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Celebrating Women For 56 Years

The Salvation Army Women’s Auxiliary Women of Elegance and Dedication 1965-2022

Image Credits Images courtesy of The Salvation Army Sierra del Mar Division Ephemera Collection; photos by Salvation Army Staff and Dave Siccardi

The role of women in the United States has continually evolved. In 1965, women wore hats and gloves and were identified by their husband’s names, i.e. Mrs. John Smith. Most outstanding volunteers didn’t work professionally at that time. Over the next 56 years, all of that changed as more women entered professions, many only reserved for men. They proudly began to use their own first names, and successfully combined outstanding volunteerism with excellence in the workplace. In 2021, women serve alongside men in the armed services. As the history of Women of Elegance and Women of Dedication is read, the honorees’ increasing sense of strengthened identity is clear. These are strong, yet graceful women, who have given their lifetimes to helping others. We’ve watched them in a state of constant change and they’ve only begun.

Women of Elegance/Dedication 1965-1975

Do you know? Women of Dedication made its very visible debut in 1965 as Women of Elegance.

The year 2020 marked the 55th Anniversary of Women of Dedication. This event has led a fabled existence over the past half century, providing a beacon of light that shines on selfless service to others by devoted women. It began as Women of Elegance in 1965. The concept was that of Emmy Cote, a dynamic woman who served as chair of the first two luncheons in 1965 and 1966. Cote conceived of Women of Elegance as a fundraiser for The Salvation Army, and it has remained just that. The venue for the first year’s event was the scenic Kona Kai Club on Shelter Island and there were two designated beneficiaries, The Salvation Army Door of Hope and Booth Memorial Hospital. As was the style of the time, a fashion show followed the Women of Elegance presentation. That year’s fashions were showcased by the wonderful Hafter-Haggarty specialty store in Downtown San Diego. Every aspect of the day was top-notch, from music by Bill Green to celebratory tributes. Those first Women of Elegance were prominent in the community and were married to powerful men — powerful in varied ways and all influential leaders. Among the husbands were bank presidents, an aircraft pioneer, influential lawyers, an educational leader, and an international financial figure. One of the honorees, Donna Sefton, was the daughter of former San Diego Mayor, Harley Knox, and the wife of Thomas Sefton of San Diego Trust & Savings Bank. She was accomplished in her own right, having worked as a flight stewardess and provided leadership in the Junior League of San Diego. Like all the women of that year, she was elegant and graceful. Some of the ladies represented multi-generational San Diego families.

The Women of Elegance for 1965 were: Mrs. Anderson Borthwick, Mrs. William Cosel, Mrs. David Garfield, Mrs. Thomas M. Hamilton, Mrs. I. Norman Lawson, Mrs. Jack Oatman, and Mrs. Thomas Sefton. Notice all honorees were identified by their husbands’ names. Women’s first names were not acknowledged.

Do you know? Only seven women were named Women of Elegance in 1965. By 1970, the number of women selected was 11, up from the original seven. That number grew over the next 45 years, reaching as many as 15 in recent times. Women of Elegance was still the title and would remain so through the decade of 1965 to 1975.

At the luncheons, Women of Elegance were usually escorted by their husbands, but there were exceptions. In 1970, the escorts were U.S. Marines. Mrs. Harry Ragen was chair that year and the site was the Town & Country Hotel. The following year, 1971, sailors from the U.S. Navy acted as escorts. Mrs. John J. Einhorn was chair and the fabulous John Hogan provided fashions, again at the Town & Country Hotel.

By 1975, the end of that first decade, Women of Elegance was firmly established in the San Diego social and cultural community, with copious print coverage of the event in the San Diego Union and San Diego Evening Tribune, as well as in local magazines. It definitely set a very high bar for attainment. As the mid-1970s approached, there were plenty of societal changes, and those sweeping changes presented challenges in terms of remaining relevant, raising funds for The Salvation Army, and continuing to spread the word about the power of volunteerism.

Do you know? The signature yellow roses delivered to the homes of honorees haven’t always been yellow. A couple of 1965 publicity pieces described orange carnations. Yes, orange. Later, a January 21, 1973 Evening Tribune article by columnist Opal Crandell described the red roses delivered to homes that year.

