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This 'n' That
By Laura McHale Holland
The unseasonably warm winds of summer brought us a new family--all the way from New York City. Chris Smith and his wife Sheri Matteo settled into a flat on Vicksburg Street with their 21/2-year-old daughter Micaela, newborn son Anderson (born June 10), and their terrier mix Desdemona.
Smith had already been commuting from New York since March, when he was hired as the new artistic director for San Francisco's award-winning Magic Theatre. Through his work as program director for the Ensemble Studio Theatre in New York and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Science and Technology Project, Smith became acquainted with Larry Eilenberg, the Magic's outgoing artistic director. They collaborated on new theater works that explored the worlds of science and technology. And Smith's project helped support Science on Stage, a Magic Theatre reading series.
"One of the delightful things I get to do in my new guise at the Magic is inherit Science on Stage, which is held at the Exploratorium. We stage plays that are germane insofar as they deal with science and technology. And we have a talkback session with the playwright and somebody affiliated with the Exploratorium who has expertise in the areas of science the play touches upon.
"As part of the series, we'll be doing a reading on Wednesday, Sept. 24, of a play written by my fellow Noe Valley resident and colleague Carey Perloff. She's the artistic director of ACT [American Conservatory Theater]. Her play is called Luminescence Dating, and it concerns some archaeologists," Smith notes.
On the home front, Smith and Matteo have their hands full right now taking care of two very young children--finding day care and babysitters and getting their new lives in order. "It's a huge, huge transition, and most of our family and friends are back East. However, we're in an incredible place. Noe Valley has had one of the most gorgeous Augusts I can ever imagine. It has tremendous family appeal, wonderful little shops along 24th Street. That makes the whole thing easier," Smith observes. "And, hey, for New Yorkers to look out our window and see San Francisco lying before us all the way to the East Bay is a real treat."
Once the children are a little bit older, Matteo plans to return to her career as a midwife. "A midwife's going to find a job anywhere, but it's appealing to come to California, which is renowned for its openness to a holistic approach to women's health," Smith says.
One cross-country transition that didn't work out so well was John Lehrack's move from San Francisco to Miami. He left here on June 5, to be the musical director of Miami Children's Theatre, only to return six weeks later saying, "It's the worst job I ever had in my life." He has already resumed his position as musical director of San Francisco's Hawaiian chorus Na Leo Nahenahe. Rehearsals are on Monday nights at Bethany Church on Sanchez Street, and Lehrack says new members can join anytime.
As for the Bethany Theatre Project (which produced Sondheim's Forum last spring), Lehrack plans to hold auditions for the next production in October or November, with the show opening early in 2004. That is, if he can find funding and new rehearsal and performance space. He'll welcome calls and e-mails from readers with suggestions at 701-7011 or email@example.com.
As for future moves, he says, "I missed the city greatly and don't see myself leaving again anytime soon, if ever!"
On July 20, when Lehrack was saying goodbye to Miami, the Ashman Family and friends were bidding a fond farewell to 182 Grand View, the home that had been in the family since 1937.
Carl Ashman and his wife Helen were German colonists living in the Ukraine who migrated to Canada in 1902, and the United States not long thereafter. Carl, a carpenter, bought the lot on Grand View and 21st streets for $400 in 1937. With an FHA loan and less than $4,000 in materials, he built a three-story home, where the couple nurtured their eight children: Bill, Frieda, Arthur, Elmer, Edith, Klara, Louise, and Clarence. (The family was featured in the February 1995 issue of the Voice when three of the siblings celebrated their golden wedding anniversaries.)
Louise and her husband Ralph Chelifoux bought the home from Carl and Helen in 1968 and lived there until July, when they moved to a retirement community in Kennewick, Wash., to be near Clarence ("Mike") and his wife Doris. None of Louise's three remaining siblings (Edith, Klara, or Clarence) was prepared to assume ownership of the home, nor were any of their heirs.
"It's sad. We've had so many good times there," says Klara, who lives in Ignacio in Marin County. "It's hard knowing you won't be driving up that way and seeing that wonderful, unobstructed view at the end of 21st Street. And the backyard has stones that came from the cobblestones on Market Street. My dad carried them down the hill one by one when they were digging up the street and nobody wanted them," she recalls.
As for Ralph and Louise's move to Washington state, Klara says, "They're doing very well. Mike lives right around the corner. Their furniture was a week late, so it's a good thing they had some place to stay."
Klara says the Grand View home will be put on the market as soon her nephew has a chance to fix it up. She doesn't know what the asking price will be.
Nesting happily in her longtime family home is Mary Teahan-Duffy. She and her husband Kevin Duffy are awaiting the arrival of a new generation, to be raised in the house on 23rd Street where both she and her mother Patsy were born. The newcomer's name will be Shane Patrick. He's due to be born on Dec. 5.
The expectant parents were married in 1997, only two months after they'd met. "It was just so easy compared to any other relationship I'd ever had. I felt so loved by him," says Mary. "It was funny because my dad wasn't worried at all when he met him, and my dad never liked anyone I went out with. But when Kevin went over to ask for my hand in marriage, my dad was just so excited." (Mary's mother was not involved because she died when Mary was a child.)
Starting a family, however, was not so easy. After many failed attempts, they consulted a fertility doctor, and Mary found out she was pregnant on March 28. The following week, however, she had symptoms that made the couple believe they were going to lose the baby. They both came home early from work. She was in the kitchen when Kevin came up to her and whispered, "There's a stork on our fence. Run and get the camera!"
