Mon07282014

News

Downtown green park pops up again in August

Downtown green park pops up again in August


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
The Third Street Green debuts Aug. 3 on the 300 block of State Street in downtown Los Altos.

Another temporary park is poised to pop up in downtown Los Altos this summer.

According to Brooke Ray Smith, community devel...

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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 int...

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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 in L...

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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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Mountain View resident receives recognition for courageous actions 57 years later


Above Photo by Niuniu Teo/Town Crier; Below Left Courtesy of Juan C. Aranda Jr.; Below right by Claudia Cruz/MV Patch

Juan C. Aranda Jr.’s heroic act has finally resurfaced after more than half a century.

The longtime Mountain View resident was scheduled to receive the Air Force Commendation Medal Monday, presented by U.S. Rep. Anna Eshoo in a ceremony at Moffett Federal Airfield.

Commendation, however, was the last thing on Aranda’s mind 57 years ago, when he threw himself into the swirling floodwater with nothing but a rope in hand.

Thoughts of his young wife and baby daughter, his deserted station in the air-to-ground communications back at his military base and his own well-being were all superseded by the sight of a father and his three sons desperately clinging to a palm tree, only minutes to spare before tumbling into the roiling water below.

Although he probably wasn’t aware at the time, Aranda had been preparing for that moment his entire life. From swimming for crabs as a child in Puerto Rico to learning how to lifeguard when he served as a communications specialist at Wheelus Air Base in Libya, the young airman was the necessary combination of reckless, fearless and prepared.

The serendipitous convergence of events on that fateful night in Puerto Rico resulted in an opportunity for the small-town islander to rise to the occasion, risking his life to save four others in the stormy wrath of Hurricane Betsy, which had already raged for four days, killing nine people and wreaking more than $25 million in property damage in Puerto Rico alone.

Breaking curfew

Sitting comfortably on his porch in Mountain View on a recent sunny afternoon, Aranda, now 78, recounted the night’s events.

When Betsy struck, he was serving in the U.S. Air Force, stationed at Ramey Air Force Base in Puerto Rico. He decided to break curfew to check on his wife and 6-month-old daughter, who were living approximately 10 miles from the base.

After wading through roughly a mile of chest-deep water against wind gusts of up to 115 mph, he reached his house and found it safely above the floodwaters, which were receding.

Soon after his reunion with his family, however, townspeople from the village came calling for help.

“They don’t have firefighters or a fire station. They have a place where you get buckets, and everybody helps,” Aranda said. “That’s the way it works.”

Aranda followed the volunteers to the rushing creek, where he found the father and his sons, minutes from drowning.

“They had hypothermia, they had insects all over them, they were scared,” Aranda said. “There was nothing in sight. You knew they would drop off (into the water) eventually.”

Aranda was a good swimmer, and he was the lightest of the rescue group. His next plan of action came naturally to him – he jumped in.

The instant he hit the water, the current swept him downstream at breakneck speed. Miraculously, he managed to grab hold of the tree on the first try.

“I don’t know how I got there, but I got there,” he said. “I don’t know if the father pulled me up by my hair, or if I caught a branch, but all of a sudden, I was there.”

The father gave the young airman a look of astonished gratitude.

“You can’t describe that look,” Aranda said.

They worked together, easing the boys carefully down the rope, safely to the other side, and then crossed over themselves. At that point, they were all freezing.

Aranda recalled having the first and last cup of coffee of his life at the man’s house before he returned to the base. He spent the night in detention for breaking curfew.

The call

For nearly half a century, Aranda sat quietly on the events of that night, not expecting anything to come of his heroic act. He was simply relieved to dodge a court martial or dishonorable discharge for breaking curfew.

“I just laid low and didn’t leave base. I was only concerned with saving my own butt,” he said with a laugh. “For months, I didn’t hear nothing from nobody.”

After serving two consecutive four-year terms in the armed forces, he settled in Mountain View in 1985.

Aranda embraced his new community, quickly becoming involved as a willing volunteer and a friendly neighbor.

He is known around town as a salsa instructor, a Spanish teacher and a dedicated RotaCare volunteer.

He sat on the board of the Mountain View Whisman School District, and his house serves as a day care for local children, who affectionately call him “Papa Juan.” People have told him repeatedly to run for mayor – he’s considering it.

“I’m not the type to be sitting down,” he said modestly.

Long after Aranda had flourished in the sanctuary of citizenship, Col. Dave Hafid learned of Aranda’s brash burst of bravery over a few drinks at a bar. The colonel immediately took it upon himself to write a letter on Aranda’s behalf, informing authorities of his heroism.

“It made my day, but I just put the thought away, in the back of my head,” Aranda said. “I didn’t expect anything to come out of it.”

Then, on April 12, 2012, he received a call from Eshoo, who represents Los Altos, Los Altos Hills and Mountain View.

“I heard on the message someone say, ‘This is Congresswoman Anna Eshoo for Juan C. Aranda Jr.,’” Aranda recalled. “I was flabbergasted. I had waited for this moment for so long, and now I didn’t know how to react. I just remember thinking, ‘Nobody ever calls me that.’”

Although Aranda said he is humbled by and grateful for the public recognition of his act, he still wouldn’t call himself a hero.

“Policemen, firefighters – they’re heroes,” he said. “I don’t consider myself a hero. I was trained, I was a good swimmer and I didn’t think about the consequences. ... My reward was the feeling of his arm when I finally grabbed ahold of it. My reward was the look in his eyes.”

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