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Chabad Celebrates 33rd Annual Palisades Unity Menorah Lighting

The menorah is lit
Rich Schmitt/Staff Photographer

By SARAH SHMERLING | Editor-in-Chief

Hundreds of community members gathered on the first night of Hanukkah, November 28, to watch Honorary Mayor Eugene Levy and Chabad Jewish Community Center of Pacific Palisades light the menorah at Palisades Village during the communitywide Annual Palisades Unity Menorah Lighting.

Before the program officially began, there was live entertainment by Isaac Gordon, the Palisades Charter High School Band and the Jewish Enrichment Club. Those who attended also snacked on traditional latkes and Hanukkah sufganiyot (donuts), with activities available for children to complete.

The 33rd annual menorah lighting was emceed by comedian Elon Gold, who will have a role in the upcoming season of “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” created by Palisadian Larry David.

“This for me is a dream come true, most comedians dream of playing Carnegie Hall,” Gold joked. “It was always my dream to play the Caruso Palisades Village mall area. This is exciting, this is a career high, this is a moment.”

Gold welcomed everyone to the event, sharing that part of what he loves about Chabad is that the organization is “all-inclusive,” encouraging people of all denominations to participate.

“Chabad’s mission is to share unconditional love, light, joy, purpose and meaning in a completely non-judgemental, warm and welcoming way,” Gold shared. “When I think about Chabad, it’s about spreading light, and this is the Festival of Lights.”

Around the globe, Chabad hosted more than 5,000 public menorah lightings on Sunday evening, including in cities like Melbourne, Moscow, Buenos Aires and all over Israel.

Rabbi Zushe Cunin of Chabad then welcomed to the stage Cantor Chayim Frenkel and Daniel Leanse from Kehillat Israel to perform a rendition of “We Are the World,” which ended in a sing-along.

Gold introduced Levy to the stage to light the menorah after sharing a few words.

“It’s an honor for me tonight to be here, kicking off the holiday season in my favorite village in the whole world, by lighting the first Hanukkah candle—or turning the first Hanukkah bulb on here—in 2021,” he shared. “This is the biggest menorah I have ever stood in front of, the menorah that I have at home is much smaller … if I had this at home, it could be a lot happier Hanukkah in my place.”

After Levy shared what Hanukkah meant to him growing up in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada—which was mainly about the food—Cunin returned to the stage to thank him for his leadership in the Palisades and present him with a menorah.

“The message of Hanukkah is so powerful and it’s so important for the Jewish community and for all of humanity,” Cunin shared. “A little bit of light dispels so much darkness, and each of us has an eternal flame inside of us.”

He explained that over the course of the eight nights of Hanukkah, as an additional candle is lit, the holiday progresses.

“Every day should be a day of progress,” Cunin reflected. “Every one of us has light inside of us that is unique and irreplaceable and we have something so important to share with the universe. No one can do your job, every one of us has something special to share.

“Let’s do something, let’s make our world a better place. What a blessing, what a blessing to be here with all of you.”

The ceremony concluded with the lighting of the menorah, which featured both a bulb and tiki torch, before Levy took a few minutes to hand out chocolate gelt to younger attendees.

Annual YMCA Tree Lot Open For Business

Trees are delivered on Sunday, November 28
Photos by Rich Schmitt/Staff Photographer


‘Tis the season for freshly cut towering Christmas trees—Palisadians can get theirs with help from the Palisades-Malibu YMCA at its annual Christmas Tree Lot, which opened its doors on Wednesday, December 1.

Brought to you by Jim Kirtley, executive director of Palisades-Malibu YMCA, this year’s lot will offer a plethora of trees with standard and vintage nobles from Oregon. Community members can choose from small trees to trees that are 13 feet tall. Prices will range from $40 to $700 depending on the size.

“I am excited to say we will have some new varieties that are absolutely beautiful trees,” Kirtley said to the Palisadian-Post.

Cedar garlands and wreaths of all sizes will also be available.

The tree lot is one of two annual fundraisers and Kirtley explained the importance of buying local and giving back, saying that while he has only been participating since the year 2000, the tree lot is a tradition dating back to the ’80s.

“You’re spending money in your community, and it’s coming right back and staying in your community, helping other families,” Kirtley said to the Post in 2020. “It’s all about paying your own community forward.”