When Mary stepped outside, she saw a great blue heron. "I knew it was a sign, and everything would work out. He stayed there for about five minutes and then flew to a tree nearby and rested. He then flew away. We were in awe over the whole experience," says Mary.
"We saw this beautiful bird once before when we got engaged in Golden Gate Park's Arboretum," she continues. "Maybe it's the same one. It sure seems to bring us luck. Maybe it was my mother bringing me a gift from heaven, knowing my dream was to become a mother so I can once again feel the bond between mother and child."
(According to John Kelly, research director at Audubon Canyon Ranch, a great blue heron alighting on a Noe Valley branch is interesting from a human perspective, but not noteworthy from an ornithological perspective. The herons nest at Stowe Lake and Lake Merced, he says. However, if a blue heron takes up permanent residence in Noe Valley, he'd like to know about it.)
Perhaps one day, the Duffys will go out to dinner for their 62nd wedding anniversary, just like Florence and Leo Holub did on July 3. The Holubs moved to their 21st Street home in 1957--with three boys in tow. Florence has been writing a column, "Florence's Family Album," for the Voice for about 20 years, and Leo is a photographer and professor emeritus of Stanford University, where he founded the art department's photography program. The Associates of the Stanford University Libraries devoted their entire Spring & Summer 2003 issue of their publication Imprint to his career. Another reason to celebrate.
The Holubs both feel that common interests contribute greatly to their happy union.
"We're very compatible," says Florence. "He's a very quiet man; he only speaks when he has something to say. He's a very relaxing person to be with, and I'm a nervous wreck most of the time! We were drawn together because of our love of art. We met in art school [the California School of Fine Arts, now the San Francisco Art Institute], and I think that's the glue, really. Right now most of our social life is going to art openings and receptions, and it continues to be our primary love," notes Florence.
They also love the same kinds of foods, to the point of ordering identical entrees when they dine out, because, says Florence, "Sometimes when Leo orders big things, and I order a little thing, then when I cook the next meal at home, he's not ready for that much food. So I try to order the same thing that he has. This way, we're always hungry for a good meal at the same time. We've had a few years to adjust, you see."
Over their anniversary dinner of halibut at Delfina on 18th Street, the Holubs met another couple, David Sanchez and his partner Maria Pardal.
Sanchez remembers the occasion. "We overheard [Florence and Leo] telling the waitress that it was their anniversary, and we couldn't believe they said 62 years because they were so young-looking," he says. "When we found that it was true, we congratulated them and started to talk a bit."
It turns out that Sanchez and Pardal also live in Noe Valley, on 25th Street. In fact, Sanchez is a lifelong Noe Valleyan. He was born in a little cottage on 24th Street behind what is now Hot Headz.
"My mother was a fairly progressive woman for the time, and she wanted to deliver me at home," recalls Sanchez. "When she was going through labor, my dad was nervous because he didn't think the doctor would get there in time. So he asked the woman he thought was the nurse when the doctor would arrive, and she said that she was the doctor. So, I was delivered at home by a woman doctor--in 1938. It was very unusual at that time."
Another person with a rich history in Noe Valley is Chris Borg. She never lived here, but she was a recreation director at Upper Noe Recreation Center for close to 30 years. In August, she was transferred to Parque Ninos Unidos, a brand new park at 23rd and Folsom streets. The daughter of Albert J. Farrell, a Recreation and Park supervisor, Borg has spent her entire career with the department. She began in 1966, when she was a college student, working part-time at such jobs as taking care of lost children at the zoo and attending the locker room at Rossi Pool.
Borg's fondest memory is the day her co-worker Bart Borg asked her to marry him. "Bart's a recreation director at Douglass Park and Glen Park now. He proposed to me in the kitchen at Upper Noe, and we went to the city calendar in our office and picked out a date," she recalls.
They celebrated their 25th anniversary on Aug. 19, 2003.
At Upper Noe, Borg was the power behind an array of recreational programs, for everyone from toddlers to senior citizens. She was big on outdoor activities, and big on indoor details, too--from choosing toys that would help toddlers develop motor skills to decorating the rec center walls for each season and holiday.
The last few years, however, Borg felt like she was running out of steam. "You get to know a lot of people, get close to them. They tell you their history, and then all of a sudden a couple of years later, you never see them again. It never really hit me until two years ago. I became depressed. I was toast, burned to a crisp. I had to change my ways," she says.
Borg was on the verge of retiring when she was asked to work at Parque Ninos Unidos. "I came in and I saw their faces, just smiling and happy, so appreciative that the community could put this beautiful park together, and it just totally threw me back into it. I remembered why I went into recreation. I buttered my bread, and I started all over again."
Never fear, she says, the popular Tiny Tots and Kids Gym programs will continue at Upper Noe. Call 695-5011 for dates and times.
To her many friends in Noe Valley, Borg says, "Thanks for putting up with me. I hope your children are doing well. Come on over and see me sometime. We're still neighbors. I love you all. And I'll miss you." h
If you have an item for This 'n' That--a wedding, anniversary, or birth announcement, perhaps--drop a line to the Noe Valley Voice. Send letters or photos to 1021 Sanchez Street, San Francisco, CA 94114. Or you may e-mail thisnthat @noevalleyvoice.com. You can also leave a message at 415-821-3324.