Women of Elegance/Dedication 1975-1985

Do you know? Women of Dedication luncheons haven’t always had themes. As social change swept through the 1970s, it was reflected in the women honored and the title bestowed on them. Entering the second decade of Women of Elegance/Women of Dedication, there had already been a sign of change, a portent of the future. A woman of note, Mrs. William J. Doyle, aka Dr. Anita Figueredo, who had been as stunningly successful in her career as in her volunteerism and family life, was named a woman of Elegance in 1973. Though emphasis was on volunteering and Dr. Figueredo certainly had done plenty of that, she was also a Costa Rican-born MD who was the first female surgeon in San Diego County and the mother of nine children. Married to an MD, hers was an extraordinary life. She maintained a close friendship with Sister Theresa in later years, treating her medically in the last stage of her life. Dr. Figueredo represented the future: women who give to their communities while maintaining professional careers. That 1973 selection was a departure from the pattern established by Women of Elegance. Many of the honorees worked before their marriages, but not afterward. The second decade was influenced by women’s redefined roles as lived by Dr. Figueredo. Women of Dedication would continue to emphasize volunteer work, but would also acknowledge the complicated lives of its honorees. Women’s stories reflected more complexity as the second decade of Women of Elegance continued. The 1976 event was held at the Town & Country Hotel in Mission Valley. Mrs. C. Temple Murphy was chair, fashions were by the great John Hogan, whose downtown store was the store for the finest fashions and the popular Bill Green again provided music. The proceeds were $1,168.41, with 693 people in attendance.

The venue changed from the Town & Country Hotel to Hotel del Coronado in 1977, where Women of Elegance founder Emmy Cote chaired it again. This was the last year the event was known as Women of Elegance. It was renamed Women of Dedication in 1978. Mrs. Evan Jones was chair.

Do you know? Cubic Corporation underwrote the printing for all Women of Dedication pieces for the first time in 1978 and continued its very substantial support through 2013.

Do you know? The first “Presentation Tea” introduced the 1980 Women of Dedication to the public and press. This raised the interest level regarding the big event itself.

Among the 15 Women of Dedication of 1980 were such women as Judith Keep, Mrs. Joe Sutter, Mrs. Frank Weston, and Mrs. Allan Zukor, all of whom had solid professional careers but had generously volunteered large chunks of their time to helping others. The women were still listed by their husband’s names, with the exception of Judith Keep.

Do you know? Fashions at the 1984 and 1985 Women of Dedication luncheons were provided by Saks Fifth Avenue. Fashion shows continued to be important elements of the event in future years.

Do you know? For most of the years between 1965 and 2002, fashion shows were part of the Women of Dedication program. After 2002, there were no more fashion shows, but, rather, a variety of performances.

Women of Dedication 1985-1995

Do you know? The Women of Dedication Selection Committee is anonymous and is composed of women appointed by the President of The Salvation Army Women’s Auxiliary. Identities of committee members are kept secret. Therefore, no lobbying is possible.

Do you know? Some very well-known San Diego personalities have served as Women of Dedication moderators over the last 50 years. Among them are Eileen Jackson, Burl Stiff, Diane Bell, Jack White, Andrea Naversen, and Dan Nordstrom and, back in 1990, the future 50th Anniversary Chair, Carol LeBeau.

Yolanda Walther-Meade

Yolanda Walther-Meade is bi-cultural and has devoted much of her life to promotion of understanding between cultures, philanthropy, and civic leadership. She served for two decades as a Trustee of the University of San Diego, and as a board member of the International Community Foundation, as well as on the board of Mercy Hospital Foundation. Because of her commitment to the Tijuana and San Diego communities, she hosted myriad bi-cultural receptions and galas in both cities. Following her honor as a 1990 Woman of Dedication, Yolanda took on many new and additional responsibilities. It seems she was just getting started. Influential in ARCS (Achievement Rewards for College Scientists), she was not only active in the San Diego chapter, but later co-founded the Los Angeles chapter. Many institutions benefited from her counsel as she served on the boards of Children’s Hospital, the San Diego Natural History Museum, The Burnham Institute, the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center, and so many more entities. Yolanda went on to receive numerous prestigious awards. Her great joy in life was and continues to be her five accomplished children.

Burt Stiff

San Diego Union columnist Burl Stiff presented the 1986 Women of Dedication, commenting and reading their impressive biographies. Stiff, like his predecessor Eileen Jackson, was a strong supporter of the event and he devoted considerable space in his social column to both the fall tea and the spring luncheon. That year, 785 people attended and $17,175 were raised. The 1987 luncheon brought 986 guests and produced a profit of $47,249.86, high points that set challenging future goals. In 1991, Burl Stiff again presented Women of Dedication as they walked down the ramp. He continued to write about the remarkable ladies for many years.

Emmy Cote, the visionary founder of Women of Elegance/Women of Dedication, wrote this in the 1989 printed program: “Women of Dedication are volunteers. They are chosen to be honored as Women of Dedication because they have made special contributions to the quality of life in San Diego through their volunteer efforts on behalf of hospitals, educational institutions and cultural and civic organizations. Without their commitment, little could be accomplished without considerable cost in money and time. We salute the Women of Dedication for their untiring efforts on behalf of others and the magnificent example they set for the entire community.”