The YMCA is partnered with the city of Los Angeles and the program Feed LA, which gives away 70 bags of non-perishable and fresh food every Thursday. The Christmas tree lot fundraiser also supports local programs such as “Get Out, Get Moving,” summer day camps, offers financial aid for youth activities and more.

Hours of operation will be Monday through Friday from 3 to 7 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., until the trees sell out. Local deliveries will be available.

“Come early, get the best trees on the Westside, enjoy Simon Meadows,” Kirtley said. “Support your local YMCA and its good works.”

The Christmas Tree Lot is located at Simon Meadow at the corner of Sunset Boulevard and Temescal Canyon—the same lot that is slated to host the annual Ho! Ho! Ho!

A beloved community tradition for more than 60 years, Santa Claus and his team have visited the Palisades each holiday season during Ho! Ho! Ho! This year’s event will be on Saturday, December 11, between 3 and 5 p.m.

“Pacific Palisades turns 100 years old in January,” event organizer Lou Kamer said. “Ho! Ho! Ho! remains a truly authentic celebration, which adds to the joy of living in this wonderful community—join us.”

COVID-19 Vaccine Proof Ordinance Enforcement, New Variant Being Monitored

By LILY TINOCO | Reporter

Los Angeles will now enforce an ordinance requiring proof of full vaccination against COVID-19 to enter indoor facilities across the city.

The ordinance comes after a motion was introduced by Council President Nury Martinez and Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell, and seconded by Councilmembers Marqueece Harris-Dawson and Nithya Raman. The ordinance was signed Wednesday afternoon, October 6, by Mayor Eric Garcetti.

As a result, the city of LA launched SafePassLA, which requires establishments to verify patrons are vaccinated against COVID-19, including indoor portions of food establishments, gyms, entertainment and recreational locations, personal care establishments, and outdoor events within the city, as well as certain city facilities.

Enforcement began earlier this week on Monday, November 29.

Businesses that do not cooperate or violate the rules can face penalties under the ordinance, starting with a warning, eventually reaching a $5,000 penalty for a fourth and each subsequent violation.

The requirements are slated to expire when the city lifts its emergency declaration for the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the ordinance.

Across LA County, a public health order still requires proof of COVID-19 vaccination for those who are eligible to enter indoor bars, wineries, breweries, distilleries, nightclubs and lounges. As of October 7, patrons and employees have needed to show they have had at least one vaccine dose, as well as be fully vaccinated by November 4.

Local precautions come as the county faces the possible threat of Omicron, “a new variant of concern,” according to a press release.

“Given that there continues to be substantial transmission of COVID-19 and the uncertainty about the level of vaccine efficacy against this new variant of concern, all residents and workers need to be sure to adhere to vaccination verification and masking requirements and wear a mask when indoors or at large outdoor mega events regardless of vaccination status,” Public Health said in a statement.

Public Health suggests everyone 5 years and older gets fully vaccinated or receives their booster dose as quickly as possible to reduce transmission of COVID-19. Boosters for Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines became available on October 22.

Angelenos are eligible to get vaccinated at county-run vaccination sites, LA City sites, and St. John’s Well Child and Family Center sites. To find a vaccination site or make an appointment, visit vaccinateLAcounty.com.

“Clearly boosters, along with very high vaccination coverage with two doses among staff and residents, make a difference by enhancing protection,” Barbara Ferrer, director of Public Health, said in a statement. “We encourage all adults 18 and over eligible for booster doses to go ahead and get that booster dose as an important way to protect from getting infected and spreading the virus; since transmission remains substantial across the county, this additional boost makes a difference.”

As of Friday, November 25, over 14.5 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines had been administered to people across LA County. To date, 83.7% of Pacific Palisades and 84.9% of Palisades Highlands residents have gotten at least one shot, according to data from Public Health.

As the Palisadian-Post went to print Tuesday, the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 had reached 1,527,132 across the county when factoring in Long Beach and Pasadena, with 27,166 deaths.

Pacific Palisades had reached 1,233 confirmed cases and 15 deaths Tuesday, with an additional 219 in Palisades Highlands and one death.

Thanksgiving Interfaith Service Invites Community to Gather in Gratitude

Clergy members at the event
Photo courtesy of St. Matthew’s Parish/YouTube

By LILY TINOCO | Reporter

The Pacific Palisades Interfaith Clergy invited community members to a Thanksgiving event on Monday evening, November 22, with a theme of “gathering as a community in gratitude.”

