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Know Your Neighbors

13 Nov 2019
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Julie Hirsh says she doesn’t understand why people would want to know her life story—but she’s underselling herself: From a career as a fitness trainer to her current work for Jewish Family Services of the Desert, the Indio resident has taken a fascinating route to where she is now. “I was born in Berkeley, and my parents owned a toy store,” says Hirsh, now 55. “It was fun and unique—no plastic, all hand-made toys from around the world. They sold it when I was 10, and we moved to upstate New York, where they were from, into an old Victorian house on 200 acres. My folks fixed it up. … My uncle lived up there, and although we had visited him in the summertime, my folks had forgotten how cold it was in the winter.” The family moved back to Northern California, specifically Sonoma County. “My dad was an entrepreneur,…
30 Oct 2019
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If you’ve ever wanted to see the world, you should be envious of Rolf Hoehn. Hoehn, a Palm Desert resident, is currently director of business development and sponsorships for Desert Champions, LLC, managers of the BNP Paribas Open tennis tournament. However, his story begins in Cologne, Germany, as the only child of an Austrian-Romanian stay-at-home mother, and a father who opened travel to South America for Lufthansa Airlines. “My mother was always open to new experiences,” says Hoehn, “and through her, I learned to appreciate exposure to different cultures. My dad taught me about what it means to have a strong work ethic. “When I was 15, we moved from Germany to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. I learned Portuguese as a second language and enrolled in the American school. … About 80 percent of the children (were) of American families from, for example, the diplomatic corps in Rio. Most of…
16 Oct 2019
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She is an accomplished actress, teacher, wife and mother—a woman who makes a difference in the community. Jane Fessier, 68, was born and raised in San Rafael in Northern California. “I’m a perfect combination of my parents,” she says. “My mother was witty and an observer of life. She was the one person I could go to, always so loving and patient.” Fessier’s father was the ultimate salesman—a real estate broker and storyteller with an aggressive nature. “He could always fill up a room; everybody wanted to be around him,” Fessier says. “But he was somewhat impatient. I work on that constantly.” Her parents moved to the Coachella Valley when her father got involved in the mobile-home business—and he encouraged her to follow. “I was in my mid-20s and had been doing shows in the San Francisco area, but I wasn’t making much money,” Fessier says. “I had worked with…
02 Oct 2019
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Meeting Sandy Skinner was like getting together with an old friend: She is warm, open, candid, personable and vivacious. Skinner, 65, has been in Palm Desert for about three years. “When I retired,” she says, “I realized San Diego was unaffordable. I had a lot of friends here in the desert, and it’s a really nice place to live. I believe everything works out for a reason.” Skinner’s mother was a stay-at-home mom who later worked for the Lutheran Church. “She was very spiritual, but also fun-loving,” remembers Skinner. “She always made time for me. Unfortunately, we lost her last year to Alzheimer’s. “My dad owned a construction company dealing in heavy equipment. My younger sister, Paula, and I learned how to take out spark plugs and change tires. Dad would have parts laid out when we got home from school so we could learn how to do everything. He…
18 Sep 2019
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In medieval times, it was presumed a son would learn the trade of his father and carry on the family tradition—as a shoemaker, carpenter, fisherman or woodworker. Even in modern culture, children are often pushed to follow in their parents’ footsteps. Mario Ricardo “Rick” Gonzalez, 42, a Palm Desert resident for the past 15 years, was born in Guadalajara, Mexico, and raised in Indio. He’s the fourth of five children, with two older sisters, an older brother and a younger brother. His father, George, was born in Texas but left for Mexico at 13, where he eventually met Gonzalez’s mother. “My parents met because of the jewelry industry,” says Gonzalez. “They all did silversmithing in Mexico. My dad is a traditional man who commands respect. He made his own life, with the odds against him, but he always came through. He grew up without his dad, so he didn’t really…
04 Sep 2019
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I first met someone with “sleeves” in 2001. He was a fellow law school student, and we were chatting on a balcony. “Nice shirt,” I said, not knowing I was describing his tattoos. Once I realized it was body art, I was astonished. “Didn’t that hurt?” I asked. “I guess so,” he said, “but it wasn’t all that bad.” To this day, I’m skeptical. Robert DelSol Williamson runs Flagship Tattoo in Palm Desert. He is described by a neighboring merchant as “a real artist.” Along with his wife, Amanda Marr, Williamson has been running Flagship Tattoo for four years, taking it over when the former owner decided to move on. The name Flagship came from the original founder’s father. “I wanted to change the name,” says Williamson, “but left it because it was a known name in this location.” Williamson got his first tattoo at age 17 along with his…
21 Aug 2019
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Some people drop names to impress you. Others can't help it. Jane Summer, 73, unconsciously drops names like Clint Eastwood and Janeane Garofalo. When you grow up in a company town, and the “company” is the film and television industry, you can’t help it. Summer started her career, after only six months of college, at Creative Management Associates, working with producers like Barry Diller and Leonard Goldberg. She went on to read scripts for well-known agent Mike Medavoy, who had become vice president of motion pictures for CMA, and she subsequently met film greats like director/writer Michelangelo Antonioni, and stars like Donald Sutherland and Rosie Grier. Born in Providence, R.I., Summer was raised in Beverly Hills from the age of 2, along with her older sister. “We moved to Doheny Drive,” she says, “right around the corner from Chasen’s,” then a famous Beverly Hills restaurant. “My dad used to play…
08 Aug 2019
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When many people hear the words “science, engineering and technology,” their eyes fog over. Debra Vogler is working to change that. “I’m so frustrated with the lay people who don’t want information on science and technology,” Vogler says. “We have to do a better job of communicating about what those fields are doing and the impact it will have. I’m doing what I can within my own little sphere of influence.” Vogler, 66, has been a Palm Desert resident since 2012. Her husband, John, is the maintenance manager at The Living Desert. “We moved in on Thanksgiving Day,” she says with a laugh. “Believe it or not, we both love the heat. We would come here for vacations and really loved it. We always said that someday, when we were ready, we’d move here. Then the right opportunity presented itself, and we said, ‘This is the time.’” Vogler was born…
24 Jul 2019
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What is it about the desert that encourages many people who come here to retire to instead rediscover their passion? Joseph Gole (www.JosephGole.com), 72, is the cantor at Har-El Congregation, a Reform Jewish synagogue in Palm Desert. His career, in a way, began at age 9, when the teacher at his Hebrew school began to give him solos, and then at age 11 included Gole in Friday night services. “I was actually the catalyst for my family becoming more religious,” he says. “My mother wanted me to take math and science, but I knew I wanted to pursue music, because I knew that was where my strengths were. I did my first High Holidays service at 14, and while at Hebrew High school, when I was 15, my teacher brought me into another temple to do services. In high school, there was an arts direction you could take. At 16,…
10 Jul 2019
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How do you tell the story of someone who describes herself as a “diva/goddess”—especially when one of the first things she says is, “I can’t imagine anybody would be interested in my life,” in an apparent contradiction? Let’s start the story of Cardriner (Car-dree-ner) Bowden in 1963, three years after the famous sit-in at the Woolworth lunch counter in Greensboro, N.C., an attempt to integrate public spaces. Bowden was a freshman at a historically black college, North Carolina A&T State University, where Jesse Jackson was also a student. “One day I was told, ‘We’re going to integrate the theater today,’” she recalls. “I didn’t have anything to do that day, so I went. We stood at the back of the line, thinking if they started arresting people, we wouldn’t get arrested, and would have time to get out of there. They reversed the line, so we got arrested first. I…

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