Do you know? Founder Emmy Cote was honored at the luncheon in 1995.

Luncheon themes were popular in the last half of the 1990s and the years afterward, but not as much between 1985 and 1995. During those years, women continued to be acknowledged by their husbands’ names, for example, Mrs. Joseph Y. Yamada. There were several exceptions where women were designated by their own first names, however. Women were in the process of establishing their own identities. It was a time of transition.

Do you know? There has always been a wide range of causes for which Women of Elegance and Dedication have worked. Education, medical care, visual and performing arts, homelessness, and childcare have benefited from their endless volunteer hours. No specific areas of service and philanthropy have dominated the story.

Do you know? In 1995, the 30th anniversary of Women of Dedication, three former recipients from the previous three decades were honored in addition to the traditional ones for that year. Those three women were: Dr. Anita Figueredo from the first decade, Elsie Weston from the second decade, and Judy McDonald from the third.

Do you know? Representative of the talented and generous 1993 honorees, Rita Bronowski’s life story illustrated the stature of Women of Dedication. She was born in London, won a scholarship to St. Martins School of Art and became an accomplished sculptor. She married the noted intellectual Jacob Bronowski in 1941. He became the rock star of science and humanities with his “The Ascent of Man” television programs and book. Bruno, as he was known, became a founding fellow of the Salk Institute for Biological Studies and moved with Rita to La Jolla. Following Bruno’s early and sudden death, Rita achieved celebrity status of her own via KPBS-TV when she supplied commentary about “The Ascent of Man,” appearing extensively in the 1984 TV documentary “Jacob Bronowski Life and Legacy.” That program marked the tenth anniversary of Bruno’s death and it aired nationally on PBS in 1985 and internationally on the BBC in 1986. She also became active at the Old Globe Theatre, particularly with the play reading committee, and as a founding member of the reconstituted La Jolla Playhouse. She served on the Board of Trustees of La Jolla Playhouse for many years and was eventually given the title of Trustee Emerita, which she retained until her death at the age of 92. Rita frequently traveled to England and attended, with Craig Noel of San Diego’s Old Globe Theatre, the important groundbreaking ceremony in London for the rebuilding of the famed Old Globe Theatre of Shakespeare’s time. A great booster of young people and educational theatre, she supported Shakespeare competitions. In recognition of her many achievements and extensive volunteerism, Rita was honored as Woman of the Year by Charter One Hundred. While doing all this, she reared four daughters, all of whom have lived interesting and accomplished lives. This woman set a high bar and that standard was matched by the other remarkable members of her 1993 Women of Dedication class.

Women of Dedication 1995-2005

Dr. Dorothy Smith

Do you know? Dr. Dorothy Smith, honored as a Woman of Dedication in 2000, is a shining example of an exemplary volunteer. As has been an increasing trend over the decades, she has blended extraordinary community generosity with a high-powered career. Certainly, her volunteerism didn’t end in 2000. A year later, she was appointed by San Diego’s mayor to be an inaugural member of the San Diego Ethics Commission. From 2003 until 2005, she was president of that commission. Her volunteer and career service stretches back many decades and continues to the present time. She was elected to the San Diego Unified School District Board of Education in 1981 and served on that board for nearly eight years, during which time she was twice chosen by her peers to serve as president. Dorothy’s volunteer work in education and social services naturally meshed with her profession as a professor at San Diego City College and as a lecturer in Teacher Education and Rhetoric and Writing at San Diego State University. This lovely soft-spoken woman has always been impressive. In addition to the Woman of Dedication honor, Dorothy has been the recipient of the USD Remarkable Leader in Education Award, the Freedoms Foundation Champion of Education Award, the SDSU Monty Award (now renamed the SDSU Alumni Award of Distinction), and has been inducted into the San Diego County Women’s Hall of Fame. In 2000, Dorothy joined a class of other selfless, focused, and gracious women, all unique in their accomplishments.

Do you know? Women of Dedication luncheon chairs are usually past honorees. They are steeped in the wonderful tradition because of their personal experiences with the event, so they bring insight to their roles.

Event themes during the 1995-2005 decade were wonderfully imaginative. They ranged from “Spring Reverie” to “Unabashed Romance” and “Our Shining Stars.” Some others were “Tribute to Excellence,” “Tradition of Caring,” “New Beginnings,” “WOD Stars on Parade,” and “Humanitarians with Heart.”

In addition to two past male commentators, Burl Stiff and Jack White, NBC/39 News Anchor Marty Levin presented Women of Dedication. Levin did a terrific job at the 2000 event. So, women of the community have been officially presented by prominent San Diego men over the years.