In previous years, attendees have congregated in-person at various locations, including Corpus Christi Church and Self-Realization Fellowship Lake Shrine, for the service. This year’s event was hosted at St. Matthew’s Parish and community members were invited to attend in-person or watch online.

“We are gathered here tonight to remember our blessings and give thanks for our community,” Reverend Grace Park from Pacific Palisades Presbyterian Church said during the event.

Clergy from Corpus Christi Church, Pacific Palisades Presbyterian Church, Self-Realization Fellowship Lake Shrine, Community United Methodist Church of Pacific Palisades, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Kehillat Israel, Palisades Lutheran Church and Saint Matthew’s Episcopal Church spoke and were in attendance.

Pacific Palisades Task Force on Homeless Co-Chair Sharon Browning was also in attendance and shared some about the organization’s efforts

“Something that I didn’t know when I started this was that even though we don’t move this person off of the streets, in many cases, we do impact their lives,” she said. “We have people coming back to us who left two years ago, and are coming back to our social workers saying they are ready to go in, ready to be helped … We are moving into the bigger picture now.”

She also shared her gratitude for both the Task Force and the community.

“It’s wonderful to be with a faith community, to be able to talk about what we do and to see so many of our volunteers who are here in the sanctuary tonight,” she said. “We all come from different faiths and by some miracle we have come together.

“I want to thank you all for being here tonight, for caring, for being a part of the Palisades community and for supporting this effort.”

She told the Palisadian-Post she has attended the service before but this is the first time she participated by speaking on behalf of PPTFH.

“It was such a meaningful experience, it’s hard to put into words. You almost have to be there to experience the people of our community and the palpable feeling of quiet unity, warm caring, good will and joy,” she said. “It was an honor and privilege to participate and thank our wonderful faith community as well as our community in general for their growing support of PPTFH. I left the service feeling renewed, centered and hopeful. I hope others did too.”

Reverend Matthew Hardin of Palisades Presbyterian Church closed the ceremony with a concluding prayer and benediction.

“Throughout our society and throughout our world, the willingness to come together in such a fashion is so desperately needed,” he said.

Palisadians can still watch the program on The Episcopal Parish of St. Matthew’s YouTube channel.

‘Jimmy Dunne Says’

Photo courtesy of Jimmy Dunne/Shutterstock

‘Saying Hello to Christmas’

When I got home after working late in a studio, I peeked in our bedroom. My wife Catherine (and Louis our dog) were long-gone asleep.

I turned off the lights around our place heading to bed. With an astounding scent like nothing else in the world—I knew Catherine must have gotten a Christmas tree earlier in the day.

There it was in our living room. The crescent of a Palisades winter moon was sneaking a spotlight on our tree. There’s something absolutely stunning about a bare tree.

I found myself just standing there in the dark. In the quiet of that room. In the stillness.

I felt like I was welcoming the tree into our home. Into our family.

And I imagined how that tree is going to be blanketed with lights, ornaments and garland.

How the girls would be stopping by over the next few nights, as they always do, to help us put the lights up and ornaments on.

Every year it’s sort of the same drill with my wife. With Christmas music playing, after Catherine and I wrap the tree with lights, she tells the girls and me how we’re going to keep it simple this year—and just put on the “pretty” ornaments.

After we put up the “pretty” ornaments, the four of us can’t help adding on all our favorites from way-back-when that we can’t imagine it wouldn’t be on the tree.

They’re every color, shape and size; some the girls made, some Catherine and I made as kids, some with little pictures, with drawings, of places, you name it.

Next thing you know, it’s just stuffed with them—and you can barely even find those “pretty” ones.

The truth is, I’d throw out just about anything before our family’s Christmas ornaments. They don’t mean anything to anybody but us, but they sure mean a lot to us.

And when we find another one of our gems tucked away in the ornament box, we kind of “shine it up” a bit before we give it a special branch on the tree. Kind of our way of saying we’re glad to see it again.

And, in that little moment of hanging it up there, each one of us is pulled back to the memories of that ornament.

It’s a story of our friends. Of our places. Of our passions. Of what we share together.

It’s kind of a biography of a family—right there on the tree.

It’s a funny word when you think about it. Ornament. Makes ’em sound kind of unimportant.  Who wants to be an ornament?

Doors. Doors that walk us into the stories of our lives and our dreams. I like that better.

And then I did what I’ve always done on each night of the Christmas season.

Before heading to bed, I put the end of a branch between my palms—and rub the scent of our tree on my hands.

