Category Archives: People

La Habra Heights Dedicates Memorial To Six Fallen Fire Fighters

La Habra Heights Fire Department A memorial to six fire fighters, who died more than 60 years ago protecting the area that would become the City of La Habra Heights, has been dedicated by the community.

The members of Los Angeles County Fire Department Engine 4 and Crew 5-1 were lost while fighting the ‘Hacienda Fire’ that began on Hacienda Road near the intersection with Canada Sombre. The team was in position above the fire protecting homes as the fire raced across local hillsides just after noon on Sept. 2, 1955.

Flames exploded out of the draw into eucalyptus trees, which sent heat and flame down upon the men and engulfed them instantly.

Captain Glenn Rockey took an inch and half hose and charged into the flames in a selfless attempt to save the crew. Captain Rockey and five young crew members lost their lives.

‘Without hesitation or concern for his personal safety, Captain Rockey rushed into obvious danger more concerned with the lives of others than his own,’ said a Fire Department commendation at the time. ‘Captain Rockey made the supreme sacrifice for his fellow fire fighters. There is no greater valor.’

Decades after this tragic event, the La Habra Heights City Council decided to memorialize the historic sacrifice of these brave souls by installing a special plaque in the La Heights Civic Center. The plaque, which underscores the importance of fire prevention efforts, will also be part of ongoing training programs for fire fighters serving La Habra Heights on other nearby communities.

2015 Whittier Daily News Player of the Year: La Habra’s Eric Barriere


Eric Barriere, La Habra, Senior

Eric Barriere walked on to La Habra High School four years ago as a virtual unknown.

He will leave arguably as one of the top players in the football team’s history.

Barriere, after leading the Highlanders to the program’s seventh divisional title is the Whittier Daily News Football Player of the Year.

“It makes me happy that people feel that way about me,” Barriere said of his legacy. “There have been a lot of great players in this program. I’m really honored to be compared to them.”

It was well-deserved this season. The senior earned Freeway player of the year honors after helping the Highlanders to a 13-2 record and the division title. He accounted for 4,000 yards and 58 touchdowns, including throwing for 3,077 and 46 scores.

Whittier Daily News Football Player of the Year Eric Barriere, of La Habra High, at the La Habra campus on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2015

Whittier Daily News Football Player of the Year Eric Barriere, of La Habra High, at the La Habra campus on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2015

Barriere’s biggest contribution came when it was unexpected. He not only saved his biggest performances during the biggest games, but at the biggest moments. None bigger than in the Southwest title game when he led La Habra to a 39-36 win over San Clemente.

The Highlanders quest to win the program’s seventh section title looked bleak after they gave up the lead to San Clemente with 20 seconds to play. But Barriere, who earlier in the season beat Los Alamitos with a Hail Mary throw, had one more up his sleeve, tossing 27 yards to Prince Ross to beat the Tritons.

“When he started making those plays (as a sophomore), you start thinking this is something (special),” La Habra coach Frank Mazzotta said. “From there, plays kept coming and kept coming, and obviously cultivating this year with his play leading us to the championship.

“The average kid is getting sacked, and he’s breaking them for first downs or touchdowns. It’s crazy.”

Barriere, who has received an offer from Eastern Washington, completed his high school career by throwing for 414 yards and accounting for three touchdowns in a 63-49 loss to Camarillo in the regional playoffs.

“It was a really great year,” Barriere said. “It was great for the program to win CIF for the first time in five years. All offseason and season it was our goal to win a championship and we did that.”


Source: Whittier Daily News


Since the City of La Habra Heights was incorporated nearly 37 years ago, it has never formally welcomed the head of the largest Sheriffs Department in the United States. That ends when the city welcomes newly elected Sheriff Jim Mcdonnell later this month for a

meet and greet with the residents and to thank him and the department for the great service to the city all these years. “I’m not sure why it hadn’t happened until now” said Mayor Pro Tempore Kyle Miller ” But I had spoken with him at a few events and finally just asked him if he would come to the city and spend some time with the residents and let the city show our gratitude to the department” Mayor Pro Tempore Miller added ” He happily

agreed and said he loves our small city and the golf course, which is well known, so we’re very pleased to welcome him.

In addition to the sheriff, Supervisor Don Knabe will also be attending as well as a special performance by the Rancho Starbuck drum line core. The meet and greet takes place on Monday, September 21 from 6pm to 8pm at City Hall in the Council Chambers.

The event is open to all La Habra Heights residents. There will be refreshments as well a photo opportunity with Sheriff Mcdonnell for the residents. Please see the included flyer for more info and to RSVP.

