Utaliee ‘Lee’ Minderhout
Utalee Minderhout, known as “Lee,” died early Thursday morning after battling ill health for the last several years.
A Palisadian for 63 years, Lee was a founding member and past president of Theatre Palisades. The first fundraiser for the theater building was held at her home. She spent years producing plays, heading the play selection committee, building sets and much more. She, along with her husband Bill, received the rarely awarded Leila T. Pearson award, given for exceptional service to the group over an extended period of time.
Lee will be remembered for her large circle of friends and family with whom she kept in close contact even in her final years. She was a member of a book group that has met for over 30 years and stills meets today.
As her health declined, they began meeting at her home so she could continue to attend. She was a loving Pi Phi sister and attended a reunion every year in Washington state until two years ago when ill health made it too difficult.
Lee grew up in Yelm, Washington and was attending Washington State University when she met her future husband, a Santa Monica resident, who was stationed at Lewis Air Force base. After they married, they moved to the area, buying a house on Mesa Road.
Lee and her husband Bill raised three children in the Palisades. She coached softball at Rustic Canyon Park, was a room mother, member of the PTA and did multiple turns as a Girl Scout leader. She often could be seen dominating the tennis courts at Rustic Canyon.
She was known for her aggressive net play and was not afraid to come to the net even in mixed doubles. On weekends and during the summer, her family, along with several other Rustic Canyon families, went camping and waterskiing all over the state of California with the Crescent Bay Boat Club.
About the time her children went off to college, Lee joined her husband in his insurance agency. There she took classes and eventually computerized his entire operation.
This was in the early 1980s, before most people even had a computer in their homes or offices. This was not an easy transition and she could be seen cursing the computer or trying to coax a report to print.
Later in life Lee became a devoted grandmother to her 10 grandchildren and one great-grandchild. She cheered on each of her grandchildren in their endeavors and attended many sporting events and concerts in which they participated.
No matter how amateur these events, Lee felt her grandchildren had done a great job! One memorable family event was when she and her husband took all of their children and grandchildren to Playa del Carmen, Mexico to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary.
Lee and her husband enjoyed traveling. Some of her most interesting trips were to Russia, East and West Germany, Egypt, Bali, and Thailand. She traveled on bicycle through the San Juan Islands, the English countryside and Napa Valley. At last count, she had traveled to more than 20 countries.
When she wasn’t traveling she was known as a great hostess and a gourmet cook. Friends recount stories of many lively New Year’s Eve parties or delicious dinner parties hosted by her and her husband at their Rustic Canyon home.
Lee is survived by her husband of 63 years, William “Bill” Minderhout, her brother, Duane Medley, her three children and their spouses, Jill and Scott Baskin, Jeff and Marie Minderhout, and Dirk and Karen Minderhout, and their 10 children and grandchildren, Jake and Isabel Baskin, Tyler, Katie and Sadie Mac Burdick, Hannah and Karly Minderhout, Cory, Jessica, Aaron and Charles Minderhout.
A memorial service will be held at a later date. To find out the information, please contact the family directly.
Donations may be made in Lee Minderhout’s name to Theatre Palisades, P.O. Box 881, Pacific Palisades, CA, 90272.
Beverly Brewster Vieau
Long-standing Pacific Palisades resident Beverly Brewster Vieau passed away on Saturday, Jan. 28, 2017. Beverly was a Santa Monica native, born in 1926. Her mother, Eleanor, and father, John Brewster, moved out from Missouri, and John established Brewster’s Food Mart at Montana Ave. and 9th St. in Santa Monica.
As a young girl, Beverly enjoyed playing the piano and giving recitals. She kept up her piano playing through Santa Monica High School and majored in music at UCLA. Her activities at UCLA included Alpha Chi Sorority and treasurer for her class.
She met who would become the love of her life at a USO dance in during WWII, Navy pilot Harold “Hal” Vieau from Minneapolis, Minnesota. Upon his return from the Pacific one year later in 1945, they were married and settled in Pacific Palisades in 1947.
Beverly and Hal were married for 71 years, and it was a remarkable love affair. Beverly was recognized as a very caring, thoughtful person to all who met her, but she also possessed considerable inner strength.
