calder. "We were on 350 bus stops and Muni stations all over the city. This was fun. Conor had a fieldtrip at the time. They took the trolley, and the class got off right in front of an eight-foot-by-six-foot version of the poster. Conor was deemed the 'coolest third-grader ever' by his class."


A different sort of poster that appeared in the neighborhood in July was a picture of Midnight, the Cardillo family's chow/labrador retriever mix. On Wednesday, July 10, she wandered away from their Sanchez Street home, and Ruth Cardillo and her two children, 9-year-old Clara and 6-year-old Walter, were panic-stricken. But then they got busy scouring the neighborhood, making phone calls, and sending e-mails to get the word out that Midnight was missing.

"She is so attached to us, she never strays, and when our friends and neighbors heard she was gone, everybody was shocked," says Cardillo. "A day went by and then another. By Friday there was no indication she was going to be found. At about 10:45 that night, I'd just been thinking about her and coming to grips with the fact that I might never see her again, when the doorbell rang and there was Midnight, standing at the door with a couple who live on Duncan Street. It turns out their dog had been intermittently barking at something in their yard for the past two days. They thought it was a raccoon. On Friday night, since they were about to leave for a trip to Europe the next morning, they decided to investigate the barking further while taking the garbage out. They found Midnight under a little deck attached to their carport."

Clara had recently insisted that Midnight have a tag with their phone number on it. The Good Samaritans tried phoning, but they got a busy signal. They got the Cardillos' address from a flyer posted near their house, and decided to just walk Midnight right over.

Midnight's been nestled in with the rest of the family's menagerie -- four hamsters, two bearded dragons, six or seven fish, and a cat named Franny -- ever since. And Midnight's family is extremely grateful to everyone who helped them look for and find their missing dog.


We're extremely grateful to everyone who shared news with us this month. Do you have any interesting stories for October? Were you kissed by a werewolf, chased by a ghost? If not, send us the milestones you do have: charming babies, academic honors, athletic achievements, engagements, weddings, professional awards, book publishing parties, art show openings, literary salons, and any other good personal news worth sharing with your neighbors.

E-mail leads to, mail them to the Noe Valley Voice, 1021 Sanchez Street, San Francisco, CA 94114, or leave a phone message at 821-3324. Again, we eagerly await your news.