Posted 2/5/16 – “As I look out over this audience, I don’t think I see one person that hasn’t volunteered in some way…this is the complete group of volunteers and I really commend all of you…” said Clem Bartolai, in typical fashion deflecting the compliment aimed at him onto others. Clem and his wife Nina were being honored by the Sierra Madre Chamber of Commerce as the 2015 Citizens of the Year Saturday night. Clem continued “…because it is looking at that long list of names in the program of prior recipients of the Citizen of the Year award that makes me really humble thinking that we are just one of those after so many that came before us and did so much for the community, I just, I’m really at a loss for words, somewhat, to be able to say exactly how much we appreciate the fact that you recognized us and gave us this lofty award, because I will consider it for the rest of my life to be one of the highlights of my time here on good earth. Thank you.” Clem was followed by Nina, who was emotional in saying how proud they are of her family, and pleased to have friends on hand that go back to kindergarten. She reminisced about her home growing up in the Canyon, and girl scouts and softball, and “these wonderful seasons that we’ve had, and the honor of just doing things for the City, and when you do volunteer everybody appreciates it, I mean you get thanks, you enjoy doing something for Sierra Madre, it’s such a family, family village and I love it…so thank you very, very much for the love…you touched our hearts, thank you so much.”
Following a cocktail hour, emcee Michael Powers opened up the evening by introducing Chamber president Ed Chen who welcomed everyone and thanked them for coming, and shortly thereafter dinner of pasta in an alfredo sauce with chicken, salad, and rolls was served. After dinner, Powers returned and introduced Chamber Board member Susan Henderson who gave a brief presentation giving a little background on the Bartolais and why they were being presented with the award: a lifetime of community service. In the 1960s 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.
Nina served as Brownie and Girl Scout leader as well as assisting with assorted grade school activities while the two Bartolai girls were growing up. She 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 also served as both a member and Chair of the Senior Commission.
Also speaking following Ms. Henderson was Doug Delahooke, who, while serving as president of the Chamber of Commerce back in 1966 was instrumental in the creation of the Citizen of the Year award and returned to honor his good friends in the 50th anniversary of the award. Mayor John Capoccia presented the Bartolais with commendation certificates from the City, the State Assembly, the State Senate, and the House of Representatives. It was then that Clem and Nina had the opportunity to say a few words of thanks.
Emcee Powers then invited folks in the audience to say a few words and several folks rose to commend the couple, with a common them of how well deserved the award was, and how much appreciated they are and what a great, giving couple they are. One gentleman who has known Clem for 64 years called him “the finest gentleman I’ve ever met,” adding “I can’t say enough about him.” Former City Manager Sean Joyce who served during Clem’s tenure on City Council told several stories about that time and how much he learned from that experience, noting that Clem and Nina deserved every accolade they were receiving. Judy Webb-Martin spoke of her respect for the couple, and of Clem’s fairness and integrity. Catherine Adde thanked Nina for her service with both the Library Board of Trustees and the Friends of the Library. Another man rose to talk about Clem’s tenure on Council and as Mayor, and spoke of how impressed he was with Clem’s ability to always remain a gentleman, no matter how difficult the situation.
Congratulations to Clem and Nina, on a well deserved honor!