Meet and Greet – LA County Sheriff Jim McDonnell (1) (1) (1)

La Habra hitting the links with first girls golf team

By Shanin Thomas
La Habra Journal

The La Habra High School Highlanders will field their first women’s golf team for the 2015 season.
Last year, La Habra High School created a women’s golf club in preparation of creating a competitive team for this upcoming fall season.

2015 LHHS Girls Golf Team

About 15 girls joined the club with little to no experience but lots of enthusiasm and interest.
Head Coach Cody Verdugo said that most of the girls had never played before. “Only three girls had golf clubs, but at least 10 took a liking to golf. I am very pleased with the growth we have seen,” he said.
The golf club at La Habra High School included instructions for the basics of the sport. Not only did the girls in the club learn to hit a plastic golf ball in the football stadium, Coach Verdugo also taught the girls golf etiquette.
“Golf is like an onion. There are layers to the sport. It is not just about hitting the golf ball,” Verdugo said.

Interest in girls golf has not only sparked at La Habra High School but in other Freeway League schools as well.
Fullerton, Sunny Hills and Buena Park have decided to field a girls golf team this season. They will join Troy, which already had a team in place.

Troy High School will be the most competitive women’s golf team this upcoming season because they previously fielded a girls’ golf team and have competitive returners.

Mandy Arriola finishes a swing during practice. The lefty looks to help lead the Lady Highlanders during their inaugural season.

Mandy Arriola finishes a swing during practice. The lefty looks to help lead the Lady Highlanders during their inaugural season.

In fact, last season Troy’s women’s team ranked No. 1 in Orange County, No. 3 in the CIF Southern Section, and No. 5 in the state of California.

Preseason will begin in late August and league competition will start on Sept. 13.
For Verdugo, the decision to move from being on the coaching staff of La Habra Football to take up the challenge of starting a girls golf team was to follow his passion.

Verdugo fell in love with the sport of golf in his senior year of college at Chapman University. Although he has played football his entire life, golf has become a sport he has become passionate about.
Additionally, Verdugo’s son and three daughters have also taken a liking to the sport and participate competitively as golfers.

Coach Verdugo proved his coaching ability last season as the La Habra men’s golf team finished eighth in the Southern division, the best finish in the school’s history. The Whittier Daily News honored Verdugo as 2015 Coach of the Year.

The amount of money invested in women’s golf college scholarships is another reason Coach Verdugo has created a women’s golf team to accompany the men’s team.

Although the growth rate of participation of women has almost tripled men in the last few years, women still make up less than 25 percent of golfers, according to

According to, in 2014 the number of male high school golfers is double the amount of female golfers. However, Division I universities offer six scholarships to female golfers as opposed to the four and a half to male golfers.

Alyssa Heidrich takes a swing during practice.

That growth rate was shown during the first day of La Habra’s women’s golf tryouts Wednesday afternoon at Westridge Golf Club.

Twelve returners from the golf club were present as well as eight additional girls. The additional girls who showed up at tryouts did not know much golf etiquette, but they were athletic, Coach Verdugo said.

“It would be rare for someone to show up and be completely ready,” Verdugo said.

Coach Verdugo is looking to field a team between 15 and 20 girls. Although only seven players compete in a match for both varsity and junior varsity, 20 girls is a good number to manage girls who are still developing their skills as golfers, he said.

“Returners will be the foundation of the varsity team,” Coach Verdugo said.

The Lady Highlanders hit the links for the first time on September 9 against Empire League champion Valencia at Alta Vista Country Club in Placentia at 4 p.m.


2015 Lady Highlander Golf Team Roster

Mandy Arriola
Alex Barber
Nikki Chamberlain
Kira Cauley
Alyssa Enriquez
Haylee Enriquez
Alyssa Heidrich
Aurora Heuermann
Charlotte Irirzarry
Samantha Parr
Janet Romero
Julia Sanchez
Jena Schuh
Dominique Tosunian
Galina Tressler
Frankie Valencia

