2010 Dolphins celebrated

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Pictured from left: TMT Publisher Karen York, Jesse Switzer of Assemblywoman Julia Brownley’s office; Susan Nissman, field deputy for county Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky; Kara Seward of Sen. Fran Pavley’s office; Ray Singer, Steve and Debra Cole, Dick Van Dyke, Robyn Ross, Justine Petretti, Seda Baghdasarian, Violet Miehle, Zare Baghdasarian, Shelby Basso, Rod Bergen, and TMT Publisher Arnold York. See Photos page for more photos. Roger Lyon, Jr./TMT

A packed room of former Dolphin honorees celebrates the newest Citizens of the Year. Dick Van Dyke tells of his first experience in Malibu.

By Laura Tate / Editor

Dozens of Dolphins turned out Saturday morning at the Malibu West Beach Club to fete their newest peers, who joined the ranks of The Malibu Times Citizens of the Year, honored for their community service to Malibu and beyond.

The newest Dolphin Awardees-Shelby Basso, Zare and Seda Baghdasarian, Rod Bergen, Steve and Debra Cole, Dick Van Dyke, Violet Miehle, Justine Petretti, Robyn Ross and Ray Singer-took the stage Saturday, after their peers introduced each one, to receive their awards.

The Malibu Times Publishers Karen and Arnold York sponsor the awards every year, with the help of those in the community (this year’s contributors included: Event Coordinator Mary Higgins; Jennifer Naylor Catering; Maliballoons; Malibu Garden Center; the Steve McPeters Jazz Quartet; Margo Neal; Katherline Ha’o; Barbara Cameron; Sherry Weinstein and the venue itself). Harvey Baskin, founder of Geoffrey’s restaurant, originally inspired the idea for a citizen-of-the-year award after the devastating 1993 fires during which residents helped each other throughout the crisis.

The Yorks have continued the tradition each year, which has grown to include almost 200 Dolphins citizens.

Karen York spoke about the difficulty in choosing awardees each year, and that the number of nominations received each year reflects the essence of this city’s people.

“You would certainly think in a community of this size [Malibu has a population of 13,000], we would run out of awardees,” York said. “[But] we get upward of 50 nominations each year, of all new people … it is such a testament to the community that doesn’t get out to the world —that Malibu is not only a surf city, a celebrity community … but a community full of good hearted, generous and philanthropic people.”

Shelby Basso of the Malibu Garden Center was the first to be presented with her award by Jo Giese, founder of the Malibu Green Machine.

Basso is a 40-year resident and is involved with numerous local gardening and environmental organizations such as the Malibu Green Machine and the Cornucopia Foundation. She has been a part of Malibu’s environmentalist community for years.

Giese spoke of how Basso, throughout her years at the garden center, has sort of acted as the community’s “psychologist,” always available to listen and, most importantly, to give a hug.

Maria Newman and Scott Hosfeld, of the Montgomery Arts House for Music and Architecture, introduced Steve and Debra Cole. Hosfeld spoke of the importance of music in children’s lives and how the Coles have “been involved quietly for over 16 years” as they followed the progress of their own children through the local schools, “contributing in ways that no one ever sees … but “makes a huge difference in the community.”

“I am thrilled to have the honor to present this award to the Coles,” Maria Newman said, noting the fundraising from the Malibu High School Arts Angels booster club, of which Debra served on the board for six years. “I can only thank you from the bottom of my heart for the fundraising, the talent-Steven writing, composing, arranging-[it] laid the groundwork [for our children].”

“It’s great for getting an award for doing something you love,” said Steve Cole in accepting the award. “It’s our privilege in getting to work with so many great kids.”

The humor in presentations began with former Mayor Jeff Jennings introducing Rod Bergen, founder and longtime president of Trancas Riders & Ropers more than 50 years ago. Jennings wore a cowboy hat, as did Bergen, who was dressed all in black.

“All those years I have never seen Rod without a cowboy hat, and there’s a rumor going round that he really doesn’t have a top of a head,” Jennings said.

Bergen took off his hat to show everyone that he does.

In addition to his work with Trancas, Bergen is a Los Angeles County reserve deputy, is involved with Malibu’s Emergency Preparedness team and helped initiate the Los Angeles County Equine Response Team.

