Sat10252014

News

Election flyer mimics newspaper coverage

Election flyer mimics newspaper coverage

A flyer is being distributed across Los Altos that looks like it is from the Los Altos Town Crier but was neither created nor distributed by the community’s weekly newspaper. The flyer, pictured at right, is being distributed by workers from Pyrami...

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Schools

LAHS Science and Technology Week features medical examiner

LAHS Science and Technology Week features medical examiner


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
A Los Altos High School student learns how to use robotic surgical equipment at the school’s Science and Technology Week event last year. Students can also attend hands-on presentations at this year’s event, w...

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Community

Ahoy, matey: Pirate Manor ramps up Halloween display

Ahoy, matey: Pirate Manor ramps up Halloween display


Town Crier File Photo
Pirate Manor is once again scheduled to arrive in the front yard of Dane and Jill Glasgow’s home on Manor Way in Los Altos, just in time for Halloween.

Although not the Walking Dead, pirate skeletons have been brought to li...

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Sports

Lancers rule the pool against Spartans

Lancers rule the pool against Spartans


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
St. Francis High’s Eric Reitmeir launches the ball over Mountain View High driver David Niehaus (2) and goalie Kenny Tang. The host Lancers won Friday’s non-league game 9-3.

There wasn’t a lot on the line Friday when ...

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Comment

Reeder, Fung for El Camino HCD: Editorial

The good news for the El Camino Healthcare District (formerly the El Camino Hospital District, for those still getting used to the new name) is that there is a contested election Nov. 4 for the district’s board of directors. Three candidates are runn...

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Special Sections

Plant-based diet offers benefits

Plant-based diet offers benefits


Photo by Ramya Krishna
Los Altos resident Nandini Krishna prepares a meat-free dish According to author Caldwell B. Esselstyn Jr., M.D., a plant-based diet can help prevent cancer.

Shirley Okita of Los Altos has found that adhering to a mostly plant...

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Business

New shop offers haute couture for girls

New shop offers haute couture for girls


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
The Girls @ Los Altos at 239 State St. offers clothing lines such as Nellystella as well as toys and other items for girls.

Cecilia Chen opened The Girls @ Los Altos as a tribute to the party dress. Whether it’s for...

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Books

Helping kids catch a few Zs: Local dental hygienist pens meditative bedtime book

Helping kids catch a few Zs: Local dental hygienist pens meditative bedtime book


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Mimi Sommers, who works at a Los Altos dentist’s office, recently wrote a children’s book.

A local dental hygienist recently published a book that aims to ease parents and children during a sometimes anxious e...

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People

BARBARA DARLING MERIDETH

1946-2014

Born in Palo Alto, raised in Los Altos, retired in southern Oregon. Survived by Peter James Merideth, sons Matthew, Jacob and John Merideth, the loves of her life.

She was a housewife who took great pride in her home, her surroundings and...

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Travel

Falling leaves: Four places in California to see autumn colors

Falling leaves: Four places in California to see autumn colors


Courtesy of Castello di Amorosa
Castello di Amorosa in Calistoga, above, boasts a beautiful setting for viewing fall’s colors – and sampling the vineyard’s wines.

Yes, Virginia, there is fall in California.

The colors pop out in...

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Stepping Out

'Sleepy Hollow' awakens at Bus Barn

'Sleepy Hollow' awakens at Bus Barn



Los Altos Youth Theatre’s production of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” a musical based on Washington Irving’s classic story, is set to run through Nov. 2 at Bus Barn Theater. The cast comprises 27 young actors, directed by Cindy Powell. Courtesy o...

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Spiritual Life

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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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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