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Just a few family announcements:

GOOD NEWS

My brother Adam and his wife Traci are pregnant
My brother Lee and his wife Maya are pregnant with baby number 2
They are BOTH DUE OCTOBER 20th 2007

(I am soooooo gunna need a handheld camcorder (preferably with night vision) so I can run back and forth between hospitals when that day comes. I am accepting camera donations *hint *hint)

SAD NEWS

My Great Aunt Helen Walter Gerson passed away, at age 92, on Thursday March 1st 2007. The celebration of her life will be held on the Calamigos Ranch (which she owned and operated) on Sunday March 11th 2007, in Malibu CA.

THEY’VE FOUND A FRIEND:
Artist turns love for children into crusade
Byline: Victoria Giraud

An artist, businesswoman and educator, Helen Walter Gerson says its all peripheral compared to her love of children.

Earlier this year, the co-founder and chairman of Calamigos Ranch in the Santa Monica Mountains turned her own birthday celebration into “a party with a purpose” for Free Arts for Abused Children. The nonprofit group offers creative art experiences to victims of abuse and neglect.

At the party, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors recognized Helen for her longtime work with and for children, and the first annual Helen Walter Gerson Humanitarian Award was presented to Elda Unger, President Emeritus of Free Arts.

“We raised $9,000 at my birthday bash, and the Helen Walter Gerson Humanitarian Award was set up. We’ll pick a local humanitarian each year,” Helen enthused.

The youngest of seven siblings, Helen was born in New Jersey on New Year’s Day. Her brothers and sisters entered creative careers in acting, art and music, and Helen was no exception. By 16 Helen was working as a commercial artist in advertising for the art director at Macy’s New York City. “I was skinny, freckled and long-legged. Drawing was my long suit. They gave me a studio and I posed for myself in kid’s clothes. I drew long-legged, gangly kids and teen-agers,” Helen remembered.

Her talent was recognized by Walt Disney, and Helen was brought to Los Angeles to work on preliminary sketches for the animated “Alice in Wonderland.” Because of delays with the Disney project, she was snapped up by advertising agency Foote, Cone and Belding to do sketches for Cole of California swimsuits.

Not long after, Helen met Grant Gerson, who had created his own traveling summer day camp, Covered Wagon Club.

She helped him with an early brochure and soon found herself married and living on 18 acres in the midst of the Santa Monicas, which she named the Star “C” Ranch.

“I bought his dream. It was very difficult and very lonely, but I knew how to be alone,” Helen remembered of those early days when Calamigos was an hour’s drive from Los Angeles. Son Glen was raised on the ranch, attended school in Agoura and graduated from Agoura High School.

Through the years, Calamigos grew into a 120-acre spread with a facilities that catered to children from throughout the world plus corporate and organization picnics.

In the late 1970s, Helen took a sabbatical and turned her attention toward creating a sculpture. Under the oaks outside her Calamigos home, she created a 30-ton children’s play sculpture made of crushed rock encapsulated in resin.

Measuring 10 by 10 by 20 and originally called “Touch and Experience” by Calamigos campers, Helen said the sculpture – featuring cave spaces, sitting places and slides – “involves the child’s emotions, imagination and motor skills.”

The Los Angeles Parks and Recreation Department bought the sculpture and moved it to Westwood Park, near the Federal Building.

“The piece is kept alive because of the things said and sent to me about it,” Helen said fondly. She has a large scrapbook filled with children’s letters, clippings and photos relating to the children-friendly sculpture.

After the disastrous Kanan Fire in the early 1980s, which destroyed much of the ranch – including Helen’s home and her art work – the ranch was rebuilt into a conference and events center that today hosts businesses from all over the world.

Although she continues to be involved in Calamigos, Helen remains committed to art and her work with children. “I feel truly blessed to work with children,” she says, her eyes bright with purpose.

Photo (color) Artist Helen Walter Gerson, who has spent her professional life helping children, sits by a Western township replica at her Calamigos Ranch. Jeremy Greene/Special to the Daily News

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  • harry

    Sorry to hear of your aunt.

    Happy to hear of both your brothers, they say things happen in three’s wink* wink* Meleah!

    LOL!

    🙂

  • Michael

    Congrats on becoming an aunt twice in the same day! it would be a helluva thing if they both actually delivered on the same day!

    Set up a PayPal account and see what happens!