Karen York, in introducing Dolphins Zare and Seda Baghdasarian, owners of the ChocolateBox Café at the Malibu Lumberyard, said that when Baskin and the Yorks came up with the idea of honoring people annually, Baskin had asked them to make sure that a local business owner be honored each year as well, showing the importance of a vital community-oriented and involved commercial entity. The Baghdasarians have contributed in many ways to Malibu since opening their store several years ago, from donating to various fundraising efforts and co-sponsoring community-related events.

A fresh and vivacious face Saturday was that of Dolphin Awardee Violet Miehle, a senior at Malibu High School. Miehle was recently honored as the Boys & Girls Club Malibu Youth of the Year 2011.

“Rarely has she missed an opportunity to get involved,” said presenter Kasey Earnest, Chief Professional Officer of the Club, of Miehle’s working in the community, especially by mentoring younger peers.

Miehle spoke of being diagnosed with dyslexia when she was in fourth grade, of being teased by her peers and her decision to help others like her by studying to become a special education teacher.

“I will change kids lives and I will be a voice for special needs kids,” she said of her aspirations, to great applause.

Chi Kim, principal of Point Dume Marine Science Elementary School, lauded Dolphin Robyn Ross. Kim spoke of Ross as the epitome of a Malibu mom-being there to help out with whatever was needed, whether it be carpooling, fundraising, serving as PTA president, organizing, etc.

“Robyn Ross represents and exemplifies what is great about Malibu moms,” Kim said.

Dermot Stoker presented Justine Petretti, who is also a Malibu mom. Petretti has served on Juan Cabrillo Elementary School’s PTA, the Malibu Parks and Recreation Commission, as a member of the Library Task Force and on the city’s ad-hoc playground committee. She is also the founder and president of Friends of Trancas Park and volunteers for the Santa Monica Women’s Shelter.

Stoker on Saturday spoke of even more contributions that Petretti has made to the community, such as bringing food to the Labor Exchange workers, feeding firefighters during past emergencies, rescuing many animals, helping to stop the LNG port, donating gift baskets to the Cook’s Tour and much more “all while raising an energetic family of five.”

Anne Payne, who called herself a “vintage” Malibu mom, presented the award to Ray Singer, who calls himself a “recovering introvert.”

Singer designed the City of Malibu logo when cityhood was achieved 20 years ago, and, in his many years as a resident, has been involved with the Optimist Club of Malibu, the Getty Museum and the Malibu Volunteer Patrol.

Payne said, “Looking at the Dolphin I think of stoicism, hard work and beauty. We have all that in Malibu. I also heard today the words engineering and art mixed … Ray is a perfect example of all this.” (Payne was referring to his work as an engineer at HRL Labs and his design of the logo).

“I find it intriguing … to receive recognition for merely following my interests,” Singer said. “Isn’t that we all do with our lives? These activities [we do] are what some psychologists call purpose of behavior … behavior deliberately chosen that gives added meaning and value to our lives.”

In presenting to longtime entertainer and Malibu resident Dick Van Dyke, Dolphin Debrah Caraway said, “In the 60 years of entertainment that he has given us, he has also given us his heart, his soul, his mind and all of his strength.”

Caraway listed many of Van Dyke’s contributions to the community from decorating his house for Halloween to participating in an annual cancer walk with her, his work with the Midnight Mission, contributions to the Junior Philharmonic, and much more.

But, Caraway said, “The best gift you can get from Dick, is Dick … because when you meet him, he always has this cute smile, nice words, funny words, he is always trying to find some way to brighten your day, some way, some form, some fashion.”

Van Dyke, in accepting his Dolphin statuette, spoke of the first time he moved to Malibu in 1949. He had rented “a little two-room duplex just south of Duke’s… there was a two-lane highway, no traffic … Unfortunately, I fell back on the rent and came home one day and all my belongings were neatly lined up on the PCH. So my dream of living in Malibu had to wait about 30 years.

“I’ve been here 25 years,” he continued, “and I can’t tell you what it means to be part of the Malibu family … I’ve been enjoying it so much, a family with such great people. It’s still a small town and it feels like a small town … But I thank you so much, this really makes me feel so good.”

In closing, Van Dyke added, “My plans for the near future … I’m going to open a hardware store,” to which the entire room erupted in raucous laughter.