Do you know? For many years, room was made on the covers of invitations and programs for the names of every living past Women of Dedication honoree. The names got smaller and smaller as more names qualified for cover inclusion. By the mid-2000s, however, all those names couldn’t be scrunched onto covers no matter how talented the art director, so that iconic image disappeared. However, the names of honorees continue to appear inside printed programs.

In 2003, Burl Stiff featured SAWA’s super volunteers Katherine Rogerson and Ralphine Greaves in his San Diego Union column, describing them as two “who have worked together for years on the presentation teas.” Those two beloved ladies were pictured alongside the article.

Do you know? Each year every effort is made to find county geographical balance in the selection of Women of Dedication. Ideally, ladies will represent north and south county, east and west, and central San Diego. Determination of honorees is also dependent on the actual nominations submitted by former Women of Dedication. Diversity is an important factor in the selection process. However, the quality of service to others is the major criterion.

Do you know? Service to others runs in families. Mothers and daughters have been named Women of Dedication. For instance, Dr. Anita Figueredo and Teresa Doyle, Yvonne Larsen and Christine Andrews, Charlotte Nielsen, Berit Durler, and Astrid Shannon (mother and two daughters), Betty Brayshay and Marla Black, Kay Rippee and Lynn Silva, and Mary Brito and Andrea Bokosky.

Women of Dedication 2005-2015

Do you know? The 2005 Women of Dedication luncheon presented 14, not 15, honorees. That was true of the previous year, also. The number returned to 15 in 2006.

One of the more imaginative themes was that of 2011, when the title of the luncheon was “15 Fantastics,” acknowledging the amazing and selfless work of that year’s Women of Dedication, all fantastic. Emcee was 10News weather anchor Pat Brown, who declared her motto to be “Life is not a Dress Rehearsal.” Chairs of the event were the mother/daughter duo Chris Andrews and Yvonne Larsen, both previous honorees, Yvonne a Woman of Elegance in 1973 and Chris a Women of Dedication in 2004. Yvonne chaired the Women of Elegance luncheon in 1972.

The magnificent Manchester Grand Hyatt was a popular venue during the first part of this 2005-2015 decade, but the event returned to the Sheraton San Diego Hotel and Marina more than once in the latter period. Some chairs were particularly fond of the catering services there. But, for 50 years, Women of Elegance/Dedication has flourished in a variety of settings. Each venue provides its own personality and ambiance. The 2015 Women of Dedication luncheon took place at the Hilton Bayfront Hotel.

Do you know? The chair of Women of Dedication chooses the year’s theme with the blessing of an advisory committee composed of the last five chairs. The vision is that of the chair, and her committee helps her to bring that vision to reality. Some creative themes during this decade were “Philanthropy by the Sea,” “A Garden of Giving,” and “Art of the Heart.”

Do you know? During the 1995-2005 decade, introduction of auctions as event elements greatly boosted income. Pat DeMarce, chair of the 2000 “Tribute to Excellence” luncheon, was a firm believer in the importance of silent and live auctions as means of fundraising. Steadily, profits increased.

The 2013 Women of Dedication luncheon raised a whopping $190,512.84, due to the commanding leadership of chairs Betty Brayshay and Marla Black, a loving mother and daughter team whose seamless cooperation brought in funds that set a record for the most money ever raised at this event. Compare that amount to 1967’s profits of $1,329.56 and, even factoring in inflation, the difference is astounding. Make no mistake, the 1967 committee was justifiably proud of showing a profit for this new philanthropic effort, but no one could have predicted the degree of success that would be attained in later decades. In 1968, proceeds were $1,469.53, $140 more than the previous year, 1967. Times were good.

“Art of the Heart,” chaired by Terry Cooper in 2014, netted $139,519. The bar is high now, in terms of philanthropic stature of women honored, number of attendees, and money raised for The Salvation Army.

The 2015 Women of Dedication luncheon exemplified all three aspects, beginning with the extraordinary quality of the women being celebrated. They were: Vicki Baron, Dr. Constance Carroll, Molly Cartmill, Diana Annala Chalmers, Judith Jarcho, Dr. Elizabeth Jones, Lisa Lindgren, Cinda Lucas, Micki Olin, Clarice Perkins, Doreen Schonbrun, Marti Showley, Holly Smith Jones, Lois Stanton, and Lori Walton. Carol LeBeau and Connie Conard were co-chairs.

The 1969 Women of Elegance printed program defined elegance in the following way: “A woman of elegance must, above all, be flexible. She must have remarkable agility of heart and mind to cope with the constant and unpredictable changes that will surely come in the course of her life. She must do many jobs well, dividing her time and energy and interest among her family, herself, and others. She must be more than willing — she must be determined — to grow, to become the most she can become, and to put the fullness of her abilities to the best possible use.”