    On the flip side of the coin, sorry for your loss.

  • Oh yeah, it’s Mr. Francisco to you

    Ok I know about these *hint* *hint* ordeals…. HAHA
    In other words you are kinds sorta asking “telling” your best friend to get you a hand held cam with night vision for your birthday??? or are you asking everyone else to give in some $$$$$?? Either case if you want a donation count me in, I would love help you a bit 🙂

    In regards of your Great Aunt, may her soul rest in peace, I hope she passed away without suffering which is the best way to answer God’s call.

    In any case my friend Meleah, let me know about this running, notice I said “running” back and forth between hospitals so I can have the NJRRC director post an ad in the newspaper that could be read:
    Come Join us for a 5K race at night between hospitals, bring your camcorders and don’t forget the flashlights and reflective vests. the top prize is: a full subscription to Momma Mia, Mea Culpa Blog 🙂
    2nd place and 3rd place TBD..
    All donations for this race will be accepted in cash, no COD’s please…
    Rain or shine this race will be held sometime in October 🙂

    Congrats Meleah,

    FV

  • meleah rebeccah

    Harry

    Thank you for your kind words. Much appreciated.

    and if things come in THREES, I will take 2 babies over 2 more deaths ANYDAY

  • meleah rebeccah

    Michael:

    I thought about setting up a PAYPAL account in the sidebar of my blog… but isnt that like

    “cyber-begging” or pan-handeling?

    I know other bloggers do it. I am just unsure about the message I would be giving.

    Hmm.. That may be my next damn post!

  • meleah rebeccah

    FV:

    No, I am not asking Jen to buy me a camera.

    I was just referring to any of my family members that have cam corders and are NOT USING them.

    But… I may take Michaels suggestions and add that PAYPAL thing and see about DONATIONS?

    and when you said this…

    “newspaper that could be read:
    Come Join us for a 5K race at night between hospitals, bring your camcorders and don’t forget the flashlights and reflective vests. the top prize is: a full subscription to Momma Mia, Mea Culpa Blog 🙂
    2nd place and 3rd place TBD..
    All donations for this race will be accepted in cash, no COD’s please…
    Rain or shine this race will be held sometime in October :)”

    I LAUGHED OUT LOUD.

    Thank you!!!

  • Anonymous

    AH YES
    THE YING AND THE YANG
    HAPPINESS IS AN INSIDE JOB
    LUV U GURL
    AND URE BLOG WON’T LET ME COMMENT
    SO COPY PASTE MY EMAIL
    NIECES AND NEPHEWS ALL OVER
    LIONS AND TIGERS AND BEARS
    OH MY
    I’M SURE THE GREAT AUNT
    LIVES ON IN SPIRIT
    CHOW FOR NOW
    OLLY
    OLLY

  • Sue (Weinsoff) Hendricks

    I went to (and later worked at) Calamigos from 1968-1982. Mrs G (Helen) was quite a trip. A delightful breath of art and humanity in a cowboy environment. Much love and good wishes to Glen, Garner, Garrett, Grant and the entire family. Sue…

  • meleah rebeccah

    Thank you so much SUE. My mother (PAM WALTER)will really appreciate your kind thoughts / words

  • Brian

    Hi Meleah,
    The net being what it is, after telling someone about Mrs. G and her recent passing, my friend found your blog and sent me the link. The nutshell version of how I knew her is that I grew up here in L.A. and one of my earliest, fondest childhood memories is of playing on Helen’s larger-than-life sculpture, “Touch and Experience,” which to me was simply “the rock.” It may seem insignificant now, but discovering I could tackle the faster of the 2 slides was a milestone for me in overcoming fear.

    Cut to a couple years ago. I noticed the sculpture was fenced off. As a writer, I was so upset I set out to see if I could find the artist as well as the dimwit bureaucrats responsible for making it off-limits to kids. I did. And as a result, I got to know Helen who was as gracious, considerate and vivacious as anyone you could ever hope to meet. Afterward, when a friend coincidentally got married at Calamigos, she came out on her golf cart just to see me. The return trips to her ranch made for great memories (and equally great bbq).

    Mrs. G was simply amazing.

  • meleah rebeccah

    Yes she was. I’m glad she was my family. I’m glad I come from a long line of artists and remarkable people. Thats why I am who I am.

    Thank you Brian. I will have my mother read this comment. I know how much it will mean to her.

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