Rotary Club of Santa Monica





ISSUE NO. 18                                NOVEMBER 10, 2000                             OUR 79th  YEAR


This Friday: Veterans’ Day Observance



            Dick Sawyer graduated from Los Angeles High School in 1943. He sang in the choir at Wilshire Methodist Church, and was a leader in the big Scout troop at the church. Then he enlisted in the U.S. Air Force. He was one of three Sawyer brothers to sign up.  

            He became a technical sergeant and a turret gunner-engineer on a Flying Fortress that flew 27 missions over Germany. He won the Air Medal and several Oak Leaf clusters. Among his missions was one over Leipzig during which 56 U.S. bombers were shot down, and another over Frankfurt by the largest single mission force ever sent out in daylight. 

On his 27th mission, his aircraft was in the low lead squadron. On the homeward trip it came under heavy fire from flak and jet fighters, and began to lose altitude fast. An eyewitness in a nearby Fortress reported of it: “Last seen at 10,000 feet heading earthward. No chutes.” The Air Force (and of course Dick’s family) would have no further information for weeks. 

However, seven of the nine men aboard the aircraft did bail out in the last few thousand feet before the crash, and did survive. Sawyer was one of them. His German captors shuttled him around for months, from one hospital and prison camp to another, but never sent information about him to the U.S. 

But he wrote postcards to his parents, and two cards reached them in March 1945. About that time he was released, and in January 1946 he entered the University of Oregon. 

Richard Davies Sawyer will be our guest speaker this Friday (when we observe Veterans’ Day) and will tell about his experiences on Flying Fortress missions and later as a prisoner of war in Germany.



November 17 – Big Game Day, UCLA/USC – Bob Klein, chair

November 24 – DARK (Thanksgiving)

December 1 – S.M. College show tunes – Judy Neveau, chair

December 8 – club elections; Red Kettle Day, Salvation Army

December 15 – Christmas party

December 22 & 29 – DARK (Christmas & New Year’s) 




The following members have recently resigned because of increased business responsibilities, personal moves, or family obligations: 

Ron Clark; Scott Freshwater; C. J. Kim; Garvin Meehan; Jeff Protzman; Jeanne Rennell; Dave Rogers; Art Sharif; Bill Snyder.




The dinner-dance given by District 5280, celebrating the anniversary of the Rotary International Foundation, was a notable success. Our club sold more than $4,000 worth of tickets, which can be used as matching funds for members who support Paul Harris scholarships. About seven hundred members and guests attended. The particularly good news for our club was that Kent Colberg and his wife, Kay, won the air trip to New Zealand, with a five-night stay at a hotel in Auckland.




            Because of personal situations, the following members have written to take temporary leaves of absence: 

Scott Brutzman; Stephanie Droker; Dan Ehrler; Yale Keckin; Jay Smith.




               In case you haven’t noticed at the bottom of Rota-Monica’s outside back page, the club office phone is now (310) 434-9992, a fairly easy one to remember. Call it and Barbara Hopper will be happy to help you.




              Our fellow Rotarian Lou Turner is still on the disabled list. For those wanting to give him a call to cheer him up, the number is (310) 393-1383.


(One of a series on new members of our club)


            “Laura believes you. Work with her.” 

            Laura Bockoff has cherished that remark ever since she overheard it, from one Ocean House resident to another. Listening is a key part of her job, she knows. She takes seriously what she hears, and acts on it. 

            As executive director of Ocean House, the senior living community on Ocean Avenue, she pays close attention to the octogenarians and nonagenarians who live there. In the course of her career she’s found that many listeners (including some hurried physicians) fail to be helpful because they pay too little attention. 

            A case in point. One resident of Ocean House kept complaining of back pain. Doctors at the hospital where she was sent gave little or no help. “It’s just arthritis,” they reported to Laura. “We can’t do anything for her.”     But the lady maintained it was something worse. Laura believed her, and kept sending her back to the hospital. On her fifth trip, closer examination disclosed a tumor the size of a grapefruit.           

            Another time, early in Laura’s career, she was assigned to nurse a girl who had just given birth and was almost mad with fear that she was about to die. Doctors found nothing wrong. Only when Laura talked with her did the trouble emerge: she heard what she thought were terribly rapid beeps of her heartbeat on a monitor near the bed. Laura showed her that the monitor was not attached to her but to a heart patient in the next bed. The girl recovered immediately. 

            Laura’s father was a Marine lieutenant colonel, an aviator, who was transferred often. The rapid changes of residence taught her to make friends quickly. Sharing the family zest for history, she planned to teach it. That was her goal when she enrolled at UC Irvine. But then she took a summer job at a state hospital in Costa Mesa, where she learned not only basic nursing techniques but also the subtle skills of helping crotchety patients. She realized she was well suited to such work, and switched to Cal State Long Beach so she could take degrees in nursing and psychology. After graduation she became an ICU nurse at the VA hospital in Long Beach. 

            During a marriage that produced four children but then ended, Laura concentrated on being a mother and community volunteer. However, she did arrange spare-time stints at real estate and as an interior designer. In 1995 the Renaissance organization, comprising a dozen senior living communities, hired her as marketing director. A year later it put her in charge of Ocean House, where she has recently presided over a $6.5 million remodeling that took 18 months – but during which nobody moved out! Evidently she has learned how to make life comfortable for elderly folks. She’s unlikely to hear complaints in Rotary, but we warmly welcome her.

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