By Jan Reed and Bill Coburn, Posted 1/12/16 – The Sierra Madre Chamber of Commerce has announced the 2015 Citizens of the Year will be Clem and Nina Bartolai, who were also honored as the Grand Marshals of the 2015 4th of July Parade.
This ultra civic Sierra Madre couple have continued to donate time and service to the Sierra Madre community for over 60 plus years. They are true examples of the Sierra Madre spirit and continue to give back today.
Clem was born in Highland Park, IL, and moved to Alhambra, attending high school there. He received a degree at Pasadena City College in engineering and technology with a major in sign showcard and silk screen art. Clem used that talent to paint signs and do silk screening in surrounding towns as well as on a volunteer basis for quite a few local organizations.
When the Red Car station was still located in Kersting Court, Clem was in Sierra Madre during the Christmas season, saw the memorable “Christmas card” look with icicles on the roof that was also trimmed in twinkling lights. At that moment Clem knew he wanted to live in Sierra Madre. He started dating Sierra Madre girls and found Nina (whom he had also met while attending PCC). They have been married for 56 years.
During those early days in the ’60s as President of Lions Club, Clem helped organize the first Fourth of July Parade in Sierra Madre, and then in the ’70s he served on the Parks and Recreation Commission as well as Planning Commission. He had three terms on the City Council and was Mayor three times, once for each term, in the ’80s and ’90s.
Clem was one of those who helped develop the Sierra Madre Community Foundation and filled a term on the Board of Directors. He served on the Friends of the Sierra Madre Library Board of Directors for a number of years, also. He has been a member of Sierra Madre Kiwanis Club since 1985.
Clem worked for JPL, as a Technical Illustrator while continuing studies in Business Administration at California State University, Los Angeles, and then completed a 34-year career as an executive in the office furniture manufacturing industry.
Nina, a native Californian, came with her parents to Sierra Madre when she was 3 years old. She went through local schools and graduated from Pasadena City College/Huntington Memorial Hospital with a nursing degree. Nina worked in the nursing profession in various office positions for 40 years until her retirement in 2000.
Nina took 10 years off during the Bartolai children’s young lives, and served as Brownie and Girl Scout leader as well as assisting with assorted grade school activities while the two Bartolai girls were growing up. Then she continued with her nursing career.
Nina was an integral part of the Rose Float Association, the local Historical Society, and has served as a docent for the Wistaria Festival. Nina has worked on the Friends of the Library Board and is a member of the College Women’s Group in Pasadena. She served as both a member and Chair of the Senior Commission. She worked at Leonora Moss for five years after her retirement from nursing, and now works most Saturdays at Arnold’s Frontier Hardware.
The Bartolais have two daughters. Renee and husband Jim Smith live in Pasadena; and Lisa and husband David Brandley and their two daughters, Madison and Taylor, live in Monrovia.
Clem’s love of cycling became a real passion (after Nina) in the ’70s and he has been competing, joyfully, ever since. Nina soon joined him on their tandem and you can see them cruising the streets and highways around Sierra Madre. Renee began trekking around the mountains and beaches with her dad and now they do weekly trips around Southern California. Clem has competed in the different gradations of cycling and was inducted into the California Triple Crown Hall of Fame of Cycling in 2007. He and daughter Renee are a part of the “Double Century Club” (2 one hundred mile rides in one day). The Bartolais have enjoyed their excursions in France, Portugal, Spain, and, of course, all over the U.S.
Nina said of Sierra Madre, “Giving back to the community is very important to us. Sierra Madre is filled with people who give so many volunteer hours.”
The Chamber will honor the Bartolais at their annual Citizen of the Year Dinner, to be held on Saturday, January 30th. The dinner will be held in the Sierra Madre Room at the Recreation Center, 611 E. Sierra Madre Blvd., with a reception beginning at 6pm, dinner at 7pm. Tickets for the dinner will be $30/person, and a table for ten can be purchased at $275. Tickets will be available at Bean Town Cafe, Savor the Flavor, and The Bottle Shop beginning Friday, January 15th.