Legends of Lakewood /Pillars of Community
In 2005, as Lakewood celebrated its 50th year of incorporation, the City Council dedicated the Pillars of Community commemorative artwork to honor the people and institutions whose lasting contributions to our community have made them Legends of Lakewood. When they were dedicated, the Pillars of Community held the names of 15 community founders and groups that reflected the commitment and creativity that helped establish Lakewood in 1954.
It was envisioned that a few names could be added to the pillars at five-year intervals based on a few, basic criteria:
§ Significant, lasting community leadership or exceptional contributions to either (1) the city’s formation in the period 1950-1954 or (2) civic development and progress in the years following.
§ A 20-year “buffer” would be used to provide historical perspective on the lasting qualities of the honoree’s contributions. Consequently, those added to the civic “hall of fame” during the city’s 55th anniversary are those whose achievements came to prominence in the period from 1950 through 1988.
On September 22, 2009 in celebration of the city's fifty-fifth anniversary three new glass bricks were mounted on the Pillars of Community to honor new Legends of Lakewood whose vision, integrity, and heart continue to sustain Lakewood as a community.
Named “Pillars of Community,” the three, 11-feet-high, glass and stainless steel pillars honor community leaders from Lakewood’s past and the values and traditions of today’s Lakewood. When the pillars’ lights are turned on in the early evening, the glow from the three glass pillars flood the plaza in the Lakewood Civic Center, and the achievements of Lakewood’s founders literally shine for new generations of Lakewood residents.
The noted Los Angeles artist Cheri Gaulke designed the pillars. She is best known for her work with the Metropolitan Transit Authority’s Pasadena Gold Line “art in public places” project. The S. Mark Taper Foundation of Los Angeles provided the funding for Pillars of Community.
The Reverend Dr. John C. Bonner
Pastor and community leader
The themes of caring and service flow through the ministry of the Reverend Dr. John C. Bonner – caring for the members of the congregation at Lakewood Christ Presbyterian Church when he was the church’s pastor and service to all those who call Lakewood their home.
For well over 30 years, Dr. Bonner has been engaged in the civic life of Lakewood – as a peacemaker in troubled times, as a bridge builder between different communities of faith, as a wise counselor in helping to inaugurate the Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast in 1978, and as the voice of consolation when, two weeks after in September 11, 2001, he stood before a grieving throng in the Lakewood Civic Center and spoke words of healing for the terrible wounds of that awful time.
In the eight years that have followed, during each Patriot Day memorial, Dr. Bonner has reunited the Lakewood community around the candles held proudly by the thousands in the Patriot Day audience. With his words of comfort and strength, he reminds us again of enduring values we dare not lose. He speaks of the better people we might become and the better community of neighbors we might make.
Dr. Bonner is a modest man. But he also is a spirit-filled man, a man of great faith, and a loving husband, father, and grandfather. He is a gentle man, quick with a disarming joke, and always prepared to share a favorite story that holds an unexpected truth about the human condition. He leads by his example of forbearance, patience, and respect for others.
When members of the Lakewood community gather at the annual Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast, they may not realize how deeply they’re indebted to Dr. Bonner as one of the program’s founders. His example of respect for others has been a model for Lakewood’s civic and religious leaders.
His personal contributions to the Lakewood community are too many to list here, but one gift will stand for many others. At Lakewood’s Memorial Day commemoration in 2000, Dr. Bonner and his family joined in dedicating a plaque honoring all American veterans who have given their life in service to our nation. The plaque was a gift to Lakewood from a grateful Bonner family in thanks for the ultimate sacrifice that so many had made for us.
Dr. Bonner holds the title of Pastor Emeritus to the Lakewood City Council in recognition of his years of service and his role as a mentor and guide. Many hundreds of times – at city council meetings, at civic events, and in celebration of Lakewood achievements – he has called us to prayerful contemplation.
Today, we are proud to call the Reverend Dr. John C. Bonner a true Legend of Lakewood.
Business leader and community benefactor
Vision and courage were needed to build Lakewood in the 1950s. In the decades that followed, the same values would be needed to preserve the neighborhood qualities of the community and give Lakewood a bright future.
Both vision and courage have marked the long career of businessman and Lakewood philanthropist Mace Siegel, whose legendary contributions to Lakewood we celebrate today.
Mace Siegel entered the shopping center business in 1952, working for a real estate brokerage that aided clients in creating shopping centers – then untested novelties. Siegel spent a dozen years helping others fulfill their development dreams before he began pursuing his own.
For help in getting his new business started, Mace Siegel turned to Richard Cohen. The two friends combined their first names and in 1964 formed the Macerich Real Estate Company.