She battled polio as a young mother of two in the early 1950s, breast cancer in midlife and was given a pacemaker in her later years after a heart attack. Most people never knew and she never complained nor slowed down.
She was very involved in the Palisades community with the American Legion Auxiliary, Corpus Christi Parish, Santa Monica High School Alumni Association and the Alpha Chi Omega sorority.
One of Beverly’s favorite things was teaching piano and she had a loyal legion of young pianists from the Palisades that were her pupils.
She leaves her dear husband, Hal, her three children, Jerry, Jan and Joan, 10 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
A funeral mass was celebrated at Corpus Christi Church in Pacific Palisades on Feb. 6, 2017.
We will all miss you, we love you and God bless you.
Jack Keller passed away in Santa Monica on Dec. 20, 2016. Born in Culver City Feb. 26, 1928, to George Herman Keller and Eleanor E.K. Berman Keller, Jack graduated from Van Nuys High School in 1946 and enlisted in the U.S. Army, becoming a Paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne where he made many of his dearest lifelong friendships.
Jack followed a Santa Monica College business degree with a year studying photography at Santa Monica Technical School. He married Joan Day Keller Aug. 20, 1948; they were married 66 years and lived in Pacific Palisades continuously since January 1956, raising sons Tim and Terry.
Jack’s lifelong passion for building and flying radio-controlled airplanes may have influenced his decision to go to work for Douglas Aircraft, which became McDonnell Douglas and then Boeing during his years in Program Control, where one of his projects was the Saturn missile used to send men to the moon.
Jack coached his sons’ Palisades baseball teams and served as Scoutmaster of Palisades Boy Scout Troop 400. He enjoyed dancing and friends and was active with the husbands of the local Las Doradas group.
Jack is survived by son Tim Keller and his wife Christina Boyce of Raton, New Mexico, and son Terry Keller of Pacific Palisades; sister Georgia Garey and her husband Bob Garey of West Hills, California; granddaughter Darcy Day Keller of Brooklyn, New York, and grandson Killian Caleb Keller of Austin, Texas; many nieces, nephews and friends; and longtime loving companion Helen Dickey of Pacific Palisades.
As Jack wished, a family memorial will include commingling his and Joan’s ashes as they’re scattered together into the ocean from a boat north of Santa Monica Pier.
Robert LeLevier passed away peacefully at his home on Jan. 2, 2017, at age 93.
Dr. LeLevier was a graduate of UCLA, and an ardent alumni supporter and Bruin sports fan. A physicist with an international reputation, he made marked contributions to technical problems in national security, including nuclear weapon matters, space systems and submarine security issues.
During WWII, he served in the Navy in the battles of Leyte Gulf, Lingayen Gulf, Iwo Jima and Okinawa. He received all three of his degrees from UCLA, graduating with a Ph.D in theoretical nuclear physics in 1951.
He began his professional career at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and moved to Southern California in 1957 to join the Rand Corporation in Santa Monica, California. He later became founder and principal of R & D Associates and consulted for various aerospace firms. He also held numerous senior technical positions in industry over the subsequent several decades. He received numerous significant awards, including the Office of the Secretary of Defense Medal for Exceptional Public Service in November 2000.
Robert graduated from Washington High School in LA and married his high school sweetheart, Marie, in 1945. They moved to the Palisades in 1957 and he resided in the same home until his recent death. He had a lust for life and loved to be surrounded by friends and family. He had a special relationship with his grandchildren, Zachary and Nicole, having spent many holidays, summers and special occasions with them in Maui, Alaska,and his home in the Palisades. He was delighted to be a great-grandfather to Emme (age 1).
Also known as Dr. Bob and Robaire, he and Marie loved the Palisades community and their home. Some of his favorite pastimes were playing golf with his son-in-law Gary and his grandson Zachary, having a glass of Chardonnay with his devoted cul-de-sac neighbors, crossword puzzles, cracking jokes, Bruin basketball and chancellor lunches before football games.
