Pictured left to right are the 2004 Soroptimist “Women of Distinction” Michelle Kolbeck, Doris Bickett, Betty Spalding, Ofelia De la Torre, and Beverly Harding. Photo by Don Johnson

Soroptimist Club honors “Women of Distinction”

February 25, 2004
Santa Paula News
By Peggy Kelly Santa Paula TimesSoroptimist International of Santa Paula honored five “Women of Distinction” at its annual awards dinner held Feb. 11th at Logsdon’s at the Airport where Doris Bickett, Ofelia de la Torre, Beverly Harding, Michelle Kolbeck and Betty Spalding were lauded for their contributions to the community.“SISP is so honored to have you here helping us honor these five inspiring women,” said SISP President Cynthia Dunbar. “These women do everything for the heart, not the stars and each one of you will continue to give your love to the world.”Mayor Gabino Aguirre, Vice Mayor Mary Ann Krause and Supervisor Kathy Long were among the dignitaries who attended the event and provided proclamations for the honorees. 2004 “Women of Distinction” also received recognition from Rep. Elton Gallegly and Assemblyman Tony Strickland. Xavier “Big X” Montes entertained playing the traditional Mexican harp and Peggy Kelly was the emcee for the awards.Bickett was honored for Economical and Social Development. Raised on an Indiana farm, Bickett retains good memories of childhood even though it was during the Depression and challenging for the family of six.Bickett was always interested in food and she spent time foraging for unusual foods on the farm although she never found the arrowhead she always craved. After graduating from high school, Bickett, through her sister, obtained work as a waitress at a local hotel and learned a strong work ethic as she worked her way through Indiana University. She continued to study foods and worked in the food service industry.Paul Bickett’s minister father married the couple who were given a reception at the Student Union. He became a Boy Scouts of America professional and after living throughout the U.S., they settled in Santa Paula.When living in Bakersfield Bickett began her career in social services and in Ventura County was promoted to supervisor. She always found the work interesting and enjoyed the people she interacted with.After Bickett retired, she and Paul traveled throughout the United States, visiting every state including a “wonderful road trip to Alaska.” She and Paul also enjoyed time with their children, Alan and Jan, and their families.Paul passed away in 2000 and Doris – a great behind the scene worker for many events - remains deeply involved in First United Methodist Church and Friends of the Library.Human Rights Award recipient De la Torre is a city native who, as a youth, worked with her family as a farm laborer. She spent many years working at Santa Paula High School, from where she retired after enjoying working with the students.Married to the late Louie de la Torre, the couple had three children, Robert, Cathy and Ronnie, and Ofelia became active in all aspects of their schools, including volunteer tutoring. Devoted to children, de la Torre was a leader in the Santa Paula Youth Task Force.De la Torre became a Realtor and with her sister, Ramona Chavez, opened Glen City Real Estate and became increasingly active in the community, including service on the Grand Jury.Elected to the SPESD Board in 1975, de la Torre later served as a SPESD Personnel Commissioner for eight years. Again elected to the SPESD board in 2000, she has served as president and strives to “give our students the best opportunity to reach their highest potential.”De la Torre is heavily involved in the annual ACS Relay for Life.The Ventura County Coastal Association of Realtors presented Ofelia and Ramona with the 2000 Diversity Award. Last year she was honored with the Latino Town Hall Community Service Award and this year she is being lauded as a Santa Paula Woman of History.She devotes much effort to voter registration and the LTH co-founder takes pride in ensuring that those who “volunteer time and energy to our youth and organizations” are honored.Harding, honored for Education, is a fourth-generation Santa Paulan, 1946 SPUHS graduate and worked summers hoeing beans next to German POWs during WWII. She received an Interior Design degree from Colorado Western Women’s College.Harding married and in Los Angeles joined Eastman Kodak as officer manager.Retired after 32 years and divorced, Harding traveled the world with friends, arriving in Beijing on Day One of the Tinneman Square uprising. . .leaving rapidly, they continued their journey, touring 11 countries in a rented car.Harding returned to Santa Paula to care for her ailing parents, but prior to the move she became a member of the local Daughters of the American Revolution chapter, serving as Regent for multiple terms and as Tri-Counties District Director. As Regent, she is overseeing the chapter centennial; she believes DAR is the oldest such organization in the city.Harding is a SPUHS Alumni Association co-founder: the group stages highly popular annual reunions and has provided $55,000+ in scholarships. Harding created an alumni data base of over 20,000 grads and has researched and written over 230 alumnus biographies published in the Santa Paula Times.
She serves on the Ebell Club board and organizes the Kodak retirees’ annual luncheon.Chairwoman of the George Harding Park Advisory Board of Directors, Harding helps to oversee the budget of the only park in the state that is self-funding, established by her father for sports’ loving kids.Harding built her hillside home and shares her Santa Paula – which she considers “the most perfect spot in the world” - memorabilia with friends.Kolbeck, also honored for Education, grew up on an Iowa farm that has been in the family for over 125 years.Married to Kevin Kolbeck, the couple has nine children: Michael, Sarah, Rachael, Rebecca, Leah, Daniel, Benjamin, Hannah and Susanna, ranging in age from 9 to 23. All are known athletes and scholars.The oldest are in college, the next oldest in Santa Paula High School, the middle ones in Isbell Middle School and the youngest students at Thelma Bedell Elementary School.Kolbeck graduated from Cornell College, with a degree in mathematics/economics, and after a 13-year career in food sales for national companies, she was elected to the Santa Paula Elementary School District Board of Trustees in 1998.She was president of the Thelma Bedell Parent Organization and served on the school site council, District Advisory Council, as president of Parents for Academic and Curriculum Committee at SPUHS, is a 14-year high school band booster, and spent as volunteered as a room parent, team mom, fundraiser coordinator, snack bar coordinator for basketball, volleyball, softball, baseball, track and cross country.Kolbeck also serves on the SPAS Skatepark Advisory Board and has been heavily involved in a variety of church activities and programs; a breast cancer survivor, she has participated in Relay for Life.Kolbeck has been the driver for over 300 field/study trips, done over 500 fundraisers, makes dinner daily for at least 15 people, and had a record 17 basketball games in one week not including the practices! In one day she attended five sporting events.Economic & Social Development recipient Spalding is a second generation Santa Paulan who was extremely active at SPUHS in sports as well as scholastic clubs.Blessed with a melodious voice, Spalding was in Operetta and a member of the Double Trio, Glee and Dramatics clubs.She continued to sing at Ventura College and starred in the spring musicals. After graduation, she attended College of the Pacific in Stockton and was a member of the a cappella choir.Spalding returned to Santa Paula during WWII and worked at Port Hueneme.She married C.B. Causey, they moved to Texas and had daughters Anne and Joanne before returning to Santa Paula.Thirty years after SPUHS graduation, Spalding received a teaching credential from CLU and she taught Santa Paula 4th graders. She has a state life teaching credential.Divorced, she married SPUHS classmate Lloyd Onstot. After his death, she renewed a VC friendship with Wyman Spalding and married her former college musical co-star.Spalding’s “work life” began after retirement; she volunteered for Hospice Home Support of Santa Clara Valley, was Ebell Club President and DAR Regent for multiple terms as well as District Director and remains active on the board.Her singing took her back to her lifelong First United Methodist Church and its choir; she became president of the Methodist Women in 1991.She enjoys playing the piano and singing for weekly church services at area nursing homes.

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