Thu07242014

News

Obama visits Los Altos area

Obama visits Los Altos area

President Obama made a fundraising stop today at a private residence in Los Altos Hills, an appearance that spurred traffic disruptions, helicopters scouting overhead and protesters. In the wake of his visit, unknown persons, apparently no fans of ...

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Schools

MVLA rolls out laptop integration this fall

MVLA rolls out laptop integration this fall


Town Crier File Photo
Starting in the fall, daily use of laptops in the classroom will be standard operating procedure for students at Los Altos and Mountain View high schools as the Mountain View Los Altos Union High School District launches a pil...

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Community

Generations blend behind the scenes at 'Wizard of Oz'

Generations blend behind the scenes at 'Wizard of Oz'


Altos Youth Theatre and Los Altos Stage Company rehearse a scene from “The Wizard of Oz.” ELIZA RIDGEWAY/ TOWN CRIER

A massive troupe of young people and grownups gathered in Los Altos this summer to stage the latest iteration of a childhood sta...

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Sports

Football in July

Football in July


Town Crier file photo
Mountain View High’s Anthony Avery is among the nine local players slated to play in tonight’s Silicon Valley Youth Classic.

Tonight’s 40th annual Silicon Valley Youth Classic – also known as the Charlie...

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Comment

Pools should be included: Editorial

Los Altos residents should be receiving calls this week from city representatives conducting a survey to determine priorities for a revamped Hillview Community Center.

Notice that we did not say “civic center” – chastened by a lack of public support...

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Special Sections

Looking for life without lows, local diabetic tests artificial pancreas

Looking for life without lows, local diabetic tests artificial pancreas


Photo by Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Dr. Trang Ly, left, reviews blood sugar readings on a smartphone with Los Altos resident Tia Geri, right, and fellow participant Noa Simon during a closed-loop artificial pancreas study for Type 1 diabetics.
...

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Business

Palo Alto law firm coming to 400 Main

Palo Alto law firm coming to 400 Main


Ellie Van Houtte/ Town Crier
Longtime Palo Alto law firm Thoits, Love, Hershberger & McClean plans to open an office at 400 Main St. in Los Altos after construction is complete in November.

A longtime Palo Alto law firm plans to expand into L...

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Books

"Frozen in Time" chronicles harrowing WWII rescue attempts


Many readers can’t resist a true-life adventure story, especially those that shine a spotlight on people who exhibit supreme courage in the face of adversity and end up surviving – or not – against the odds.

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People

RICHARD PATRICK BRENNAN

RICHARD PATRICK BRENNAN

Resident of Palo Alto

Richard Patrick Brennan, journalist, editor, author, adventurer, died at his Palo Alto home on July 4, 2014 at age 92. He led a full life, professionally and personally. He was born and raised in San Francisco, joined the Arm...

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Travel

Travel Tidbit: Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe offers spa getaway

Travel Tidbit: Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe offers spa getaway


Courtesy of Ritz-Carlton
The Ritz-Carlton in Lake Tahoe offers fall getaway packages that include spa treatments and yoga classes.

Fall in North Lake Tahoe boasts crisp mornings and opportunities to spend quality time in the mountains. Specially ...

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Stepping Out

PYT stages 'Shrek'

PYT stages 'Shrek'


Lyn Healy/Spotlight Moments Photography
Dana Cullinane plays Fiona in Peninsula Youth Theatre’s “Shrek The Musical.”

Peninsula Youth Theatre presents “Shrek The Musical” Saturday through Aug. 3 at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts...

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Spiritual Life

Foothills Congregational: 100 years and counting

Foothills Congregational: 100 years and counting


Courtesy of Carolyn Barnes
The newly built Los Altos church in 1914 featured a bell tower and an arched front window. Both continue as elements of the building as it stands today.

Foothills Congregational Church – the oldest church building ...

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Magazine

Festival features fun for everyone

Festival features fun for everyone


TOWN CRIER FILE PHOTO
The Los Altos Arts & Wine Festival boasts more than 375 craft and arts booths.

This weekend’s 35th annual Los Altos Arts & Wine Festival promises to be jam-packed with fun activities for just about everyone. The eve...

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Long-ago letter stamps international friendship


Photo By: Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Photo Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier

Childhood pen pals Molly McDonough of Los Altos, left, and Siobhain McColl of Bendigo, Australia, continue to maintain their friendship 25 years later.

In an age of electronic communications, the art of letter writing is nearly obsolete. But that wasn’t the case 25 years ago when Los Altos resident Molly McDonough sealed a lifelong friendship with several strokes of her pen.

McDonough’s letter traveled in a large envelope of notes from fifth-grade students at Bullis-Purissima Elementary School in Los Altos Hills to a classroom of children that included Siobhain McColl in Bendigo, Australia.

“I remember the day clearly,” McColl recalled on her recent visit to Los Altos. “I was the last person to pick (a letter to read). There were three letters left and then I looked down and saw Molly’s handwriting and said I wanted that one.”

That decision forged a special friendship that has endured many life experiences over more than two decades.

A Los Altos Sister Cities alliance established with Bendigo in 1987 gave birth to the pen-pal program that catalyzed McDonough and McColl’s long-distance relationship.

When McColl visited Los Altos with her school’s concert band for the first time seven years later, the pen pals nervously met face to face. Although McColl clearly remembers standing on the steps of Community Plaza for the performance, she said meeting McDonough topped her to-do list on the trip.

Exchanging letters

While many of their classmates tired of letter writing after just a few exchanges, McColl and McDonough continued to share letters filled with school photos and mementos from their respective hometowns as they grew into young adults.

Although separated by 7,850 miles and an 18-hour time difference, the friends maintained their closeness.

Today, they tease each other like sisters.

McDonough admits that she was shocked to learn McColl pronounced her first name “Sh-vawn” during their first phone call. McDonough said for years she had discussed her pen pal with friends and family as “Soybean.”

On a joint camping trip to the Australian outback, McColl – who embraces the adventurous attitude of her homeland with ease – discovered that McDonough was more of a “downtown” girl who enjoyed a working toilet.

Despite a few differences, the girls shared much more in common.

McDonough, an only child, said it has been special to know someone “who’s all yours that no one else knows.”

Their relationship deepened as their contact did – eventually including phone calls, visits, emails and Skype conversations. Their discussions evolved from chatter about boys and teenage stuff to grownup matters of careers, marriage and pregnancy.

When McDonough gave birth to daughter Maeve two years ago, she asked McColl to be Maeve’s godmother.

“This is the only friendship that I have that has been consistent through life phases,” McDonough said.

McColl said that like good wine, their friendship gets better with time.

Enduring bond

During visits every few years, the women initiated rituals that stuck. As teens, they went bowling and ate at Chili’s. These days, an obligatory stop at Pinkies Nail Salon on Main Street for manicures and pedicures is among their first outings after McColl arrives in Los Altos.

When McDonough married and moved into her own home, learning to cook with vegemite and other Australian foods became part of the friends’ routine.

“I come here and I feel like I’m home,” McColl said of how intertwined she feels with Los Altos and her American family.

It’s not uncommon for McDonough’s former Bullis-Purissima classmates to spend time with the pair, and their banter often includes questions about whether McColl has any news of their long-lost pen pals.

Both women said their strong bond influenced their careers and life decisions. Both selected career paths that focus on helping others – McDonough is a teacher in Palo Alto and McColl works for a not-for-profit organization that cares for those with disabilities.

“You want other people to have this stability and the extended family that we’ve had in our lives,” McDonough said of their friendship. “We’ve experienced it, so we want other people to have this security.”

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