He especially enjoyed dinners with his granddaughter Nicole, who was his roomie for several months while attending graduate school. He loved travelling with his daughter Sue and son-in-law Gary, and he always enjoyed a good meal. He was a regular fixture at Back on the Beach café at Annenberg, where a daily “reserved sign” was present at his table. Over the years he frequented Tivoli’s and Vittorio’s, and the staffs treated him as family.
We are grateful that he spent a healthy Christmas with his family and grandchildren at home. He will be sorely missed but remembered fondly.
Robert was preceded in death by his beloved wife Marie. He is survived by his sons Robert and Jon, daughter Suzanne, son-in-law and good friend Gary Joseph, grandchildren Nicole and Zachary, and great-granddaughter Emme.
A celebration of his life will be held at his home on Jan. 22.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Robert’s honor online to the chair’s discretionary fund in the UCLA Department of Physics and Astronomy. For more information, visit giving.ucla.edu/pa.
Nancy Sullivan Mortensen
Nancy Sullivan Mortensen passed away peacefully on Friday, Dec. 30, 2016 in the home she loved and shared with her husband Bill, surrounded by her family. She was 82. Born July 7, 1934 in Park Ridge, Illinois, she was the daughter of John and Dorothy Sullivan, one of six children.
Upon graduating from University of Colorado and earning her teaching degree, she moved to California in 1956 with her sister Patricia. She taught preschool and lived in Brentwood.
She met her husband Bill in 1957. They shared an easy conversation over the phone and when it was time to say goodbye, Nancy asked Bill to stop by sometime soon to introduce himself. He wasted no time and came over immediately! They dated from that point on and within a few months, became engaged.
Married Jan. 3, 1959, they just celebrated 58 years of a blessed union. They had six children. Their oldest son, Bill, was killed in a car accident with two of his friends when traveling home on Sunset. He was 17 years old.
They have lived in the Palisades for 54 years. Their first home was located on Via de la Paz. It was there they met several young families like themselves, and those friendships remain today. After 10 years on Via, they moved to a larger home in the Huntington Palisades, to accommodate their growing family. It is where they reside today, and have always considered themselves so fortunate to live and raise a family in this remarkable community.
Nancy’s role was homemaker and mother. She excelled at both. Nancy is known for her strong faith in God, her courage, tenacity, loyalty, and deep love for her husband, family and friends. She was a devout Catholic, and regularly attended mass at Saint Monica’s and Corpus Christi.
Nancy is survived by her loving husband Bill, five children—Mary, Tom and wife Michelle, David, Anne and husband Russ, and Peter and wife Simona—and nine grandchildren: Brenden, Nickolas, Bill, Grace, Abby, Rose, Maggie, Lola and Nathan.
She is preceded in death by her parents and three brothers, oldest son William S. Mortensen, and her grandson, Joseph Patrick Allegrette, who took wings on the day he was born.
A devoted husband, father, grandfather and friend to all that knew him, Larry passed away at Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, surrounded by his adoring children following a fall 12 days earlier at his assisted living facility. Always the consummate and quintessential gentleman, Larry was known for his gentle, kind and compassionate spirit, which effortlessly drew people into his circle. He lived life to the very fullest up until he took his last breath, inspiring others with his spirit, integrity, grace, talent and quiet, unassuming courage and faith.
A native of Denver, Colorado, he excelled academically and was president of his senior class at East Denver High School, later earning a scholarship to Princeton University where he obtained his degree in music, graduating in 1941. He was an accomplished pianist and composer and performed the Shuman piano concerto with the Princeton orchestra as part of his final thesis. After graduation, he served in the U.S. Naval Reserve, receiving his midshipman training at Columbia University, communications training at Annapolis, then spent two years serving on a destroyer in the South Pacific, finally completing his naval services teaching communications at the Naval Training School at Harvard University, where he was made an honorary member of the Hasty Pudding Club for the extracurricular musical shows he produced there. After the war, Larry attended Juilliard School of Music in New York City, and, at the same time, performed professionally, playing the piano in supper clubs, off-Broadway productions, radio shows and dance orchestras. He also worked briefly for National Concert & Artists Corps., booking classical artists in concerts nationwide.
