Features

La Habra’s Anderson preps for retirement

By Jane Williams
La Habra Journal

This past fall Josie Anderson was told she needed surgery to remove a small growth in her brain. The surgeon would be going in through her eye to get to it.

Jane Williams/La Habra Journal
Leaders’ recognition: The La Habra Rotary Club awarded local student government leaders, Sonora High School’s Skylar Christie (left) La Habra High School’s Fabian Lopez and Whittier Christian High

Much to everyone’s relief the surgery was a success and after several days Josie was sent home to begin rehabilitation and recovery. The six weeks she was forced to take off, gave her plenty of time to think.
All that time allowed her to consider how blessed she was, and to contemplate what she wanted to do with the time God had given her. Obviously she was obliged to use it wisely.
After dedicating much of her life to the City of La Habra, Anderson will retire this month.
A year ago, prior to being aware of any health problem, she and her partner, Bob bought land in Arizona and planned on building their dream home.
Currently, Anderson supervises a fair number of the services that the La Habra Community Center offers, such as the senior lunch program, Meals on Wheels, Bingo and the city’s graffiti removal program.
Anderson replaced Kaye Jacklin at the city in 1999.
The job was different then, and Anderson has worked to change and evolve the position she is currently in.
Prior to joining the city Anderson worked 25 years for Bank of America, as an office manager for Corn Festival Parade Chairperson and realtor Kathy Felix, and as a secretary to the La Habra Boys and Girls Clubs’ director.
Those are just some basic facts about Anderson, but her connection to La Habra, and in fact her life thus far, is much more entwined with the city’s history than that indicates.
Anderson bears her mother’s, name Josefina. Her father was Juan Luna. He and his two brothers contracted with La Habra Citrus Association and were responsible for providing work crews needed in the citrus groves. They had four children Raul, Josie, Ramiro, and Georgina.
Raul once said “La Habra evolved. It’s a town with family values. It will always be my hometown. It has had a lot of influence on others where we grew up.”
The Luna kids grew up in what was known as the Red Camp, which included 4th and 5th Streets, and was also owned by the Citrus Association.
“We lived by the showers,” Anderson explained. “Each camp had a restaurant, the Red Camp had two stores owned by the Gomez brothers and well known for delicious fruit flavored ices in hot weather.”
When work in the groves became less available Juan went to work for Rose Hills. He also started his own gardening service, and Josie went with him to trim the grass edges with shears so they could get home in time for dinner.
Each of the Camps at that time were virtually their own towns. “The Red Camp,” Raul said, “made me who I am today. That is where friends and family mentored me.”
It was one of Raul’s good friends, Steve Anderson that Josie eventually married. They have two sons Chris and Eric. Both became policemen. Steve ran for the La Habra City Council because he wanted to improve facilities for kids and make sure the streets and water and sewer system were done correctly.
He served as head of the O.C. Sanitation District for several years and led the charge to recycle water and filter it by putting it through a 3-step filtration system.
However, his sudden death on January16, 2008 stunned everyone.
A graduate of La Habra High School, Josie has always been a hard worker. She learned it from her mother who, at 80, was still calling both her daughters asking where their laundry was. It made her mother feel useful to know she was helping them.
Josie originally applied for the Community Services job because her father was older and she enjoyed being with him.
“Working with the seniors is a full-time job,” she said. “They have problems and need help figuring out the best solution.”
She is also responsible for tracking juvenile diversion, and scheduling events and parties at the Community Center—making sure those who rent the center have the proper insurance and liquor license, and that the Community Center is properly set up for an event.
She has been known to go home to collect table cloths, vases and candle holders and make sure the room looks as inviting as her home would be. She also has thrown parties for nonprofits at her house, cooking the entire dinner.
Josie is in charge of the maintenance of the Community Center. She views it as a civic responsibility.
“We owe it to the taxpayers to take care of their investment,” she explained.
She also helps to find accommodations for those in need. Her favorite is where people who are temporarily in need go to her to find resources to tide them over. For any service people are looking for, they can inquire at the Community Center and Josie or someone else there will help them.
On Saturday December 16, One of the largest events Josie started will happen. Operation Santa takes place at the Community Center. La Habra Schools have sent in the names of families who may need help in having a Merry Christmas. For several years the Lions Club has held a car show where toys for kids are required as part to the entry fee. These toys go to Operation Santa. Josie also gives 30 names to the annual Sonora food drive.
One year when this writer was still doing the La Habra Journal 90631, I asked Josie if there was a family I could talk to. She found a mother with two young boys willing to be interviewed. Josie asked the first young boy what he wanted for Christmas. He told her a bike. Then she asked the younger one what he wanted and he answered, “A Christmas tree with lights like everyone else has.” Josie asked, “If I get you a tree, what toy or gift do you want for yourself?” He was adamant, “A Christmas tree like everyone else has.”
Josie was so impressed that a tree complete with lights was waiting for him and so were gifts. It was obvious what the boy treasured was the tree he had gotten for his whole family.
It’s stories like these and knowing that she was able to help in some way is what fueled Josie to continue.
But now it’s time to move on to the next chapter and see what future adventures await.
Anderson’s energy and dedication to helping those in the community will be hard to replace, but she has inspired those she works with to do the best for others and continue to truly make La Habra a caring community.

Started in 1995, the La Habra Journal is an independent community news source serving the cities of La Habra and La Habra Heights.