ALMANAC 2016: Generations tell tales of life and living in Claremont

Living in a college town, people in Claremont are accustomed to seeing a lot of different faces. Every year there is a new crop of freshman and an equally large number of graduates. Some people leave for new opportunities, while others return to their original hometowns after working and living here for years.

But there are many among us who stay for years and families who remain for generations. Free spirits may roam the planet in their youth but come back when the time comes to raise a family. Others love Claremont so much they can’t fathom leaving, even with the Village so crowded that it’s impossible to find a parking spot or when that peaceful moment in the wilderness park is elusive, we still love it. The COURIER spoke with a handful of longtime residents representing generations from school children to seniors in an effort to see what brings people here and what makes them stay.

Jennifer Stark

Jennifer Stark, 47, is a lifelong Claremont resident who is currently raising her family here.

She attended Foothill Country Day School and Condit Elementary before moving on to El Roble Intermediate and graduating from Claremont High in 1987.

Ms. Stark graduated from Pitzer College in 1998, which was a big year as she also married David Berke, a friend since their days at El Roble.

As the daughter of retired Claremont McKenna College President Jack Stark, the longest-serving Claremont Colleges president, and former Athenaeum Director Jil Stark, her Claremont roots are deep.

She has three children, all who attended or currently attend Claremont schools—Cole Gonzalez, 25, Joe Berke, 16, and Ruby Berke, 14.

Ms. Stark has taught yoga for 13 years but has practiced for most of her adult life. She currently teaches yoga at Pomona College and Claremont McKenna College, as well as a public class at Claremont Yoga on Mondays.

About being in Claremont she says, “It’s a great place to live. I’m glad I’m here.”

Ray and Barbara Fowler

Ray Fowler, 88, likes to tell people that four members of his family graduated from Pomona College including himself, 1950, his wife Barbara, 1952, his mother Edith Moore, 1926, and his daughter Lauren in 1979.

Growing up in Long Beach his mother was very loyal to Pomona College and so it was understood that he would be a Sagehen. He met Barbara at a Pilgrim Fellowship youth group when they were pre-teens but they did not start dating until their days at Pomona.

The couple married in 1952 and eventually settled in Claremont after Mr. Fowler received his master’s from UC Berkeley and took a post as the assistant minister for the Claremont Church.

The couple bought a house on Seventh Street and Yale in 1955 where they lived until just this year when they moved into an assisted living facility at Hillcrest in La Verne. In addition to Lauren, they had another daughter Sarah.

In 1959, the Reverend Fowler took his young family to be missionaries in Turkey where he taught at an all-girls school. Mr. Fowler spent much of his career as a counselor with the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists and retired in 1986.

Ms. Fowler received a master’s degree in early childhood education from Claremont Graduate University and had a long career teaching in both the Head Start program and kindergarten at the historic Lincoln Elementary School in Pomona.

Oliver Moultrie-Brown

Oliver Moultrie-Brown, 10, was born here just like his mother Emily, according to the fifth grade student at Sycamore School.

He says the best part of living in Claremont is hanging out with his friends, maybe going on the swings but mostly eating a snack and talking.

Oliver recently took a class in green screen filmmaking at El Roble in the SLICE program where he made a film called Boom. In the film, all of the USA has been bombed in a nuclear war. Still, he says, the film is mainly a comedy.

He would like to be a filmmaker as an adult but has other ambitions. He wants to write songs and books. His movies would largely be comedies but the books would be dramatic or adventures stories.

Oliver does have a fair amount of homework, which he works on diligently. “But I really want to get back to binging on Netflix,” he said.

Linda Yao

Linda Yao, 67, grew up in Pomona, the first American-born child of Henry Wong and Ping Yee Leong, who had a total of nine children.

Mr. Wong came to the United States to escape the Chinese civil war and lived apart from his family for 10 years until he raised enough money to bring them over in the late-1940s.

The family settled in the Pomona Valley where they ran two restaurants, Chung King in downtown Pomona and Jade Palace in Montclair.

Young Linda moved to Claremont with her mother in 1966, a year after her father died. That same year, she met her future husband Peter Yao, who was an employee at Jade Palace. As the story goes, Ms. Yao’s mother wanted to buy her a car and Mr. Yao was the only person she trusted to offer advice on the make and model.

The Yaos were married in 1972 and for a time lived in Fullerton as they built their careers. They really wanted to return to Claremont so they bought a home on Base Line Road in 1975, even though it meant very long commutes.

Soon, Ms. Yao was hired as the assistant library director at the Upland Public Library and was promoted to director several years later.

Mr. Yao came to Claremont with his parents and sister Margaret as refugees in 1956. His family was sponsored through connections at Pilgrim Place. Betty and Alton Sanford, the owners of Griswold’s Smorgasbord Restaurant, provided employment to his parents while young Peter attended Sycamore Elementary, El Roble Middle School and Claremont High. Peter’s work as a teen included picking up golf balls at the Claremont Golf Course and serving as the first male waiter at Griswold’s. Mr. Yao went on to become a city councilman and mayor here in Claremont.

The couple has one son, Richard.

Ms. Yao is very active in the Upland Rotary Club and a passionate advocate for childhood literacy. Through the club, 1,200 kindergarten through third grade students have received new books including dictionaries. She has served on the corporate board for Pilgrim Place and for the local chapter of the Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic.

See our complete story with many more interviews Friday.


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