Larry married Barbara Thomas in 1948 and moved to Los Angeles where he was owner/manager of a successful music store, Allegro Music, in Pacific Palisades for 20 years. During this time, he was very involved in community activities, serving as president of the Chamber of Commerce along with helping to direct other community and civic groups.
Following his divorce in 1972, he deftly navigated a midlife career change into real estate, first working for Coldwell Banker and then joining the Jon Douglas Company in 1978, where he was instrumental in the introduction of the customer relations and mediation concept to the real estate business, helping to alleviate the rampant litigation and settlement expenses that were inundating the profession at that time.
He received his training for advanced mediation skills at Pepperdine University School of Law in Malibu. He was happily remarried to Nancy Harwell and they loved traveling the world together and entertaining at their lovely Brentwood home. He retired in 1998, though continued to conduct mediations and arbitrations as a private consultant for real estate companies, homeowners associations and individuals.
Larry enjoyed volunteering, playing the piano at UCLA Medical Plaza and Saint John’s Health Center, working as a guide at the Brentwood Getty Museum and occasionally working as an extra in films and TV. Larry also made and sold a number of piano CDs and loved to compose music.
He will be best remembered for his artistry at the piano and sensitive interpretations of the songs of his generation which have given infinite pleasure to his appreciative and loving admirers. After losing his beloved “Nan” last year, he is survived by his children, Tony Ackard, Laura Ackard Saltzman and Maggie Ackard Vanneman, three grandchildren, Kelly Vanneman, Timothy Vanneman and Casey Vanneman, along with his two stepchildren, Dennis Wood and Ginny Lu Wood.
Services will be held at Westwood Presbyterian Church in early 2017, 10822 Wilshire Blvd. (East of Glendon Avenue).
In lieu of flowers, the family would be honored for donations to be made to: The Colburn School – Advancement, 200 South Grand Ave., Los Angeles, CA, 90012, online at colburnschool.edu/page.cfm?p=1597 or by phone at 213-621-1021.
James Fulton Mitchell
James Fulton Mitchell passed away peacefully at Saint John’s hospital due to complications from pneumonia, surrounded by his family on Dec. 12, 2016.
Jim was born in South Bend, Indiana on June 30, 1930 and grew up in Beverly Hills, California. His high school years were spent at Harvard Boys School where he developed an appreciation for the structured curriculum and discovered his natural abilities in track and field, football and basketball in which he was a valuable member of the Harvard teams. He was particularly proud of his long jump record that stood the test of time.
His passion for and prowess in track and field led him to Fresno State, where he attended for two years and participated on the Varsity Track and Field team as a decathlete. He was drafted by the U.S. Army and served proudly in support of the Korean conflict. After his tour of duty ended, he returned to college at the University of Arizona and studied civil engineering. That set the course for his career as a civil engineer and led him on a path from San Diego to Blythe to Pacific Palisades, where he raised his family.
Throughout his life Jim loved to compete, whether it was ping-pong in the garage, neighborhood football games in the street or tennis with friends at the Riviera Tennis Club, you could count on nothing short of 110% effort. Driven by the motto, “never let the dust settle on your shoes,” Jim pursued his passions with focus and high energy. After his three children left the house for college, he became an avid model builder, meticulously constructing radio controlled planes, boats and even an early-American stagecoach.
Jim is survived by his children Steve (Karen), Rob (Maggie), Anne (Paul) and grandchildren Madison, Carter and Sam, sister Ellen and half-brother Gene. A man with strong opinions, unwavering integrity and a big heart, he was deeply loved by his family and many friends and will be sorely missed but fondly remembered.
In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to Palisades-Malibu YMCA at 821 Via De La Paz, Pacific Palisades, CA 90272 or online at ymcala.org/palisades-
The funeral service will be private with a Celebration of Life to be announced.
Barbara Facinelli Hildreth
Dr. Barbara Facinelli Hildreth, MD, of Encinitas, California, passed peacefully at Palomar Hospital in Escondido, California, on Nov. 16, accompanied by family, following a brief battle with atrial fibrillation and lung disease.
Born in Ashland, Pennsylvania, Sept. 7, 1938, Barbara was the daughter of Steven and Alice Facinelli. In 1956, Barbara graduated from Pottsville High School where she met her future husband, Bill Hildreth.
