"Once upon a time, I met a man who held the very breath of inspiration in his hand, as if it were a handkerchief he could wave at will—a magic kerchief that made impossible things come to life, made the stillness dance, and made people believe in their own dreams."
That was how Cheryl Leutjen, vice-president of Collaborative Eagle Rock Beautiful, began her introductory speech Sunday in memory of the organization's co-founder, John Stillion, who died in April 2011 at the age of 79. An Eagle Rock resident for about 14 years, Stillion transformed every community he lived and worked in—starting with an inner-city L.A. school he taught at after graduating from UCLA and ending with a string of incomparable achievements in Eagle Rock.
Scores of Eagle Rock residents turned up at the Cape Cod house of Michael and Eugénie Nogueira on Sunday afternoon for a poolside champagne brunch and fundraiser to remember Stillion and honor his vision of an ever more beautiful Eagle Rock. Also honored at the event was longtime Eagle Rock volunteer Jack Goldhammer, who can be seen most days hauling trash and abandoned furniture from neighborhood streets in his own truck.
The afternoon provided many residents an opportunity to catch up with each other in the balmy, Mediterranean-style backyard of the Nogueira home, which has probably seen more parties and celebrations than any other residence in Eagle Rock.
Among the highlights of the day was an incident that will undoubtedly appear in the next print issue of the Boulevard Sentinel, where it has already been immortalized online: The local paper's publisher and editor, Eagle Rock native Tom Topping, became a hero of sorts when he rescued a female guest who fell into the Nogueira pool and could not swim. Topping instantly dove in fully clothed and pulled her out, ruining a smart phone and digital camera he had in his pocket.
He went home to dry himself and get a change of clothes, returning just in time to hear in closing remarks by the CERB board that, thanks to some anonymous donors, the organization has reduced by $25,000 a $47,000 debt that it incurred to purchase the Eagle Rock Canyon Trail.