Community leader celebrates 40 years of love with his Vietnamese family

APPLE VALLEY — Surrounded by friends and family, community leader Wally Linn celebrated what he calls “four decades of love, faith, and commitment.”
On Saturday, Linn’s Vietnamese family took center stage during a celebration in Apple Valley that began in the summer of 1975 when Linn and his wife, Vicki, visited Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton and brought home the Thanh Cong Nguyen family, refugees from South Vietnam.
“This is quite the story of a family that escaped their war-torn country and began a successful life here in America,” said Linn, a Marine Corps veteran and field representative for Rep. Paul Cook (R-Apple Valley). “Today, they’re all successful through hard work and perseverance.”
Linn said for the past 40 years, the family has come together at the Linn’s home to celebrate family and to remember how much God has blessed them.
Linn introduced San Bernardino County Sheriff John McMahon and his wife, Michelle, to his Vietnamese family, which included Thanh Cong Nguyen, 74, and his wife Chuc, 73, and their daughter, Camtu (Christine) 42, all from Las Vegas.
The McMahon’s were also introduced to Thanh’s younger brothers; Trinh, 59, a computer engineer who lives in San Jose with his wife, Christine, and their son, Ryan, 7; and brother Tung, 57, a family physician who resides in Orange County.
“We are so fortunate to be living in America,” said Trinh, as family members began laying out containers of Vietnamese food. “If it wasn’t for the love of Wally and Vicki, and their church, I don’t know where we would be.”
Trinh said after his family survived a dangerous trip to the Philippines, aboard an old Vietnamese Navy vessel with 5,000 refugees, the family was sent to Guam before they were flown to California.
“When we got to Camp Pendleton on July 31st, there was a mass of humanity living in tents,” Linn told the Daily Press. “My heart broke as a I saw 50,000 people, young and old, who had escaped Vietnam when the Communists took control of the country.”
Linn said he first heard about the refugees in California when he heard former Vice President of South Vietnam Nguyen Cao Ky speak in Anaheim. Later, a friend told the Linns that they could sponsor refugees from the war-torn country.
“I told myself, ‘Instead of complaining, why don’t you sponsor one?’” Linn said.
Upon his arrival, Linn heard the announcement to Thanh that his family was there to meet him over the loudspeaker before he came to meet them, but it wasn’t long before they met his family too.
“Before you know it, he introduced us to his wife, Chuc, and their daughter, Camtu,” Linn said.
Just when he thought they had the entire family gathered, Linn said that Thanh asked if his brothers, Trinh and Tun, could come home with them as well.
“By August, Thanh’s family had joined our daughters, Faith and Lisa, as part of the family in La Habra Heights,” Linn said. “It was a blessing to be able to open our hearts and home to them.”
The Linn’s also have a daughter, Joy, 38, who lives in Apple Valley and son, Charles, 25, who serves in the U.S. Army, honored just last year by the town of Apple Valley for receiving an Army Achievement Medal.
Trinh said that if the roles were reversed in 1975, he doesn’t know if he would have taken in strangers from another country.
“When Wally and Vicki took us in, they gave us the VIP treatment all the way,” Trinh said. “They not only fed us and gave us a place to stay, they prayed with us, took us to church and treated us like their own family.”
After Apple Valley Mayor Larry Cusack honored the family on behalf of the Town and Council, Tung told the Daily Press that he could not believe how quickly 40 years has passed.
“As a doctor, my job is to care for people that need medical treatment, but as a grateful American from Vietnam, my job is to care for everybody, “Trung said. “It’s only right that I give back to a family and country that has given so much to us.”
Linn said the family, who also received certificates of recognition from Cook, has “set an example for others to follow.”
“They’ve taken care of themselves and worked so hard for their success today,” Linn said. “That’s why I’m so proud of them.”

Meet La Habra, the corniest town in Orange County

La Habra, Ca Corn Festival 2015

A boy in the under eight children’s category races to finish an ear of corn Saturday afternoon at the 2012 La Habra Corn Festival during the corn eating contest. The 2012 La Habra Corn Festival celebrates corn with a corn eating contest, displays, and a parade.

Source: OC Register

La Habra has something no other city in Orange County has. A corn festival.

That’s right, corn – as in the plant that grows so high it meets an elephant’s eye.

Now, you may wonder why a celebration of corn. And I am here to report and reveal. But for context, you probably are asking yourself some basic questions about La Habra – like where the heck is La Habra?

Not to be confused with La Palma, another Orange County city, La Habra is arguably the least freeway-connected city in our county. And that explains why so many know so little about La Habra, including its location – north of Fullerton, west of the 57 freeway.

But that doesn’t tell you much about this city that proudly calls itself a “caring community.” To explore La Habra, you need to drive its streets, including ones the locals call “our freeways.”

After flying along Beach Boulevard and, later, Imperial Highway, where speed limits range from 50-55 mph, I get that surface-street-as-freeway thing. Still, La Habra is best seen through the eyes of City Manager Jim Sadro.