And in my hands is everything beautiful that I’ve ever, ever known.

In that moment, in that quiet moment—I give thanks to Christmas.

To the privilege of family. To the gift of dearest friends. And to being right where I am.

May you find in your tree, or your menorah, or in your special place—that door …

To the wonder, the amazing wonder of it all.

Jimmy Dunne is modern-day Renaissance Man; a hit songwriter (28 million hit records), screenwriter/ producer of hit television series, award-winning author, an entrepreneur—and a Palisadian “Citizen of the Year.” You can reach him at j@jimmydunne.com.

Temescal Canyon Association Hosts Annual Meeting

Khalili shares a slide with damage caused by the Palisades fire.
Photos courtesy of Temescal Canyon Association

By SARAH SHMERLING | Editor-in-Chief

Members of Temescal Canyon Association gathered virtually on the evening of November 15 for an annual meeting, which featured updates within the organization as well as two guest speakers.

TCA President Gil Dembo provided updates about the association that have taken place since its last meeting in 2020, including covering expenses, which featured a donation to the National Wildlife Federation. The board also voted to extend the current board one year, due to COVID-19.

The first guest speaker was Noa Rishe Khalili, an environmental scientist who works for California State Parks. She provided updates about Will Rogers State Historic Park and Topanga State Park, as well as a summary of California State Parks’ involvement with the Palisades fire that took place in May.

In addition to hiring a new concessionaire for the horses at Will Rogers State Historic Park, there is also a new ranger on hand to help during off hours in the area. Khalili highlighted rangers at Topanga who have been doing an “outstanding job” of combating local issues, like illegal camping and parking.

“The main issue with illegal parking and illegal camping is the risk of wildfires if people aren’t careful,” she explained. “When you don’t have an approved campsite, it’s very easy for a campfire to get out of hand.”

In total, there is about $2 million of deferred maintenance being completed within Will Rogers and Topanga, including reroofing the ranch house, upgrading the HVAC system and restoration of the hay barn. Future projects include repairs to the Trippet House deck and graffiti removal at Rustic Canyon.

There is also a new trail supervisor, Jason Finlay, who is tackling deferred trail issues. Faded signs at the bottom of Los Leones Trail are in the process of being replaced—the new signs were ordered more than one year ago, so Khalili shared the expected arrival date is soon.

Khalili then launched a presentation about the Palisades fire, including what California State Parks worked on during and after the fire.

Beth Pratt

“Our main goal is to protect the park resources, which is slightly at odds with the goal of the fire department, because the goal of the fire department is to put out the fire at all costs, but there can be a lot of resource damage,” she explained.

California State Parks involvement began before the fire was put out: While helicopters were dropping water, the agency was working with the fire department’s heavy equipment crew to start repairing dozer lines that were created. She explained that the goal is to “put things back the way they were,” so additional issues, like erosion, are avoided.

“Our goals are to prevent erosion, to help the native plant communities reestablish and also to try to prevent having hikers and bikers use these dozer lines as new trails,” Khalili said. “We don’t want to end up with a spiderweb network of new trails around the park.”

By August, new plants and new greenery were being planted in the area that burned during the fire.

After Khalili spoke, Beth Pratt, the California director for the National Wildlife Federation and leader of the #SaveLACougars campaign, provided updates about the forthcoming wildlife crossing at Liberty Canyon.

“When I was coming up in school and conservation 30 years ago, the dominant philosophy was you decide these islands of habitat and you keep the people and the wildlife separate,” Pratt explained. “Science is now telling us it doesn’t work. Even in the best protected places on the planet, like Yosemite or Yellowstone, if nature isn’t connected, it’s not going to have a future.”

She explained that without building a wildlife crossing at Liberty Canyon for animals to use in the Santa Monica Mountains, mountain lion extinction is “looking very likely.”

“I want to be clear: It’s not that I am advocating for backing off on places like Yosemite or Yellowstone,” Pratt explained. “I think we do need places where wildlife have primacy and where they have the ultimate protections, but what we need to rethink more is letting wildlife back and creating green spaces in areas we’ve written off, like the Los Angeles area.”

She shared that people have expressed fears that it would bring more mountain lions and wildlife into the area, but that would not be the case: The crossing would just ensure that mountain lions don’t “inbreed themselves out of existence.”

At the time of the meeting, more than $72 million had been raised by over 4,500 donors to help build the crossing. The campaign has a goal of $85 million.

