Posted 2/18/14 – One hundred and eighty people filled the patio of the Villa del sol d’Oro at Alverno High School on Monday to celebrate the 90th birthday of Gordon Caldwell, former owner of Gem Plumbing, WWII veteran, and longtime Sierra Madre volunteer. They dined on mixed green salad, chicken and tri-tip, mashed potatoes, and steamed vegetables. Lunch was followed by cheesecake topped with fresh raspberries.
The afternoon began with Gordon’s wife Mary Lou, thanking everyone for attending, and noting that Gordon thinks of everyone who was there as extended family. Sierra Madre’s Harry L. Embree VFW Post 3208 then made the presentation of the colors, followed by Post Commander Dave Loera leading everyone in the pledge of allegiance. VFW Chaplain Stanley Pinta then gave the invocation.
As the guests enjoyed their salads, Master of Ceremonies Rich Snyder filled everyone in on some of Gordon’s background. Gordon was born in Louisburg, Missouri, a town with a population of just 175. He was the baby of 9 children, 4 of whom are still alive, Gordon, a brother age 94, and two sisters, ages 98 and 101. Two weeks after high school, Gordon joined the Navy and served from 1943 to 1945, aboard the USS Saratoga, and after returning home, he hitchhiked to Ventura, CA in 1946, arriving with just 35 cents in his pocket. He got a job working for Shell Oil. in 1948, he married his first wife, Mary, who had followed him to Ventura from Louisburg. They had three daughters and a son. In 1958, despite knowing nothing about plumbing, Gordon left Shell Oil to become partners with a friend named Hal Jordan in Gem Plumbing, and moved his family to Sierra Madre.
Gordon quickly became involved in the community. He became a member of the Sierra Madre Fire Dept. (he’s still a member of the SMVFA after 58 years, sponsored Little
League teams, for years he called 300 people three times a year for the Red Cross blood donation program, He’s been a member of Kiwanis Club for nearly 3 decades. In 1985, Mary passed away, and a couple years later, Gordon married Mary Lou. They both contribute tirelessly to the community, and they travel the world together, having visited Scotland, England, Scandinavia, Czechoslovakia, Ireland, Morocco, Portugal, Spain and more. The centerpieces on the table featured photos from these travels, and of their participation in organizations and events, and guests were asked to take the photos with them to leave with a little piece of Gordon.
Following lunch, Gordon received a certificate from the City, presented by Council members Chris Koerber and John Capoccia. He also received a plaque from the Sierra Madre Fire Dept. , and a plaque from the VFW recognizing him for Meritorious and Distinguished Service. Kiwanis president Susan Henderson announced to Gordon that he will be receiving the Distinguished Service award from the Governor of Kiwanis in March in recognition of 27 years of service.
Gordon’s daughter Connie also spoke, thanking Mary Lou for putting on the party, and also thanking her for loving her dad for all these years. She thanked Gordon for all the choices he’s made in his life that made him the man he is today. For the sacrifices he made for his family, and for “letting us know that hard work is honorable.” She thanked him for dreaming and risking. She talked of how she and her siblings always felt safe and loved, “Nothing bad was going to happen as long as you were around, because you wouldn’t allow it.” She pointed out that he knew all the people at the luncheon, “you knew most everybody in town, and beyond that, this man knew where everybody hid their house key. And he knew that, because you told him. And you told him, because you trusted him, and you depended on him, and you respected him, and liked him.” She closed by stating that while things have changed and he may not know where you hide your key now, “but, some things haven’t changed. All these people here, we depend on you, we trust you, we like you, we respect you and we love you.”
Gordon will turn 90 on Feb. 24th.
Enjoy the photo gallery below the video. Click an image to enlarge it.