Left to right are Angela Borrego-Chavez, Madeline Ricards, Alma Ikeler, Shirley Logsdon Alsup, and Martha Knight

Alsup, Borrego-Chavez, Ikeler, Knight, Ricards: SP Women of History lauded

April 11, 2001
Santa Paula News
By Peggy Kelly Santa Paula TimesQuilts and straw hats with little chicks were a decorating theme but it was the big chicks that were the focus of attention with the Women of History dinner honoring five outstanding Santa Paula women.Women’s History Night honored Shirley Logsdon Alsup, Angela Borrego-Chavez, Alma Ikeler, Martha Knight and Madeline Ricards for their contributions to community and to the status of women.The dinner was held March 28 at the Community Center.Mary Deines noted in the opening remarks that National Women of History Month started in 1980 when school teachers noticed that there was “little about women in textbooks,” highlighting their contributions or place in history.Santa Paula Women’s History Night was to “Celebrate Woman of Courage and Vision,” this year’s national theme, local women as well as those known nationally, Deines added.Honored women had their stories wonderfully written by Bonnie Bruington, Marianne Ratcliff and Kay Wilson-Bolton, who interviewed each Woman of History; the Santa Paula Readers’ Theater handled the presentation of each honorees’ life story.Lisa Tiscareno-McKinley presented Shirley’s story. Heavily influenced by her grandmother, who arrived in the Oklahoma territory by covered wagon, “She was an inspiration to me,” especially her philosophy that anything worth doing is worth doing right.
Shirley moved with her family to Santa Paula in 1942, where, because of her accent, she was required to take speech therapy at school. “I had the typical aspirations to be a school teacher,” but meeting Gawain Logsdon changed that. They married, and Shirley, a business major, graduated from Ventura College. After varied careers, they opened The Cookery in Ventura in 1978. After selling it two years later, they purchased a restaurant they renamed The Peppermill. Encouraged by its directors, they had a new restaurant built at the Santa Paula Airport, Logsdon’s, which opened in December 1990. “It’s a 24/7 commitment and quality control is your constant companion. . .” Gawain had long been in ill health - Shirley ran the business while attending to him - and he passed away in 1994; her son, Stanton, died in 1998.Her daughter, Toni and husband Bob, the chef, have been “godsends for me,” as well as her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Shirley has lupus, a reoccurring disease, but believes “For every time, there is a season. . .” especially since her marriage to Roy Alsup. They are taking time for travel.Leslie Nichols spoke as Angela, a native of Santa Paula who attended local schools before starting her own career as a teacher. Her childhood memories include being chased by three boys, one who became her husband, Henry Chavez, 20 years after her high school graduation. “I lived with my parents until I was married at 39; my life was my family, my students and my faith.” Now, her life includes Henry. Her parents taught her that “love and sharing are gifts” and passed on their work ethic to Angela. In her second year of college, Angela was an aide at a school and “that was the beginning of my love affair with kids.” She graduated with her teaching credential in 1972 from San Jose State University and started working at Barbara Webster School. “So Barbara Webster is the first place I ever taught and, Lord willing, the place I’ll retire from.”She started the award-winning Drill Team in 1974; she continued to oversee the team until 1999, but missed it. “I had to close the windows and drapes in my classroom, so I couldn’t see or hear the team practicing.” Angela received her Masters Degree from California Lutheran University in 1981 through night school; she also did a stint as a volunteer crisis counselor. She has taught 5th grade for half of her 30 year teaching career, known to students as Mrs. ABC, and is a strong union supporter. Highly honored over the years, “I’m just so blessed with my work.”Alma Ethel Ikeler, portrayed by Gina Lopez, was 8 when her mother died, but forged a still-strong bond with her stepmother. After working at traditionally male jobs throughout World War II, Alma met Ralph; they married three weeks later: “They said it wouldn’t last,” but they were married until his 1990 death. The couple both worked but their shifts allowed one of them to always be home with their three sons. Ralph visited California in 1968 and told Alma it was their new home; she arrived from Indiana hauling an eight-wheel trailer, with a 12-year-old and a dog. In 1974, Ralph suffered a major heart attack and lost his memory, but Alma survived through her sense of humor. In 1981 they moved to Santa Paula; she retired, but three years later their grandson, Josh - then 5 weeks old - moved in with them. The family delivered Meals on Wheels and in 1991, Alma became program coordinator. Josh has Down syndrome and is a constant presence at the Senior Center, “knowledgeable and reliable and a big help around here.” Alma, a Down Syndrome Association officer and counselor, has headed the service-rich Senior Center on a part-time basis for years. Honored as the Santa Barbara Braille Volunteer of the Year, Alma is active in the Special Olympics program: Josh has 27 medals and Alma helps other participants with transportation and encouragement. “I love Santa Paula. Where else can someone dial a wrong number, get me and I know that voice and we chat a bit?”Martha Knight, portrayed by Linda Livingston, grew up in Minnesota, and “things of the old days are important to me.” Known as Clem for her Tom boyish ways, Martha still wears a brace that resulted from an adult enticing her to jump off a 30-foot-high bridge. After college, Martha started working at a bank and met Jim Knight through volunteerism. She and “shy Jim” clicked, and this year is their 50th wedding anniversary, “Good years, every one of them.” While living in Duluth, Martha “couldn’t understand the attitude of some who criticized me for shopping on the wrong side of the street. May small-town values,” became - and remain - very important. Jim moved up the ladder of hospital administration; in 1961 they moved with their four children when he opened Santa Paula Memorial Hospital. Their Oaks neighbors are still an important part of her life. She went to work for Dr. Gil Jackson, a “nicer man you couldn’t find.” Martha became - and stayed - active in the election board 36 years ago. Golf became a “big thing at our house,” with first Jim and then Martha taking it up, but, the hospital was “always the center of our conversations.” While Martha worked at the gift shop, “Jim set out to make our hospital a wonderful, caring place.” A California Oil Museum docent, past PTA president, Isbell reading instructor, church elder and deacon, Martha was 1998 Citizen of the Year. Jim died in 1990, and “I couldn’t imagine how life would ever be meaningful again. . .with friends and loved ones standing by, the tears and the years bind us forever.”Madeline Ricards, with Mary Beth East at the helm of her life, was a “New York girl” with a civic minded mother and father who owned a car dealership. Her grandmother was an impressive woman far ahead of her times. Madeline graduated from Katherine Gibbs College, after being “properly taught. . .the essentials of life.” She worked on Wall Street and lived in Greenwich Village, enjoying the atmosphere. Her first friend when she moved to California in 1941 was Gwen Dewey, who now says her only successful attempt at matchmaking was Madeline and John Ricards, and “One of our common interests was flying.” John attended UCLA while Madeline was a stay at home but working mother; in 1949 John began teaching biology and zoology at Santa Paula High School and they moved to Bardsdale. Madeline was his “unpaid assistant” taking part in many campus activities. In 1955 they moved to a Santa Paula ranch, and “my life was filled with the boys’ work at Mupu School and with 4-H and PTA.” Madeline resumed her interest in art when her youngest entered school; “I like the flexibility and forgiveness of the oils,” and she mostly does landscapes and buildings, but her subject matter - and medium - is branching out: “My style is mostly Impressionistic.” A founder of the Santa Paula Society of the Arts in 1968, Madeline has served as an officer, including President. Her oldest son, Jeffrey, died in a car crash when a UCSB senior. John, retired from SPHS in 1980, died in 1990. Madeline is an active Helpline, CASP and SPMH Pink Lady volunteer. She paints with old friends and travels although “this corner of paradise is perfect for me. . .”

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