Their marriage would endure for 58 years.
Bill and Barbara graduated together from Penn State University in 1960. Following the births of their two sons, Barbara pursued a career in medicine. She graduated from Temple University School of Medicine in 1968 and completed her residency at UCLA in 1973.
The same year, Barbara started her career as a Pediatric Cardiologist with Kaiser Permanente Medical Group in Los Angeles. Her career at Kaiser spanned 35 years. She only retired in 2008 so that she could move from Los Angeles to Encinitas to be closer to her two granddaughters.
Barbara was a great mother and grandmother, and had many colleagues and friends in the medical field as well.
She was a favorite doctor among her many patients at Kaiser Permanente.
In addition to her career and family, Barbara also enjoyed reading and traveling. When their children were young, Barbara and Bill vacationed all over the United States. In later years, they traveled extensively throughout Europe and the Middle East. Barbara had a keen interest in both archaeology and Italian cuisine.
She is preceded in death by one son, David Hildreth, who was killed in an automobile accident on Palisades Drive in March 1979 at the age of 17.
Barbara is survived by her husband, a son, Bill II, daughter-in-law, Zoia, a brother, Dave Facinelli, and two granddaughters, Sophia and Miya, as well as many other extended family members and friends.
Services will be private. Memorial donations may be made to the American Heart Association or American Lung Association.
Karen Lynn Feather Stelea
Karen Lynn Feather Stelea, an award-winning interior designer with HDC Interior Architecture + Design, passed away suddenly at 61 from cardiac arrest on the morning of Sunday, Nov. 20 2016.
Karen was born on Aug. 11, 1955 in Santa Monica, Calif. She grew up in Westwood in a busy household of four brothers and one sister. Karen was the second oldest child, and her mother, Diane Feather, relied on her heavily to help with the household duties and child raising. Karen remained close to her mother, who lived with her for the last twelve years of her life.
Karen attended elementary school at St. Paul the Apostle School in Westwood, and then Immaculate Heart High School in Los Angeles. She went to college at UCLA where she graduated in 1977 with a Bachelor of Arts degree, focusing on interior design.
Following college, Karen went to work as an interior designer with LA hospitality design firm, Barry Design Associates (BDA). It was here where she met the Romanian-born architect, Michael Stelea. It was love at first sight, and they married in 1985.
Their prayers and dreams were realized with the birth of their daughter, Kristin Michelle on Oct. 3, 1990. The young couple bought a home in Pacific Palisades in 1990, which they completely rebuilt and designed.
In 1995, eager to expand their professional horizon and explore the world, they moved to Rome, to form HDC Interior Architecture + Design with Michael as the primary architect and Karen as the interior designer.
Gradually their business in designing world class hotels flourished and expanded with projects throughout Europe, Africa and the Middle East.
Notable projects included The St. Regis Florence, Villa la Cupola Rome, The Westin Valencia, The Westin Excelsior Rome and Hotel Imperial Vienna.
Along the way, they collected three Gold Key Awards, the industry’s most prestigious honor that recognizes outstanding design for hospitality projects worldwide. They would soon receive their fourth, for the 2014 renovation of The St. Regis Hotel in NYC.
Five years later, Karen and Michael decided it was time to bring their young daughter Kristin back to the United States, and so they did. Karen and Michael continued to travel back and forth to Europe for business, but home was now the Palisades.
The word elegant is one that friends and family say describes Karen best. While she was fun loving, caring, soft spoken and thoughtful, she was forever elegant in the way she carried herself.
Whether it was on a hike with friends and family or cooking a meal at home, she had a manner about her which made you want to pause and listen. She had a calm nature. She was absolutely non-judgmental. She was someone who took time to listen and then listen some more.
She could be found in the early mornings walking her beloved Siberian husky, Rigley (a surprise gift from her mother and daughter!) all around the Palisades. She loved spin classes at Revolution, and circuit training classes at Drive Cardio, where her daughter Kristin would often join her. Throughout their lives, Karen and Michael shared a love of hiking together, having just taken a 70-mile trip in August through the mountains of France, Italy and Switzerland.