Understand, Sadro grew up here. Point to a big city map and he shows where in high school he chowed down hamburgers.


The recession hit all municipalities. But some were especially hard hit. Without a big mall and with relatively low property taxes, La Habra suffered.

“The recession was incredibly damaging,” Sadro allows. “We’re still feeling the effects.”

Consider that the city’s biggest employer is CVS and its warehouses, where some 900 people work. The next biggest employers are big-box stores such as Wal-Mart, Sam’s Club and Costco.

During the recession, two new-car dealerships disappeared and tax revenue plunged. Making matters worse, an old utility tax had expired. Still, basic maintenance was needed. Streets were in poor shape.

But residents rallied with a half-cent sales tax. And today, after a six-year-project, all residential streets have been repaired or replaced. Sadro points out that one of the vacant car dealership sites will soon become a gated community with 32 homes.

It’s a series of small and large successes like these that cumulatively make a big difference in a city that covers 7.4 square miles and has nearly 62,000 people.

The support of citizens means a lot to Sadro, and not just because he’s city manager. A teacher he had at Whittier Christian High School reached back to the civic service values of the 1960s and inspired Sadro to get involved with government. He went on to earn his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Cal State Fullerton, focusing on public administration.

Matthew Gaitan, 2, and Destiny Alvarado, 3, play around wooden ears of corn at the annual La Habra Corn Festival. ///ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: 0808.spr.corn – 8/2/14 – NICK AGRO, ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER  The La Habra Corn Festival is the biggest event in the city. The doggy costume contest begins at 2:30 p.m., with registration at 1:30 p.m. The corn eating contest begins at 2 p.m.

Matthew Gaitan, 2, and Destiny Alvarado, 3, play around wooden ears of corn at the annual La Habra Corn Festival.

The La Habra Corn Festival is the biggest event in the city. The doggy costume contest begins at 2:30 p.m., with registration at 1:30 p.m. The corn eating contest begins at 2 p.m.Approaching two years as city manager, Sadro doesn’t look to turn the city, incorporated in 1925, upside down. His goal is similar to his predecessors: “Create a more livable city.”

He explains that the city is in a valley with La Habra Heights to the north and Fullerton’s Coyote Hills to the south. He boasts, “It’s dead quiet here at night. You don’t get that constant freeway hum.”

Still, he’s quick to declare, “We’re not a sleepy bedroom community. There’s a lot going on.”

That’s especially true after council’s vote last week to completely remodel the city’s civic center.


Will La Habra try to one-up Newport Beach and its new $142 million city hall?

Sadro smiles thinly, suppressing a comment. Instead, he explains what will happen in La Habra over the next three years. His guiding principle follows previous city councils as well as new members: “Help the city become more of a community.”

The current City Hall will be replaced by 71 townhomes – which means more people and more sales tax. City Hall will move across the street and into existing buildings. The plan also puts City Hall closer to prized Portola Park, which includes baseball fields, a tennis center and the city’s Children’s Museum, which offers a hand-carved carousel, an interactive model train village and tours of a 1942 caboose.

Total funding? Sadro estimates that the entire civic center project, which includes updating other buildings, should cost $19 million. But the new civic center is only part of the focus

“We will create a new downtown community with a new La Habra vibe and restaurants, shops and stores,” Sadro predicts. “I’m a big believer in government presenting the opportunity and letting developers develop.”

Andrew Ho, director of community and economic development, admits he has his work cut out for him and estimates that it could take years before the area sees dramatic change. Still, he is encouraged with the plans as well as some newer additions already in the area such as G-Burger, a gourmet hamburger restaurant.

Mind you, the plans are a far cry from what Sadro’s predecessor handled back when Sadro was in high school. Those were days when tagging was a serious problem. The best the city could do was send crews out to paint over the graffiti. Sadro recalls one worker starting at 4 a.m. so residents could wake up to pristine neighborhoods.

Today, crime remains an issue just as it does in many areas. But Sadro reports that many of the old gangs are gone and tagging is less of an issue. As he talks, we pass El Centro Park in the downtown area. Kids in bathing suits squeal as they slip down a waterslide, and jump up and down in a bounce house.

Sadro mentions that it’s a city program. We pass La Bonita Park, where four softball fields rival the best in Orange County. We visit Vista Grande Park, where the city soon will build fields for soccer and football, and perhaps a dog park.

“If you don’t have to think about your government,” Sadro says, “then we’re probably doing a good job.”


By now, you’ve either forgotten about the corn festival or given up learning about it. Don’t worry. The corn festival happens to be one of my favorite Orange County events, if for nothing else because it has the same simple theme every year.