Our Women of Dedication are both elegant and dedicated. They belong to a special group of ladies who share a strong bond.

Women of Dedication 2015-2020

A New Decade Begins

As Women of Dedication entered its next decade, indeed its next 50 years, change was in the air. WOD had definitely evolved during the first 50 years, adapting to cultural environments over time. The 51st year was an ideal time to introduce some new elements to the beloved event. So, in the spirit of “out with the old and in with the new,” the traditional afternoon tea in a private home setting for introduction of the 2016 WOD honorees was replaced with an early evening reception at the La Jolla Country Club. This decision turned out to be a terrific one. The November 2015 evening celebration that announced the chosen women was a smashing success. Always well attended by women, there were more men in attendance due to the later time of day. Another new element was the addition of an honorary chair. The 2016 Women of Dedication introduced in fall 2015 by Vicki Eddy and cheered at the 2016 luncheon were: Lilly Cheng, Valerie Cooper, Karin Donaldson, Arlene Esgate, Kristy Gregg, Dorothea Laub, Carol Lazier, Elizabeth Lou, Sandra Maas, Kerry Payne, Rachel Peniche, Charlotte Perry, Fern Siegel, and Lise Wilson. The big event was held at the Manchester Grand Hyatt on April 27, 2016, with a theme of “The Gift of Giving.” The co-chairs were Sherry Ahern, Susan Oliver, and Susie Spanos. Joyce Glazer was the first ever honorary chair of the luncheon. Nayda Locke was The Salvation Army Women’s Auxiliary President.

Dr. Lilly Cheng

While Dr. Lilly Cheng, with one earned bachelor’s, two Master’s, and one doctoral degree, has lectured all over the world and published many books and articles, the most amazing aspect of this woman is that she has found time to volunteer in her local, regional, national, and global communities. For instance, she served on the SDSU Campanile Foundation and has been a member of the Balboa Park Conservancy, just a couple of the myriad volunteer positions she has held. A large part of her life has been devoted, along with other eminent Chinese leaders, to gaining recognition for The Asian Pacific Historic District in the Gaslamp section of San Diego. Lilly is multilingual, speaking many languages fluently. Yet, she was a tenured professor in the SDSU School of Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences for many years and remains the Managing Director of the Confucius Institute at San Diego State. At the time of her induction into the 2016 WOD class, she had the enormous responsibility of serving as the president elect of the International Association of Logopedics and Phoniatrics. She then became president of IALP. Lilly was highlighted as one of the 25 most influential women in the history of San Diego by ABC-TV and was the recipient of outstanding alumna awards from both Michigan State University and San Diego State University.

As always, there were numerous human interest tales associated with the luncheon. For instance, Lynn Schenk, a 1978 Woman of Dedication, proudly watched as her step-granddaughter, Rachel Peniche, was honored. However, though there was a fanciful rumored marriage proposal to an honoree at the luncheon, that rumor proved to be false. Throughout the years, there have been numerous WOD family connections. The 2016 WOD luncheon set a new record, bringing in $228,937.52. It was a resounding success.

“Angels of Dedication” was the theme chosen by the 2017 Women of Dedication chairs, Joye Blount, Jeri Rovsek, and Delores McNeely. Because the La Jolla Country Club setting for the Presentation Reception was so popular the previous year, the 2017 chairs elected to return to that venue in fall 2016, and at the early evening time. Again, the honorees were introduced by Vicki Eddy and there were remarks by The Salvation Army Women’s Auxiliary President Pattie Wellborn.

The 2017 Women of Dedication proudly announced were: Dee Ammon, Sally Fuller, Susan Hoehn, Norma Jones, Nayda Locke, Tracy Lyon, Caroline Nierenberg, Rosemary White Pope, Evangeline Sharpe, Joani Wafer, Yolanda Selene Walther-Meade, and Olga Worm. Yolanda Selene Walther-Meade’s mother, Yolanda Walther-Meade, is a former Woman of Dedication. The number of honorees selected for 2017 was purposely limited to 12 in order to ensure greater time and attention to the women.

New and old elements were mixed to lend freshness yet retain traditional aspects. The idea of an honorary chair was embraced, but this time two women were named, rather than one. Honorary chairs for the 2017 WOD luncheon were Betty Beyster and Mary Ann Beyster. WOD continued to be forward looking.

The Manchester Grand Hyatt was the site of the spring luncheon, and proceeds benefited Centre City Corps Community Center and Auxiliary supported programs of The Salvation Army in San Diego County.