The time she treasured the most was that spent at home with her adored husband Michael, where they would spend most evenings cooking. Sitting down to dinner with Kristin, and a glass of wine, was the best time of the day. And then there was Sunday night dinner, a night never to be missed at the Stelea house, with Michael and Karen always preparing an unforgettable feast.
Karen was a wonderful and loving mother, indeed her daughter Kristin’s very best friend. They could be seen at workout class, strolling the farmer’s market on Sundays, or curling up on the sofa to share a bowl of popcorn together. Just this year, Karen was busy transitioning their firm HDC into a new design partnership called Farina Hom & Stelea. The day before Karen tragically passed away, Kristin had spent all day shopping for a design project with her mother, which included time for lunch in Beverly Hills. It was a lunch filled with laughter, lots of chatter and simple mother-daughter talk. There was no thought of anything but the best of times ahead.
Karen is survived by her husband Michael, daughter Kristin, and four brothers John, Bill, Peter and Richard. She was pre-deceased by her sister Ellen and mother Diane.
OBITUARY: Bonnie Joyce Miller
Bonnie Joyce Miller was born in Grafton, North Dakota on March 27, 1929. She passed away in her home November 9, 2016 after a long struggle with Alzheimer’s disease. She was a devoted and loving wife, mother and “Grandma.” She will be missed by her loving family and friends.
She had an adventurous spirit and was looking for more than she could find in Grafton. She moved to LA with her friend Miriam Miller. They got jobs working for the telephone company. She would later marry Miriam’s brother Wallace.
Bonnie met Wallace Charles Miller in Los Angeles in 1950 and they were married in September 1951. Bonnie is survived by her loving husband of 64 years, as well as her daughter Lisa, son Jeff, six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
Bonnie and Wallace moved to Pacific Palisades in 1960 and stayed. She was a woman of great faith and was active in her church. She loved playing tennis and golf, and spending time with her family and friends. She was active at Corpus Christi Church.
A funeral mass will be held at Corpus Christi Church, 880 Toyopa Dr. in Pacific Palisades, on Saturday, November 19 at 2 p.m.
Mario Alberto Smolinisky (Nov. 23, 1945 – Oct. 18, 2016)
Mario Smolinisky, a 41-year resident of Pacific Palisades, died peacefully surrounded by his loving family on Oct. 18, 2016. He was 70.
Mario was the personification of the American Dream. An immigrant who became a successful businessman in the garment industry, the common thread of his life was love. Mario was born Nov. 23, 1945 in Buenos Aires, Argentina where he grew up with his parents Adolfo and Sara and sister, Betty. Born with a birthmark splashed across his face, he suffered taunts from other children but found a way to be courageous and eventually won people over with his kind heart and magnanimous personality.
After his father became ill, Mario quit school at 13 to support his family. In 1963 Mario’s Uncle Sam moved to the United States. After reading Sam’s glowing accounts of the “land of opportunity,” Mario emigrated from Argentina at the age of 17, with $17 in his pocket.
With no knowledge of the English language, an elementary school education and little work experience, Mario was determined to succeed. He immediately visited the Social Security office to register for a card, which would allow him to work legally. Mario started knocking on garment industry doors and secured his first job less than 24 hours after arriving in the country, earning $1.25 an hour for sweeping the factory floors and doing odd jobs.
Realizing that mastering the English language would be key to a bright future, he began earnestly learning the language by reading the Los Angeles Times and listening to Vin Scully, the announcer of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Mario’s curiosity, diligence and willingness to learn soon earned him a trainee cutter’s job, which launched a 40-year career in the “schmatta” business (Yiddish for rag). He loved his new life, and it was about to get even better.
In 1966, Mario went to an Argentine club in Boyle Heights where he met a stunning 17-year-old Argentine immigrant named Carolina “Carol,” though she was known to Mario as “Polly.” Their friendship blossomed into love. But since Mario was Jewish and Carol was Catholic, they initially kept their relationship a secret from their families. As their love for each other deepened, Mario and Carol were determined to start a life together. Despite the objections of their families, they married in a beautiful ceremony on Sept. 13, 1969.