In the 1970s, Mace Siegel began focusing on southern California as the next area for expansion. He evaluated numerous properties and chose Lakewood Center – one of the first shopping malls in the nation. The Macerich Company teamed with Provident Life and purchased the property in 1975. With the purchase of Lakewood Center, the Macerich Company embraced a new concept in mall design and thus began the lengthy and costly process of transforming an open-air shopping mall into an enclosed regional shopping center.
Macerich enclosed and expanded the mall in 1978 and expanded the Lakewood Center again in 1982, 2000, and 2009. Lakewood Center’s most recent addition is the 160,000-square-foot Costco store, which opened in February 2009.
Mace Siegel served as chairman of the board of directors of Macerich from 1993 to 2008 and as its chairman emeritus until June 2009. Under Mace Siegel’s leadership, Macerich expanded on a national scale, controlling more than 50 regional shopping centers and more than 20 community shopping centers.
Even as Macerich grew, Lakewood Center continued to occupy a special place in the company’s corporate history, reflected in Mace Siegel’s continuing regard for Lakewood. As a December 2000 profile in Shopping Centers Today put it “Ask anyone at the Macerich Company about the expansion and renovation of Lakewood Center, and the response is always the same: ‘That’s Mace’s baby.’”
Mace Siegel has been much more than an astute businessman. His personal generosity has benefitted Lakewood Meals on Wheel, Project Shepherd, Lakewood Special Olympics, the Lakewood Weingart Family YMCA, and almost too many other community organizations to list here.
Through the growth of Lakewood Center over more than 30 years – and by his own outpouring of support for those in need in Lakewood – Mace Siegel has shown himself to be a Legend of Lakewood whose name we add to the Pillars of Community with profound gratitude.
Volunteers in Service to Youth
Lakewood’s 55th anniversary year in 2009-2010 officially celebrates the “great ideas” that have sustained our community since the building of the city in the early 1950s.
In those years, when everything about Lakewood was new, one feature of daily life stood out – there were so many children. An average street might house nearly a hundred boys and girls under the age of 17. One of the most pressing questions faced by parents, even before the city incorporated in 1954, was providing recreational opportunities and character-building activities for so many youth.
Lakewood parents met the challenge with a “great idea” that continues unchanged today – parents willingly and eagerly volunteered to coach, lead, mentor, comfort, and lift up the youth of Lakewood. Since 1954, thousands of past and current Lakewood parents and grandparents have been youth sports coaches, scout troop leaders, Camp Fire and YMCA volunteers, library aides, religious education teachers, and members of youth programs of all kinds from Tot Lot parent cooperatives to high school team boosters. Dozens of organizations in the past 55 years have had the betterment of Lakewood’s young people as their principal focus.
We celebrate as Legends of Lakewood all of those who have given the gift of their time to serve youth in the generous spirit as those who answered the city’s urgent call in 1957 to volunteer as coaches in the city’s newly formed recreation department. Three generations later – often from father to son and mother to daughter – volunteer coaches sustain one of the largest and most active youth sports programs in southern California. Park sports leagues still count on parent volunteers to share their love of sports with the youth of Lakewood.
And not only adults, but also Lakewood’s teens are participating in programs that assist other youth. Their volunteer service is a welcome sign. Our community’s future depends on the energy and enthusiasm of young volunteers who will continue the “great idea” of volunteering to serve youth.
Today, we proudly induct all Volunteers in Service Youth into Lakewood’s civic hall of fame with the hope that all who have aided young people will feel that this honor is theirs. Guiding our community’s future leaders as they learned lessons of sportsmanship and citizenship has been the goal of all volunteers in service to Lakewood youth.
Whether they are Scout leaders; soccer, football or baseball coaches; service club members, Camp Fire leaders, Tot Lot moms, or Teen Board members, their service and their hope for the future give us the assurance that a legendary Lakewood tradition will live on.
‘Pillars of Community’ give insight into Lakewood
In 2005 the dedication of the grant-financed "Pillars of Community" public artwork at the Lakewood Civic Center was the capstone of special community events celebrating the city's fiftieth anniversary. (Click on photos below to see large images.)
Lakewood Online has collected photographs and background information to give residents a look at this landmark exhibit. The Pillars and accompanying information guide provide unique insight into historic city events and people.
Seeing the Pillars is worth a summer evening walk.
Click for map to Lakewood Civic Center area.
The "Pillars of Community" honors the values
of the men and women who
will always be "Legends of Lakewood."
