Wed07302014

News

‘Brown is the new green,’ says local water district

‘Brown is the new green,’ says local water district


Lina Broydo/Special to the Town Crier
Are downtown Los Altos flower pots getting too much water? The Santa Clara Valley Water District plans to hire “water cops” to discourage overwatering.

The Santa Clara Valley Water District is spendi...

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Schools

Foothill camps prepare local students for STEM careers

Foothill camps prepare local students for STEM careers


Photos Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Middle school students make robotic hands using 3-D printers during a STEM Summer Camp at Foothill College.

From designing roller coasters to developing biodegradable plastics, high school students received an i...

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Community

Local entrepreneur opens home to Afghan and Rwandan women

Local entrepreneur opens home to Afghan and Rwandan women


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Businesswomen Joan Mazimhaka of Rwanda, third from left, and Fakhria Ibrahimi of Afghanistan, in orange, traveled to the U.S. with a 26-woman delegation through the Peace Through Business program.

Employees scoop ice ...

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Comment

Moving on: The Rockey Road

Just over a month ago, we decided to put our house on the market. My husband and I had been tossing around the idea of moving back to the area where we grew up, which is only approximately 40 minutes from here. Of course, Los Altos is a great place t...

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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

Halo heads to Los Altos: Blow-dry bar founder opens new First Street location Monday

Halo heads to Los Altos: Blow-dry bar founder opens new First Street location Monday


ElLie Van Houtte/ Town Crier
Armed with blow dryers, Halo founder Rosemary Camposano, left, and store manager Nikki Thomas prepare for the blow-dry bar’s grand opening on First Street Monday.

A blow-dry bar is set to open downtown Monday, and i...

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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

CARSTEN HUGHES

Long time Los Altos resident, Dr. Alfred Hughes, died May 1st after a long illness. Dr. Hughes was born in 1927 in Maspeth, NY. He served in the US Army from 1945-6, attended Brooklyn Polytechnic University, then graduated from Reed College in Portla...

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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

'Wizard' winds down at Bus Barn

'Wizard' winds down at Bus Barn


Town Crier file photo
Local actors rehearse a scene from “The Wizard of Oz.”

Los Altos Youth Theatre and Los Altos Stage Company’s collaborative production of “The Wizard of Oz” is slated to close Sunday at Bus Barn Theater, 97 Hillview Ave.

T...

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Spiritual Life

Stanford University appoints new dean for religious life

Stanford University appoints new dean for religious life


Shaw

Stanford University named the Very Rev. Dr. Jane Shaw, dean of Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, its new dean for religious life.

Provost John Etchemendy announced Shaw’s appointment July 21, adding that she also will join the faculty in...

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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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