The late Sundar Shadi is best known for the elaborate Christmas display he created and put up annually in El Cerrito. But Shadi was also a master gardener who would create equally elaborate floral displays on his hillside property on The Arlington.
The El Cerrito Garden Club since 1996 has held the Sundar Shadi Garden Contest in his honor. The inspiration for the contest was a $500 gift made to the club by Shadi with his request that it be used to beautify El Cerrito.
"The club decided to have a garden contest to encourage property owners to create attractive front yards in the city," writes ECGC publicity Chairwoman Jackie Davids.
The club has announced the winners of this year's contest.
Joanne Uomini and Mark Roberts were awarded first place for their garden at 6103 Alvarado Place. "This classic California adobe features drought tolerant succulents and colorful potted plants that give the home a warm and inviting presence," the club notes.
There were two second place winners this year.
One is Maya Nelson of 651 Elm St., where "Butterflies, bees, recycled 'art' objects and whimsy abound in this organic and drought tolerant garden."
The other Yumei Yang of 1300 Richmond St., who was noted for "a corner yard that has become an edible landscape. The lawn was removed and the soil improved to yield a rich bounty of fruit, vegetables and flowers. The adjacent sidewalk is now a pleasant stroll past drought tolerant flowers and succulents."
ECGC members Vera Lis; Marion Kent; Virginia Summerer; Linda Wraxell; Landry Wildwind; Joanna Pearlman; Clavel and Charles Fender; and Tanya and David Edgar did the judging. "Gardens were judged on originality, design and selection of plants, with extra credit for favoring drought tolerant and environmentally friendly varieties."
Each of the winners was presented with a cash award and a club membership by ECGC President Bonnie Smith.
Nominations for the 2014 contest are open (you can nominate yourself, but past winners and club members are not eligible) and forms will in the city's fall brochure, mailed to all households. Next year's contest will have a new California Native Plants category.
Learn more about the club at www.elcerritogardenclub.org.
VETERAN HONORED: Senior Airman Joseph Camacho of El Sobrante, who served in the United States Air Force from 2001-05, has been selected as the Veteran of the Year for the 15th Assembly District by Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner.
Camacho was a computer and communications systems specialist and earned Airman of the Month and Airman of the Quarter during his service.
"Joseph Camacho serves as a shining example of someone that continually strives to serve his country, both abroad and at home," Skinner said via a statement. "Joseph's unfailing commitment to improve the lives of veterans and active-duty service members makes me proud to honor this outstanding young man as our Veteran of the Year."
Camacho has been active in speaking out about reducing the backlog of veterans benefit claims and has served on the board of Richmond-based Their Angels, a nonprofit group dedicated to sending comfort items and messages of encouragement to military personnel overseas.
As a Koshland Fellow, Camacho is working to help the San Pablo community by helping the San Francisco Foundation decide on the best distribution of $300,000 in funds to the San Pablo community. As a student at Contra Costa College he formed a campus support and advocacy group for veterans.
Camacho, who has earned degrees in political science and history at San Francisco State University, is also serving on the El Sobrante Municipal Advisory Council.
He and veterans of the year from other assembly districts were honored at a June 26 luncheon in Sacramento.
VETERAN REMEMBERED: A ceremony was held at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. on In Memory Day on June 14. The day is set aside to honor the memories of those who served in the Vietnam War who are not among the names on the memorial wall.
"Since the war ended, many thousands more have died as a result of the Vietnam War, but their deaths do not fit the Department of Defense criteria for inclusion upon the wall," notes the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, which sponsors the day. "On In Memory Day, VVMF honors this special group of Vietnam veterans: those who have faced daily difficulties and whose lives have been cut short by their service."
Seven men from California were remembered at this year's ceremony, including Frederick Scott Morgan from El Cerrito.
Learn more about the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund and the day of remembrance at www.vvmf.org.
EL CERRITO HIGH REUNION: Tickets are available now for a joint 40th reunion for the classes of 1972, '73 and '74 at El Cerrito High School set for 6 to 11 p.m. Aug. 3. The cost is $50 per person for a four-course meal followed by music and dancing. Guests from other classes are welcome to attend. For tickets or details click the reunion link at www.echs1973.com or call Vicki Iacobitti Berndt at 510-525-8327.
Tickets will not be sold at the door.