Realize there are no cornfields in Orange County. And even back in the day, La Habra apparently had no cornfields.

The idea for a festival started a couple of years after World War II, when the Lions Club needed a fundraiser. Soon, a member by the name of Bill Miller concluded that the city should have a corn festival because a lot of residents were from the Midwest.

It’s turns out Miller was onto something. Although few residents today hail from the Midwest, in less than four weeks the local Lions Club will launch its 67th Corn Festival.

Randy McMillan, a 26-year Lion, zeroes in on the hometown appeal: “I look forward to meeting up with my friends that I grew up with.”

The three-day festival includes what the Lions call Southern California’s longest-running summer parade, live music and, of course, corn eating contests.

Too corny? Perhaps. But in a very cool way.

La Habra Heights to move city council elections to November of odd years

La Habra Heights, Ca City Council ElectionLA HABRA HEIGHTS – City Council elections will be moved eight months ahead beginning in 2017.

Instead of being held in March as they have been since 1995, they will be consolidated with local school and water board elections and run by Los Angeles County.

The City Council on Thursday on a 5-0 vote approved the second reading of the ordinance making the change.

“It just seemed like in the long term that it is less expensive for us,” said Mayor Michael Higgins. “It also takes some of the burden off of staff.”

City Manager Shauna Clark said the city could save between $20,000 and $40,000 depending on whether La Habra Heights Water District’s board has a contested election.

If it doesn’t, the city would be responsible for all of the cost. Otherwise, the expense will get shared.

La Habra Heights blogger Stephen Blagden criticized the move because it will extend council terms by nine months – from March to December.

“It’s self serving,” Blagden said. “They’re extending it without a vote of the people.

Blagden said he would be OK with the change if the council members promise not to run again.

Higgins said the eight-month extension isn’t that big a deal and has happened before. The council during the mid-1990s moved the election from April of even years to March of odd years, giving council members an 11-month extension.

In fact, Higgins said he’s not that happy about the extension.

“I’m not thrilled about it, being the one who has to sit in the mayor’s chair for an extra eight months,” he said.

This year’s municipal election cost the city nearly $184,000. Two-thirds was the result of having Measure A, the anti-oil initiative, on the ballot. That was another reason to make the change, Higgins said.

“It cost a lot of money and hours in staff time,” he said.

The city was sued a couple of times and had to go through a recount.

“When we go to the county, that will be the county’s problem,” Higgins said.

La Habra Heights rocks out once again in The Park

By Katelyn Chavez

The La Habra Heights Improvement Association brings families and friends together each summer for an entertaining event every Wednesday night.
Last week, the audience experienced the music of U2 performed by the Whittier worship band, 40.
Brian Guthrie on vocals, Sol Rodriguez on guitar, Josh Mervin on drums, and Ed Eller as their event manager; this has been their second time playing for the LHHIA’s  music in the park, and said they are glad to do it.
“The energy is so awesome and we want to keep coming back,” Guthrie said. “There’s people we know here, and new faces and it’s so thrilling to see!”
Melisa Villanueva and Eric Nicolson are from Fullerton, and they attended the event for the first time this year and said the band sounds just like U2!
They added that this event is sure to bring them back because it was so fun.
For over 20 years, LHHIA has sponsored music in the park, and each year the music gets better and better.
American favorites this year include tribute bands that play sounds of: The Beach Boys, U2, Swing Era, Elvis, Brooks & Dunn, Neil Diamond, Smooth sounds of Santana, and a battle of the bands with the Beatles and Rolling Stones.
This year there’s a concert tribute for everyone with good food and desserts to make this event even more enjoyable.
The event is so popular and has grown with people starting with an audience from 400 people to 2000, according to organizer Jennifer Jones .
“We start planning for this event in January, and like to create a fun atmosphere where friends and family create memories, and bring new people to create some of their own,” Jones explained.
Elizabeth Espinoza is from La Habra has been coming to the concerts for the past five years. Thistime, she brought her friends to celebrate her birthday.
“It’s my second week of summer vacation, and this is perfect to start with,” she said.  “My husband asked me what I wanted to do to celebrate, and I couldn’t think of anything better to do than this! Next week I’m bringing my family.”
Fernando Menchaca who is from Whittier has been working for this event for the past six years and puts his joy in his work to see all the smiling faces.
He describes this event … “simply irresistible!  Everyone has to come at least once because it automatically puts you in a good mood. The vibe never decreases.”

Source: La Habra Journal

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