The next steps include the project going out to bid toward the end of December, with Pratt saying the contractor should be selected by January, allowing the project to break ground in February or March of 2022.


Parking in the Palisades

I am a subscriber and a long-time resident of the Palisades. Sunday morning, November 21, my plan was to pick up a coffee at the Starbucks on Sunset. As usual, I pulled in to park in the lot next to the Bank of America. On Sunday, I was greeted by a smartly dressed, masked executive from the parking lot company who informed me that the parking lot’s new practice is to be run by QR code, without an in-person attendant. Even if I was just going to run into Starbucks or the bank and my short stay was going to be validated, the lot requires payment at any time during the 24 hours. In order to guarantee that I would pay for my time in the parking lot, I am required to scan the QR code on the signs set up around the lot. On the QR app, I am required to give my name, my car’s license plate number and a credit card number. If I patronize a merchant who offers validation, I will not be charged. Otherwise, I will be. I politely thanked her for the information and said that I would no longer patronize the lot. The obvious intrusion on my personal information is unacceptable to me. I know nothing about the parking lot company’s security practices nor if they are data mining and selling my personal information. Is their site secure so I am not at risk of hackers stealing my credit card and other personal information? All just to get a cup of coffee or to make a deposit in the bank. I wonder if other Palisadians are OK with the parking lot’s new QR practice?

David Latt

The Palisadian-Post accepts letters to the editor via email at mypost@palipost.com or mail/hand-delivered at 881 Alma Real Drive, Suite 213, Pacific Palisades, CA 90272. To be considered for publication, letters must be signed, and are subject to editing for length and clarity. Opinions expressed in letters do not necessarily reflect the views of opinions of the Palisadian-Post.

Your Two Cents’ Worth

Tree Lot

I drove past the YMCA Tree Lot the other night and I could smell the trees from my car! I don’t think I’ve noticed that in previous years but the magical smells of the holidays are in the air in the Palisades.

Mail Theft

I noticed there have been more mail thefts going on. Make sure you connect with your local postman and keep an eye out on your mail.

Menorah Lighting

I had the pleasure of attending Chabad’s menorah lighting at Palisades Village on the first night of Chanukah. It was so special to see so many members of our community gathering together once again. It was especially apparent during the sing-alongs.

90th Celebration

Happy birthday to all of our 90-year-olds! I love that the woman’s club continues on this tradition.


Any tips on keeping coyotes out of my yard? There’s been an influx lately and it’s a bit alarming.

Thanksgiving Break

Just wanted to drop in and say that I hope everyone in the Palisades had a lovely Thanksgiving break! It felt like we all needed it more than ever.

Got something to say? Call (310) 454-1321 or email 2cents@palipost.com and get those kudos or concerns off your chest. Names will not be used.

Neighborhood News

Zócalo Opens New Venue  |  Los Angeles

Zócalo Public Square, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit organization, will open the doors of its newest home venue, located at ASU California Center at the Herald Examiner in Downtown LA, on Tuesday, December 7. Palisadian Moira Shourie is currently executive director for the organization.

The organization invites community members to “How Do We Begin Again?” a discussion moderated by Los Angeles Times columnist Gustavo Arellano, where he will discuss society and its practices and making “a fresh start” alongside Homeboy Art Academy Director Fabian Debora, Trans Latin Coalition President, Bamby Salcedo and UCLA psychologist Annette Stanton.

COVID restrictions or proof of vaccination and face coverings will be required for all to attend.

For more information and to register to join in-person or virtually, visit zocalopublicsquare.org/event/how-do-we-begin-again.


Hiker Rescue  |  Topanga State Park

A 69-year-old hiker was airlifted out of a remote area in Pacific Palisades on November 27. According to Los Angeles Fire Department spokesman Nicholas Prange, the man was found in “fair condition and requested medical assistance.”

The incident occurred near 19601 Mulholland Drive and was reported at 3:55 p.m., whereupon a LAFD helicopter lifted him to safety and a nearby hospital.          


Villa Aurora Art Exhibition at LAXART  |  West Hollywood

In celebration of the 25th anniversary of Villa Aurora, Villa Aurora and LAXART present the exhibition “all the lonely people” at LAXART. Villa Aurora is an artist residence located in Pacific Palisades.

The exhibition, curated by Berlin-based Nana Bahlmann, “examines the ancient figure of the hermit against the backdrop of the current pandemic,” according to a press release.