All of the 2018 Women of Dedication honorees were “Wonder Women,” which was the theme of the luncheon held at the San Diego Marriott Marquis in downtown San Diego. The dozen women fêted that day were wonderful, absolutely amazing in terms of their life stories and devotion to serving others. So were the three co-chairs of the event — Kristy Gregg, Dee Ammon, and Molly Cartmill — all former Women of Dedication. Honorary chairs were Bill and Susan Hoehn. The range and depth of honoree contributions to the community reminded guests of the power of women as changemakers. Never underestimate the resolve of women to make a difference. The honorees, who were announced at the November 2, 2017 Presentation Reception at the La Jolla Country Club, then celebrated at the May 30, 2018 luncheon, were Deborah Cross, Suzi Day, Laurnie Durisoe, Angela Harris, Dayna Hoff, Kimberly Hunt, Regina Kurtz, Sally Watt Oxley, Rana Sampson, Claudia Thompson, Vickie Turner, and Kathryn Vaughn. Major George L. Baker, Sierra del Mar Divisional Commander, Major Jeanne L. Baker, Divisional Director of Sierra Del Mar Women’s Ministries, and Pattie Wellborn, president of The Salvation Army Women’s Auxiliary, attended both the Presentation Reception and the luncheon, heartily cheering the remarkable ladies. The tradition continued.

The WOD chairs conjured a terrific name for the 2019 luncheon. “WOD All-Stars” provided a theme with all sorts of possibilities. Certainly, the honorees were the best of the best, and who doesn’t love baseball? Wonderful images came to mind. Thank the creative chairs — Sandra Maas, Judy Burer, and Vicki Eddy — for the vision. The presentation of 2019 honorees was again held in November at the La Jolla Country Club. Traditionally, the honorees are announced and introduced in November of the year before they are honored. So, in November of 2018, the women were presented, but, instead of at an early evening reception, they were introduced at a very elegant afternoon tea. The women selected for their astonishing records of volunteerism were: Mary Alice Brady, Diane Christensen, Doris Ellsworth, Laury Graves, Jane Klofkorn, Tamara Lafarga-Joseph, Lynelle Lynch, Lydia McNeill, Mia Park, Marty Pendarvis, Louise Phipps, and Marie Tuthill. Among those at the tea cheering on the honorees was Lieutenant Colonel Lani Chamness from Los Angeles and Lieutenant Colonels Lee and Michele Lescano of San Diego. The Presentation Tea was a very happy event.

The celebratory luncheon was held on April 12, 2019 at the San Diego Marriott Marquis

and Marina. Honorary chair of the event was Betty Kornreich, SAWA president during 1997-98 and a 1999 Woman of Dedication. She had a long history of volunteerism with The Salvation Army. A heart-warming addition was made to the event with the bestowal of the first Peggy Matthews Legacy Award, an award to be given annually. In 2019, The Matthews Award went to Kim and Marilyn Fletcher. Matthews credited much of her strength and faith to her early involvement with The Salvation Army. The new award acknowledges her tremendous devotion to volunteerism over a long period of time. She would be so pleased to be permanently associated with volunteers — all star volunteers.

A private and informal “get acquainted” luncheon was hosted by SAWA at the Door of Hope on October 15, 2019 with eight of the twelve 2020 WOD Honorees in attendance. At that point, the identities of the selected women were unknown to the public. There was mystery involved and that only heightened interest. The public would not learn the identities of the women until the November Presentation Tea.

That Presentation Tea for the 2020 WOD honorees was held at the La Jolla Country Club from 1-3pm on November 15, 2019, and the venue remained the La Jolla Country Club. For many decades, the teas had often been held in beautiful private homes. Chairs brought their own visions to the teas and luncheons, creatively tweaking them from year to year. At the most recent tea, the remarkable honorees were introduced and their frequently astonishing biographies were shared with guests. As seen in the formal photo that day, the celebrated honorees were Jamie Carr, Lynne Doyle, Jackie Helm, Denise Jackson, Ursula Kuster, Deborah Marengo, Ellen Moxham, Julie Cowan Novak, Esther Rodriguez, Roberta Tidmore, Wendy Urushima-Conn, and Danitza Villanueva. At the time, with the 2020 event being themed “Women of Vision,” each woman was given theatrical eyeglasses to be worn as costume props, adding a touch of humor to the event.

Because the 2015 50th Anniversary Reunion Luncheon was such a hit, a reprise of that gathering of former Women of Dedication was carefully planned by the chair and committee and held on February 6, 2020 at the Kroc Center. This time, the reunion luncheon marked the 55th anniversary of WOD. Newer inductees participated and future ones of the 2020 class were included. Accomplishment and inclusion ruled the day. Elation mixed with sadness, as a number of past honorees at the 2015 celebration had passed away in the ensuing years. Yet, in the meantime, new iconic women had become members of this very special sisterhood. The photo of the day tells the story.

