Top row: Denny Lindeman, Dave Peter, Mike Burke, Don Kindred. Second row: Bill Ray, Bernie Allen, Doug Erway, Don Hanson, Scott Diehl, Bob Hayden, Joe Anderson, Tony Struthers, Paul Littlepage. Front: John Tengden, Tom McCreless, Rick Anderson, Jim Dahl, John Ezell.
The designation Don has a multitude of meanings. In the British vernacular, it means the learned head or professor of a college or department, primarily at Oxford or Cambridge. Its Italian namesake is often the head of a Mafia family, or a priest. Dons of these categories seldom call their leaders Masterdons as do the blue-blazered San Clemente variety.
Here in San Clemente, the simple sobriquet actually refers to a dedicated organization of long-time residents. It follows the Spanish title of Don, which is usually applied as a title before a surname. It indicates a respected, learned and experienced gentleman who frequently has characteristics of all of the above. The Mafia part does not apply, but the group definitely has the closeness of a family. These men have committed a significant portion of their lives to making San Clemente better for all of us.
Our Dons include three real Dons, easily recognizable folks around town: Don Clinebell; Don Hanson; and Don Kindred - three of the most dedicated San Clementeans around. But that’s not why they are Dons in the organizational sense, no matter what you may have heard. In the first place, there are 27 members of this organization, and in the second place, only three have that actual moniker.
The very first Don is still with the group. Don Hansen has been a stalwart champion of the community his whole adult life. For years he ran his successful fishing business off San Clemente Pier. Although he now operates out of Dana Point, his heart, and his commitment, are still in San Clemente.
Don Don Kindred is a well-known member of this very extraordinary group. A talented writer, photographer and publisher of the San Clemente Journal. He is highly regarded by the community he serves so well with the power of the pen. Invited to join this select group 23 years ago, Don finds the varied resumes and background of his co-members fascinating. “Their collective knowledge and history in the community is an important link in the fabric of San Clemente.”
Don Don Clinebell, another long term member, is an attorney who has been Former Deputy Attorney General, State of California, Past President San Clemente Sunrise Rotary Club and bridge builder extraordinaire with his celebrated 7th Inning Stretch after school program for kids needing an extra hand up with school.
Current Masterdon Jim Dahl hasn’t been a member as long as some of the other gentlemen in the club, only two years, but his vision for the club’s direction is as strong as that of his more seasoned supporters. A retired Fire Captain, Jim worked for the City of San Clemente for 26 years and the Orange County Fire Authority for 14 years, based in San Clemente. After 16 years on San Clemente’s city council, four as Mayor, Jim remains as dedicated to the community as his more experienced Don peers. His hope is to see increased local shopping and business in the Outlet Center stores, bringing more outside business, and more revenue in sales tax and services to town.
Rick Anderson, owner of Rick’s Tropicana, has been a member of this exclusive club since 1973 and is a former Masterdon. “Our role is not to lobby for any particular ‘side’ in any issue, but to try to determine what is good for everyone in the community and to try to promote that aspect,” he explains. “We want people to know that we are approachable and here to help smooth the way for all our residents, both current and those who join us in San Clemente in the future”.
Chuck Nary, CPA, and Past Chamber President believes, “increases in population, traffic, and lack of parking are the biggest challenges effecting San Clemente and many other cities. Specific to San Clemente is sand replenishment of our beaches. It is high on the list of residents and businesses because of quality of life issues and the effect on tourism.”
The master-vision of the group began with John Cooper, a past President of the San Clemente Chamber of Commerce, and the first Masterdon, who founded the organization in 1967along with Don Hansen. His hope was to bring the most distinguished, well-informed, honorable, and dedicated men to act as the official Patriarchs of San Clemente. This was at the time when then-resident President Richard Nixon occupied his Western White House at Casa Pacifica on Cotton’s Point in San Clemente. The Dons were invited to serve as liaisons between the City, the Chamber of Commerce, and the Western White House staff. It was not unusual to see members of the group accompanying the President to local restaurants, golfing dates and city activities when he was in town.
The gentlemen that make up this extraordinary organization are a mixture of community leaders. Current members are past Mayors (though not all), City Managers, Bankers, Chairmen, Presidents of organizations, local leaders and Citizens of the Year. While not necessarily a qualification, many members fall into these categories by dint of their service to San Clemente. It is against the club’s policy for their members to become involved in fund-raising for politics or private donations, but they are always willing and eager to lend a hand or an ear, or some suggestions for the good of the community. They do offer scholarships to deserving high school students but it is their leadership and the voice of experience that is the crux of their charter. They are often a voice of reason and moderation when things get heated among our differing community sectors.
Membership in the group is a privilege that is earned over a period of years of service and demonstrated dedication to the community. It is a rigorous process and involves being invited, reviewed, and approved by the rest of the membership by secret ballot. It only takes two no votes to ban a contender from membership.
Their main credo is three-fold: to support and assist the Chamber and the City in their endeavors ; take an active role in promoting good relationships between the community and the military; to foster and promote good relationships with surrounding communities, offering assistance to promote harmony and resolve conflicts. And higher visibility in the community is a precursor to helping.
Watch for a sudden resurgence of blue blazers - it’s a good indication you’re seeing some of our “Dons” in action.