“The show presents examples of loneliness, melancholy and longing, as well as physical and mental withdrawal,” the press release read. “Some of the works by former Villa Aurora fellows and Los Angeles-based artists, have been created during periods of personal isolation, others have been newly conceived for the exhibition.”

The exhibition will run December 4 through January 22, 2022, at LAXART located on Santa Monica Boulevard in West Hollywood.


One Coast Hosts Holiday Event  |  Pacific Palisades

Pacific Palisades One Coast invites community members to its Holiday Homes Tour and Bazaar on Saturday, December 11, from 1 to 4 p.m.

“Join us for a tour of One Coast’s model homes designer-decorated for the holidays,” according to a press release. “Plus enjoy traveling carolers, complimentary wine tasting courtesy of Beyond Organic Wines, Sweet Laurel Bakery goods for purchase, a pop-up retail experience and Toys for Tots donation drive.”

For more information or to RSVP, visit liveonecoast.com/holidays.             


A Lifetime of Honor

Marstrander pins a medal on Svendsen
Photos by Rich Schmitt/Staff Photographer

Palisadian Sven Svendsen Awarded Two Medals of Honor at 100 Years Old


The year was 1940—one week before the Nazis invaded Norway—and Sven Svendsen, a Norwegian sophomore in high school and Army volunteer, was practicing routine drills of self-defense against a possible invasion in the Aseral Mountains in Southern Norway.

Upon concluding the drills, all the weapons that were used during the exercises were turned into the Norwegian Army Division headquarters in Kristiansand, when on April 9, rehearsal became a bleak reality: After all the weapons were suddenly confiscated, it was clear, the Nazi invasion had begun.

This was the beginning of a series of transformative events that forever altered the course and life of Svendsen, a Palisadian for more than five decades.

An intimate gathering of family and friends convened on Saturday, November 20, to surprise Svendsen with a special guest: Helge Marstrander, deputy chief of mission from the Norwegian Consul from San Francisco, who delivered a personalized note from Norway’s Majesty King Harald the V.

Marstrander not only came to issue a congratulatory letter from King Harald to Svendsen for his 100th birthday—something done for every Norwegian citizen who turns 100 years old—but also to present him with two Medals of Honor, the Competitive Medal from the Norwegian Government and the Norwegian Armed Forces Medal from the King, in recognition of his work in the Norwegian Resistance.

Svendsen’s daughters pictured, from left: Berit Wright, Randi Svendsen, Liv Finne and Mia Banks

“Sven’s story is a true inspiration to all of us and may help us find courage when needed,” Marstrander said during the ceremony. “The Norwegian national anthem has a line … that translates to ‘even we, when it is demanded.’ It refers to how we all must come together in times of dire straits, just as Svendsen and other veterans came forward to make an effort during WW II.

“They took a stand and fought for our shared values: democracy, human dignity, the rule of law and the freedom that resolves from these values. Values worth fighting for.”

Svendsen was born on November 23, 1921, in Kristiansand, Norway, to Ragnhild Bollaeren and Sverre Svendsen.

His childhood was filled with playing soccer, swimming, fishing and skiing in the winters, as well as his daily job of shoveling a narrow passageway in front of the house, tending his chicken coop and long excursions through the mountains as an eager Boy Scout.

In his memoir, “Sven’s Story,” he reminisced, “It was a good time to grow up. Though the Depression must have been tough on my parents, my sisters, Liv, Helga, Ester, and I were unaware of any economic worries.”

His mother, he recalled, “was the most unselfish, giving person I’ve ever known.” She died at 92.

His father, an avid gardener and dentist, was helping the underground by distributing Resistance newspapers when the Germans invaded. He was eventually sent to the Grini prison camp in Oslo in 1944. While he survived, his health, due to the poor conditions and scarce food, never fully recovered and he passed away at 71.

As for Svendsen, he was constantly standing counter to the Nazis: He would use his radio that was hidden in the stove to transmit information about the location of German war ships to the underground in London from his room, where he lived as a student at the Norwegian Institute of Technology.

He joined several underground groups formed to combat their tyranny.

“During the war years, students were much more galvanized against the Germans than the population at large,” Svendsen wrote in his book. “Life under a German dictatorship was hardly worth living, and it was in our best interest to help overturn the occupation.”

Svendsen with David Besbris reunited after a flight from Washington, D.C.
Photo courtesy of the Svendsen family

The dangers that Svendsen and many students at the time faced through their fidelity to the underground movement tested their courage as they committed, with full awareness, to face death head on, an understood consequence should they be caught.