With Carol in his life, Mario felt invincible. Bolstered by her unconditional love and support, in the early 1970s, he started Polimar Fashions, named after his wife and himself. The company sewed clothing for various fashion lines. The business ultimately grew to 150 employees. In 1985, he partnered with Ben Altshuler to start their own clothing line, “Wild Rose.” The new venture soared to success beyond his wildest dreams. In its heyday, Wild Rose was carried in Bloomingdale’s, Bullock’s, Broadway and every other major department store in the nation.
In 1975, he and Carol bought their first home in the Pacific View Estates neighborhood of the Palisades. With an ocean view, a Mercedes-Benz SL convertible in the garage and a loving marriage, Mario had it all. It was a quintessential rags to riches story. But the fabric of his life wasn’t complete until the birth of their daughter Lisa in 1975 and son Alan in 1979.
For all his success in business, Mario found his true calling as a family man. Devoted and selfless, he always put family first—always insuring he was home for dinner at 6:30 and attending every game, tennis match, recital or school event. Leading by example, Mario instilled responsibility in his children and reminded them to “Always do your best!”
Lisa and Alan attended schools in the Palisades, Mario’s favorite place on earth. In 1983, the family moved to the Huntington to be closer to everything the Palisades had to offer.
The loving husband and doting father started a number of family traditions: Mort’s Deli every Monday night, Caffe Delfini on Fridays, Acapulco for the holidays, and vacations in Lake Tahoe, Hawaii and Cancun.
A football and soccer follower, die-hard Lakers and Dodgers fan and tennis enthusiast, he and Carol hosted backyard barbecues and parties for every major sporting event. An athlete himself, Mario loved running and logged 35 miles per week for 40 years. He looked forward to the Palisades Fourth of July 10K race every year, and his goal was always to beat his age. And he did it every year. In 2014 at age 68, he ran the challenging and hilly 10K in 67 minutes and 59 seconds, beating his age by one second.
As his life in the Palisades flourished, the American garment industry was winding down as only five percent of clothing was American-made. Mario saw the writing on the wall and decided to retire in 2003 at age 57.
He and Carol made the most of his newfound free time and spent every moment together. They traveled extensively, both in the U.S. and abroad, including a once-in-a-lifetime trip around the world. They also enjoyed simple pleasures like strolling hand-in-hand to the Village for a leisurely lunch or running errands. The good-hearted Mario was always ready to chat with fellow Palisadians and beamed with pride whenever he spoke about his children. Since he was never able to finish school himself, giving Lisa and Alan a good education was very important to him. He cried tears of joy as he watched them graduate from Cal Berkeley and USC Law School (Lisa) and USC (Alan). He couldn’t help but boast about Lisa, who became an attorney, and Alan, who followed in Mario’s footsteps as an entrepreneur and businessman.
When his children married, he welcomed daughter-in-law Caroline and son-in-law Anders to the family with open arms. He paced nervously outside the delivery room for the births of all five of his grandchildren: Charlie (whose middle name is Mario), Johnny, Anna, Julia and Samantha. To their grandchildren, Carol and Mario were known as “Nana-Hapa,” with their two names combined into a single phrase as the two of them were always together. They spent much time with the grandkids, always ready to play fireman, construction worker or gardener with them or take them to their many activities.
Mario continued spreading love throughout his life, even after being diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer in May 2016. Upon learning his diagnosis, Mario quipped that he had no “bucket list.” He had accomplished more in his lifetime than he ever dreamed possible as a young boy in Argentina and was forever grateful for his good fortune and more importantly for his tight-knit family.
Mario’s legacy of love will live on in his wife of 47 years Carol, daughter Lisa Richardson and husband Anders, son Alan Smolinisky and wife Caroline, his five grandchildren and sister Betty.
A memorial service attended by hundreds of friends, neighbors and family members was held in the Huntington Park he loved so much. In lieu of flowers, please send a donation to City of Hope, attn.: Dr. Ravi Salgia (lung cancer research), 1500 East Duarte Road, Duarte, CA 91010.
Note: Mario is the father of Palisadian-Post owner Alan Smolinisky.