The original April 9, 2020 luncheon date was rescheduled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The second date was also cancelled, and “The Future of Philanthropy”- themed luncheon was postponed to 2021. Chairs remained Andrea Naversen, Maggie Watkins, and Kathryn Stephens. Honorary chairs were Joye Blount and Jessie Knight Jr., and Joyce Glazer was to receive the Peggy Matthews Legacy Award. Sandra Maas was scheduled to serve as emcee of the event.

Women of Dedication has a long tradition. It is an event that is cherished. While moving forward and adapting, the tradition continues.

Women of Dedication 2020-2022

Posted on June 1, 2022

Typical of the Women of Elegance/Women of Dedication events over the many years, the stewards were, again, not afraid to reinvent the annual celebration of women and its surrounding events. For instance, for the traditional November 2021 announcement and introduction of 2022 honorees, it was decided to combine the anticipated announcement with The Salvation Army’s annual Artistry of Tables luncheon, at which tables are decorated by members according to themes, a highly festive and colorful presentation. The change was made with some trepidation but was met with great approval and enthusiasm by guests.

The 2022 Women of Dedication
The 2022 Women of Dedication

The 2022 Women of Dedication introduced were Christy Billings, Barbara Crew, Andrea da Rosa, Lena Evans, Holly Hea-ton, Connie Ojeda Hernandez, JoAnn Kilty, Kimberley Layton, Irena Mylonas, Olivia Puentes-Reynolds, Carol Sciotto, and Inez J. Thomas. Each honoree, after being introduced, was given a miniature statuette of a successful female with the name of the honoree on it, a nice touch. That gift was also a departure from past procedures, proving, once again, that change is good and sometimes a key to survival.

Holly Heaton
Holly Heaton

All 12 of the 2022 Women of Dedication are highly accomplished, dedicated to serving others, and noteworthy community leaders. They are the creme de la creme of San Diego women volunteers. While most of them have pursued professional careers, each one has spent a large part of her time giving to others. It’s in women’s nature. No one in this group fits the description more than Holly Heaton, a registered nurse for many years who later worked as an attorney specializing in medical malpractice law. Imagine the timeliness of combining an interest in both medicine and the law, add to that an intense fascination with science, and the result is a focused intelligence that seeks new information in real time. Her persona is the result of the intense experiences she has had in all these corners.

Having graduated with a bachelor’s degree in nursing from the University of Iowa, Heaton moved to Denver, where she worked as an intensive care nurse and as a private nurse for cardiovascular surgeons. While in training, Heaton was tapped for membership in the nursing honor society. She had exhibited characteristics of a nurturer from the start and proved to be effective in the nursing field, but she realized she could do more. While working as a nurse, she earned her law degree at the University of Denver. Her special training was plied in Denver and later in San Diego. She retired seven years ago and has continued — stepped up, even — her service to others. She served as president of the San Diego Blood Bank and volunteered at San Diego Hospice. Her great enthusiasm for sports led her to serve as a Red Coat on the San Diego Holiday Bowl Association Committee for three years, where she supported both the Holiday and Poinsettia Bowls.

Of her many volunteer activities, the one dearest to Heaton is with Achievements for College Scientists (ARCS), a dynamic national organization which has a robust San Diego chapter. The initial chapter of the ARCS Foundation was formed in 1958 and it was committed to the advancement of science and technology in response to the Russian-launched Sputnik in 1957. As a result, the United States emphasized science and mathematics education for Americans. By 1985, it was San Diego’s turn to establish a chapter, and it was successfully accomplished by four dynamic women leaders: Karen Bowden, Karon Luce, Barbara McColl, and Pattie Wellborn. Since its founding, the San Diego chapter has given scholarships of more than $11.3 million. There are 15 chapters in the country, which have collectively awarded $120 million nationwide. Currently, Heaton is completing her term as president, during which she has presided over the annual Scientist of the Year (SOY) dinners and myriad trips to and tours of scientific facilities. She has marked her tenure with her gracious and humorous newsletters, displaying a wit that serves the times well. 

