- Local businessman Marvin Steinert, already one of our community's most generous benefactors, who had to deal with a rare illness that left him blind literally overnight. Marv responded by focusing on his faith and continuing to support our local non-profits, including writing a $50,000 check to the new children's medical center at Memorial Hospital.
- Local community activist Wendy Wayne, who continues to show an indomitable spirit in the face of her own fight with cancer. Wendy does more for our community in a year than most of us do in a lifetime.
- Judi McCarthy, who almost single handily kept the Kern Community Foundation going through a tumultuous year and whose sole goal is to provide resources to help others.
- Horace Mitchell, president of Cal State Bakersfield, who has laid out a clear vision for the university and guided it through a most difficult period. He has taken the heat for state budget cuts, but his vision has been unwavering.
- Don Martin, the owner of Metro Galleries downtown, who kept all our spirits high by helping revive the downtown art scene through sheer will power and clever marketing.
- All the service clubs in our community - Rotary, Kiwanis, Lions etc - whose only reason for existing is to build up our community.
- Bernie Herman, executive director of the Bakersfield Museum of Art, and his talented staff who brought our community a level of fine arts that we have never seen and in turn made us all better.
- Watson-Touchstone Realtor Mary Christenson and all her colleagues who somehow managed to stay upbeat in the face of a dismal housing market.
- We lost so many good people this year - John Petrini (last December), Shirley Ann Fiddler, Janice Jay, Lenore Carter, Donna Corum, Stan Simrin, Alton Saceaux, just to name a few - let's keep their memories alive. Their lives all enriched our community.
* ... A FOUNDATION GROWS: Barry Rosenfeld, a former president of Bakersfield West Rotary, wrote to tell me about the success of the West Rotary Foundation. Most Rotary clubs have foundations and their generosity to local non-profits and charities is well known. Barry, who incidentally started the famous Cioppino feed fund raiser when he was president in 1993, is understandably proud of his foundation's growth. In his words:
"When I became president of the Foundation on January 1, 2004 our balance was $140,000. Today we have more than doubled the corpus-we now have over $300,000! During this time, we have donated over $300,000, mostly to youth programs in Kern County (we have made a few other contributions, including a donation to the Rotary Polio Plus program). I share this with you, because the success we have had can mostly be attributed to the members and spouses of Bakersfield West Rotary as well as the other eight Foundation board members."
* .... BAKO OR BAKERSFIELD? Reader Virginia Smith writes in: "From a native of the East Coast: Boston has learned to accept 'Bean Town' Natives of Maryland much prefer 'Balto' to the soubriquet recently given to Baltimore by the NY Times: 'Crabcake Corners.' And Alabamians were distraught by the name used for their largest city during the violence of the civil rights movement in the 1960s: 'Bombingham.' Be happy with 'Bako;' it could be much worse. Remember Johnny Carson?"
Yet another reader, John Strand of Lake Isabella, hates the term "Bako" and offered me this advice: "Bako instead of Bakersfield is like using Bean-O instead of Beene. Maybe this thing will die a natural death." Thanks John, but some of my dearest friends have called me "Bean-O" for years, and you can too. I won't take offense.