But nothing truly magnifies the heroic nature of Svendsen more than that of his rescue of American lieutenant and Massachusetts Jewish medical student, David C. Besbris.

On November 16, 1943, Besbris bailed out of a B-17, a four-engined heavy bomber, that he served as the navigator. While the other nine crew members were taken as prisoners, Besbris was kept safe for 90 days by non-English speaking, Norwegian farmers. Later, via contact through the underground movement, Svendsen helped him evade capture. Besbris was the first American he had ever met.

“It was a very cold, dark, winter night when I first met David, with temperatures so low that the snow under our boots squeaked,” Svendsen wrote. “We had a long way to walk, about 10 miles to another cottage owned by a friend of mine.”

Eventually, through many daring situations, Svendsen helped Besbris, who had been missing in action for 100 days, safely cross the Swedish border where they were separated.

Besbris, relieved to have survived the entire ordeal, collapsed with tears of joy.

In May of 1945, the German forces surrendered to the Allies. Many lives in Norway were saved due to the heroic deeds of the Resistance. Norway’s freedom was restored when German forces surrendered to the Norwegian Freedom Fighters, a moment in history every Norwegian knows and treasures.

Svendsen moved onto the next chapter of his life in New York in 1948, continuing his education. He went on to get his American citizenship in 1954 and contributed to building structures in the United States and all over the world. He built icecap stations in Thule, Greenland, five air bases and one large harbor in Spain. He became general manager of the Venezuelan Institute for Scientific Research and eventually went on to work in Korea, Japan and finally Los Angeles.

“He opened the world to us to experience other peoples and cultures, always trying to broaden our horizons,” his second eldest daughter, Berit Wright, told the Palisadian-Post.

Svendsen and his wife of over 55 years, Wanda, who he described as his “best friend and love of his life,” moved to Pacific Palisades in 1965, where they embraced a happy, full family life.

The Palisades has been Svendsen’s home ever since. Family members shared that he loves his neighbors and many people in the community whose lives have touched him from his doctor, Alison Garb, to the helpful people at Gelson’s.

He is well known for his weekly hikes to the top of Inspiration Point at Will Rogers State Historic Park in his white track jacket with an image of the world wrapped on it. For 60 years he has frequented Palisades Barber Shop, and he often dines at Cathay Palisades.

Svendsen and his wife Wanda

His memoir, written by him and members of his family, came to fruition when illness had fallen upon Wanda, and his children thought it an encouraging way to deal with the lachrymatory time, by reminiscing on the life they had made together.

It was Svendsen’s son-in-law, Nils Finne, who wrote the consulate of Norway in order to procure a letter from the King celebrating Svendsen’s 100 birthday. To his astonishment, they wrote back wanting to additionally recognize him for his heroic deeds.

Randi Svendsen, his youngest daughter, explained to the Post about the significance of that day, saying, “I think my father’s medal is important because he is such a private person and for years he never wanted to talk about this period of his life to others, except to family and friends.”

“My father puts the needs of others before his own,” Liv Finne, his eldest daughter, said to the Post. “He raised us, and then helped us raise our own families. He taught us to be steadfast and true to our family, to our friends and acquaintances, to Norway and our family there, and to our country, no matter the distance, no matter the difficulty.”

It was discussed the day of the ceremony how the concept of heroes has evolved to comic book characters, counterfeit archetypes that are often depicted as transcendent beings worth aspiring to. When in reality true super heroes require a key ingredient: mortal sacrifice in the line of fire. As Marstrander said while pinning the Medal of Honor to Svendsen’s jacket during the celebration: “He was courageous and truly deserves to be recognized. He put his life in danger for our values and our freedoms. We are forever grateful.”

Svendsen’s daughter Mia Banks explained to the Post that her dad taught her how important it is to follow her moral compass.

“Not only is sacrifice a pivotal element to a true hero, but disciplined morality,” she shared. “He taught me to do the right thing, even if the decision made the path difficult. He always asked us about our five-year plan. Maybe the easiest way to 100 is to follow your moral compass, one five-year plan at a time.”

The truest of heroes are indeed not flashy but often hidden, stoic and humble, like Svendsen.

When asked if he had ever been given a medal for his contribution to the liberation of Norway, he simply replied: “I didn’t expect a medal, because that is just what we did.”