The Pillars of Community designer Cheri Gaulke is best known for her work with the MTA Pasadena Gold Line “art in public places” project. Click to see full guide about the Pillars of Community in PDF
When their lights turned on, the glow from the three glass pillars flooded the plaza in front of city hall. The achievements of Lakewood’s founders literally shined for new generations of Lakewood residents, symbolically lighting the way to the city’s future.
“At the top of each pillar is an icon in glass of a Lakewood house representing," Gaulke notes, “the heart of the Lakewood community – the homes of its residents.” Wrapping around the top of each pillar, in raised metal letters, are the words “Legends of Lakewood Pillars of Community.”
The three pillars were designed to be visually dynamic both in daylight and at night. Each pillar is composed of four translucent glass panels in which a different historic, black and white photograph of Lakewood is embedded. This photograph forms the backdrop for other embedded photographs – some old, some new – as well as interpretive text that identifies those being honored as Lakewood “legends.”
The names of those honored will stand out on engraved glass bricks. “Bricks are a common building material,” Gaulke points out, “but these bricks are extraordinary. They are made of dichroic glass and appear jewel-like. The effect is magical. As the viewer movers past each pillar, the light falling on each brick will be reflected and refracted, causing the surface to change color continually.”
Over time, additional names of Lakewood “legends” will be added to the pillars, making them a unique “civic hall of fame” of Lakewood’s community leaders.
The commissioning of a major artwork celebrating the “Legends of Lakewood” who were honored during the city’s fiftieth anniversary year was made possible by a grant from the S. Mark Taper Foundation.
Click image to see full program brochure in PDF
Themes and images: Founders
Each pillar in the commemorative artwork is organized around a specific concept and identified in the large, bold lettering of the pillar’s thematic statement.
- The Founders pillar honors the three pioneer developers of Lakewood – S. Mark Taper, Ben Weingart, and Louis Boyar – and Lakewood’s City Attorney Emeritus John S. Todd, father of the Lakewood Plan of city government.
The pillar’s thematic statement is “We remembered the future,” calling to mind how the city’s founders designed a new community that would endure and embrace the future. The Founders pillar also celebrates Lakewood as the nation’s first “contract city.”
- The Vision pillar honors the men and women who, in the early 1950s, realized their hopes for a community of homes, schools, parks, and places of worship. In seeking cityhood in 1954, they sought to protect the values and newborn traditions of Lakewood. The pillar’s thematic statement is “Our best years are ahead of us,” celebrating their spirit of optimism.
The Vision pillar includes all the members of the city’s founding generation of residents as well as Donald Rochlen (an organizer of the incorporation movement), the members of the first Lakewood City Council (Gene Nebeker, Angelo Iacoboni, George Nye, Jr., William Burns, and Robert Baker), and the leaders of the county departments whose participation in the first years of the city’s “contract plan” made Lakewood possible.
- The Community pillar honors some of the men and women associated with the founding of Lakewood’s civic institutions. Dr. Walter Montano and Jess Solter are remembered as the founders of the Lakewood Pan American Festival. Former Mayor Jacqueline Rynerson is remembered as one of the active community volunteers who worked for the incorporation of Lakewood in 1954 and who continued to be active through the decades that followed.
Text on the Community pillar will remind visitors that Lakewood is a “Tree City USA” and a “Sportstown USA.” The pillar’s thematic statement is taken from the city’s anniversary celebration: “Times change. Values don’t.”
Lakewood History Online
Much additional historic detail related to the Pillars of Community is contained within the Lakewood Online history special section.
City officials see the pillars experience as the centerpiece for the many school tours hosted at city hall each year. The Community pillar asks two provocative questions they hope youngsters will address: What makes someone a pillar of the community? How can an individual make a difference?
To help visitors follow the themes and photographs that tell the stories of Lakewood’s “legends,” the city will publish an illustrated guide to Pillars of Community offering additional information about those who are honored. The free guides will be available from special display racks at city hall and in the lobby of The Centre at Sycamore Plaza.
Lakewood’s rich history and optimistic future profiled on CityTV and DVD
In celebration of the 50th Anniversary, CityTV Channel 31 is currently cablecasting insightful looks at Lakewood's past, present, and future in a special documentary series: "The City as New as Tomorrow." The series blends historical photography, film and video footage, and interviews with Lakewood residents. It will be available for purchase at the Club Lakewood store. Documentaries are also available in conjunction with the new "Lakewood Story" history book.
Lakewood’s rich history is explored in this series of CityTV documentaries, complete with historical photographs, film and video footage, and interviews with Lakewood residents. The full three-part series is on DVD and available for purchase at the Club Lakewood Online Store.