Inez J. Thomas
Inez J. Thomas

Inez J. Thomas has chosen education, mentoring, and philanthropy for young people to be the focus of her life. There are a few notable exceptions, which involve her absolute happiest moments spent with her husband, Dr. Ted Thomas, children, Sydney, Nicole, and Jamal, as well as grandchild, Nolan. But, there is no doubt Thomas finds joy in all of her volunteer efforts, which have extended over many years. When she was a newcomer to San Diego from the East Coast, she joined the San Diego County Medical Society Alliance, where she became president. She firmly caught the volunteer bug and there was no stopping her. Thomas chaired the Spirit of Living Breast Cancer Fashion Show and, after serving as president of Jack and Jill, Inc., she supervised and administered grant programs there as well as at Books, Balls, Bytes for Christian Fellowship Church. She became very active with Links, Inc., first as president and then as chair of the Achiever Program, which mentors young African American men who have distinguished themselves academically and within their community. Thomas also worked to raise interest in Links’ important STEM program, which emphasizes math and science. She has also volunteered many hours to San Diego Women, Incorporated, where she serves on committees that chair the Honoree Luncheon and assists with sponsorship of scholarship students.

What has inspired Thomas’ life’s work? Her high quality and standards are especially embodied in one coveted membership, that of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Incorporated, the first historically African American sorority, founded on January 15, 1908 at Howard University in Washington, D.C. Nine women seniors and seven sophomores on campus were the initial core group and original founders. There are now more than 300,000 international members of AKA. The sorority is bound by bonds of sisterhood and by a very strong commitment to domestic and international leadership. It strives for equality of all people. Some well-known members of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority have included Coretta Scott King, Dr. Maya Angelou, Phylicia Rashad, Ella Fitzgerald, Toni Morrison, and Vice President Kamala Harris.

Living this life of purpose finds Thomas currently serving on the Copley Family YMCA Board of Directors and as a board member of the Alzheimer’s San Diego Foundation. Now she has joined another sisterhood for the rest of her life as a Woman of Dedication.

Connie Ojeda Hernandez

Growing up in Logan Heights, Connie Ojeda Hernandez grasped very early the importance of education, service to the community, and a commitment to social justice. She learned by watching her parents’ involvement in community and political causes. Their actions showed her the way. While an active stay-at-home mom — caring for her five children until her youngest child began school, then involvement with the PTA, her children’s team sports, and other related community projects — a life-changing moment came when her son Matthew was diagnosed with leukemia. The bitter news was that Matthew had a 50/50 chance of surviving a week and that he would not live to celebrate his first birthday. Hernandez and her husband, Nicholas, lost Matthew in 1976, which led them, with other parents and a social worker at Children’s Hospital, to form a support group for parents and, four years later, with the help of the McDonald’s Corporation, Children’s Hospital, and community benefactors, the San Diego Ronald McDonald House was the 20th house to open in the United States. Hernandez is a founding member of Ronald McDonald House Charities of San Diego and she is the only remaining board member of the original group still involved in the charity.

Many other organizations have benefited from Hernandez’s active participation. She has served as an executive board member of MANA de San Diego and as a member of The San Diego Union-Tribune’s Latino Advisory Board. She was the first Latina board president of Centro Cultural de la Raza and served as Vice Chair of the Alliance Healthcare Foundation. She has been involved in the San Diego and Imperial Counties San Diego Voter Registration and Education Project, was state co-chair of the National Council of La Raza’s California Affiliate Network, and is a class of 1992 graduate of LEAD San Diego. Hernandez insists that the wide array of community activities has been possible only because of the strong support of her husband and children. Her priority is, and always has been, family.

Her many awards, which cover a broad spectrum of specialties, include the San Diego Star Award from the San Diego Performing Arts League, Superior Achievement for Latinas in the Media from Hispanic Publishers, the Excellence in Community Service Award from Rayos Del Sol, El Sol de San Diego, and the Community Service Award from Partners for Prevention. There are more, certainly, but these awards communicate the wide appreciation for the selfless service of this 2022 Woman of Dedication. San Diegans cheered for Connie and the eleven other most deserving women as they stepped into the spotlight.

Danitza Villanueva, Roxi Link, and Clarice Perkins

April 1 was chosen as the date of the 2022 Women of Dedication Luncheon, to be held at the Marriott Marquis in downtown San Diego. The theme chosen by co-chairs Roxi Link, Danitza Villanueva, and Clarice Perkins was “Leading Ladies, Stars of San Diego.” Sherry and Kevin Ahern were designated as honorary chairs, and Pat and Bob Whalen were chosen to receive the prestigious Peggy Matthews Legacy Award. Salvation Army officials were invited to attend. The auctioneer was the excellent Clint Bell. He conducted the auctions for the bidding of items, as well as the always wildly popular “Raise the Paddle” portion of the afternoon. Sandra Maas again served as mistress of ceremonies. All preparations were made with the knowledge that SAWA would need to be nimble should there be a major resurgence of COVID-19.

The founder of Women of Dedication, Emmy Coté, left an enduring legacy as a gift for San Diegans.


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