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News

LA Council race adds 3 new faces to city politics

LA Council race adds 3 new faces to city politics


The Town Crier chronicled the first election of Los Altos City Council incumbent Jarrett Fishpaw in 2010 and documented the Los Altos candidacy of Jean Mordo, who volunteered as a longtime public servant in Los Altos Hills before moving to the flat...

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Schools

St. Simon launches web-based learning management system

St. Simon launches web-based learning management system


Courtesy of St. Simon Parish School
St. Simon fifth-grader Matthew Cummins uses a laptop in class last week. The school’s cloud-based Schoology system boosts organization and collaboration.

Families at St. Simon Parish School in Los Altos laun...

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Community

Los Altos to celebrate 100 years of library use with 'Centennial Faire'

Los Altos to celebrate 100 years of library use with 'Centennial Faire'


Town Crier File Photo
The Los Altos main library is among the more popular branches in the county library district system, set to celebrate 100 years.

In 1914, Babe Ruth made his debut with the Boston Red Sox, wages hit $5 per day, the first ste...

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Sports

Eagles eye another stellar season

Eagles eye another stellar season


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Los Altos High outside hitter Carmen Annevelink, right, goes for the kill Thursday against Palo Alto, as teammates Sarah Tritschler, left, and Lulu Kishton prepare to play defense. The Eagles won the match in straight ga...

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Comment

Torok, Walter, Dave for MVLA board: Editorial

There’s really nothing major you can criticize about the Mountain View Los Altos Union High School District. It offers a diverse array of effective programs for all types of students. Its instructors, with few exceptions, are outstanding.

Howe...

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Special Sections

'Funabout' Fiat

'Funabout' Fiat


Photos courtesy of Fiat
The 2014 Fiat 500e uses 29 kilowatt-hours per 100 miles, which the engineers claim is the equivalent of 116 mpg of gas use. It has a sticker price of $33,095.

If you believe in climate change, would love to see alternat...

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Business

App developer eyes First Friday as testing ground

App developer eyes First Friday as testing ground


Ted Fagenson

An East Bay app developer is testing his newest creation in downtown Los Altos.

Ted Fagenson, co-founder of Skrownge (pronounced “scrounge”), told the Town Crier that he’s beta testing his mobile gaming app this week ...

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Books

From story to bookstore: Local journey highlights Halloween

From story to bookstore: Local journey highlights Halloween


Courtesy of Dee Ellmann
Jenny Hurwick self-published her picture book last month after decades of storytelling.

During her years working as a teacher and a Los Altos mom, Jenny Hurwick loved to tell stories. One tale she crafted for her son just se...

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People

VINCENT (TIM) MURPHY JR.

VINCENT (TIM) MURPHY JR.

July 27, 1953 – August 12, 2014

Native Los Altan died Medford, OR. Graduated Bellarmine Prep. Married Josephine Domino, 1950. Licensed Auto Mechanic, Private Pilot, skilled Computer Scientist. Tim “could fix anything”. Afflicted with cancer 2001. ...

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Travel

Taking a Turkey trek: Winging it during the World Cup

Taking a Turkey trek: Winging it during the World Cup


Rich Robertson/Special to the Town Crier
The sun sets over the Aegean Sea in Bodrum, Turkey, left.

Tours that whisk you from Istanbul to Bodrum in 11 days are as plentiful as souvenir hawkers in Turkey, but traveling from the Blue Mosque to Topkapi ...

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Stepping Out

'Gypsy' on its way out

'Gypsy' on its way out


Chris Berger/Special to the Town Crier
Alison Koch of Los Altos plays Dainty June in “Gypsy.”

This is the final weekend to catch the Sunnyvale Community Players production of “Gypsy” at the Sunnyvale Theatre. The musical is slated to close Sund...

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Spiritual Life

Ugandan pastor visits U.S. to raise support for children's ministry

Ugandan pastor visits U.S. to raise support for children's ministry


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Herman Lukwago educates children in Uganda.

Imagine life if your father had 25 children and you were raised in poverty in rural Uganda.

Now imagine that you and your siblings were orphaned at an early age and you ass...

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Magazine

Local events add color to autumn calendar

Local events add color to autumn calendar


Van Houtte/town crier Visitors make their way through the Children’s Alley.

As Los Altos’ signature Chinese Pistache trees exchange their summer green for vibrant hues of yellow, orange and red in the fall, an abundance of local events also ad...

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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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