Editor’s Note:  This is a spotlight with several parts involving two classmates.  It may be a tad longer than the typical spotlights you’ve seen in the past, but please remember it’s about two classmates who make one great story. 

The Year is 2007

At our 30th reunion, Jon and Lynn started talking and found out that they were both living in the San Francisco Bay Area. Lynn had a cool place in San Francisco, and Jon lived in the far East Bay town of Livermore where he had dual custody of his then 12-year-old son Jake and 10-year-old daughter Jessica. They spoke during the reunion, and Jon seemed to pop up in every picture taken with Lynn and her friends (astutely noticed by her mom). After the reunion, Jon was driven back to his hotel by Rich Woods, aka “Woody”. Jon mentioned Lynn to Woody, also mentioned that he was dating someone else back home. After listening for a bit, Woody said “Rud (Jon), call Lynn Monica!” 

Upon returning home, Jon did as he was told, and after several attempts finally connected with Lynn.  He mentioned that he was dating someone, but they agreed to get together as friends, so Jon took Lynn to a Warriors basketball game, which was all new to her. They decided to get together again. Over a drink, Jon asked Lynn “Could you ever envision yourself with a guy in Livermore?.”  Lynn laughed and said “No!.”  But Jon’s charisma, wicked sense of humor, magnetic personality, and rugged good looks were too much for Lynn to handle, and before you knew it, they were married and living in Livermore. (two guesses who wrote this part) In reality, Jon has no idea why Lynn married him, but he’d rather be lucky than good.  Moving on.

The wedding was wonderful – it took place on top of Mount Tamalpais in Mill Valley, CA, where you can see the ocean and mountains. Numerous LHS friends were there, including Jessie Mindlin who presided over the ceremony and Al Schecterson who recited a lovely poem.  Jon sang the theme song to Mary Tyler Moore show (a SF version) to Lynn in his vows, testing immediately “in sickness and in health.”  Truthfully, she loved it.

Some interesting facts about Livermore. It is the first and oldest wine country in California, home to some 45+ wineries. It is also home to Livermore National Laboratory, which has the largest laser in the world and just last year achieved fusion, a major scientific breakthrough producing more energy than the laser energy used to drive it.  The lab engineers also discovered Element 116, “Livermorium”, which is named after Livermore. Livermore brags that it has the fastest rodeo in the world and the longest burning lightbulb in history at over 120 years, which shines just two blocks from our house. We have never gone to see it, but perhaps when Jon retires we’ll have the time to go look at it – maybe even once a week.  Lastly, we have the Bankhead, a nice performing arts theater that attracts some great performers. They just had their annual fundraising gala, titled “Salute to Broadway”- which was performed by (drumroll please) …. Jason Alexander. That’s right, we saw our classmate who was amazing!

Jon’s History – Jon here…A bit about me…

After high school, I followed my father to Pullman, Washington, where he started a new career as a college professor at WSU.  I got a degree in history with a teaching credential, but after doing my student teaching, decided to go in a different direction. So after camping down the West Coast, I landed in the Bay Area, and have been there ever since. 

The first 20 years of my career was in the financial services world. In the early 1990s, I got my MBA from St Mary’s College. In 1996, I was the 7th employee of a dot-com company called NextCard, the first internet credit card company.  But like many dot-coms, it fizzled out in 2002. So, after 20 years in the mostly credit card world, single and with 2 young kids, I started a business as a financial planner, with a focus on helping families with special needs children.  That ended up being a great career for many reasons, not least of which is that it gave me the flexibility I needed as a single dad.

A bit about my kids.  My son Jake, now 28, was born with a rare genetic condition called Trisomy 9.  For some context, Trisomy 21 is Down syndrome, which means the 21st chromosome and Trisomy 9 means that the 9th chromosome is formed differently.  It is so rare that it does not have a title so to speak. Jake is verbal but is often difficult to understand.  He reads well, but probably has an elementary level math skill. He is very good with technology and loves it.  He has other disabilities, but a great sense of humor and is generally a very likable person.  But like many parents with special needs children, he has dominated a large portion of my life and energy.  I was a Special Olympics basketball coach for 20 years, and as mentioned above, my financial planning practice focus’ on families with special needs children.

Any parent of a special needs child has tremendous anxiety about what is going to happen to their son or daughter when they are gone.  80% of special needs adults live with their parents- obviously not a good or sustainable plan.  In 2013 I was a founding member of Sunflower Hill, (www.sunflowerhill.org), which is a non-profit with a mission to build communities for special needs adults. After many years of hard work, we built our first community, Sunflower Hill at Irby Ranch, where Jake is now living happily with a roommate and some other support. He is active in the programs they hold and has many friends there. In September we had our 10-year anniversary fundraising gala!

My daughter Jessica, 26, recently got her Master’s degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Gonzaga and is a therapist in Portland Oregon helping children in the Portland school system.  She was a 1st team all-league and all area water polo player in high school and won first place in her high school writing competition.  She has a really big heart and great sense of humor, and Jake loves her more than anyone in the world (so do we).  She recently hosted Jake for his first solo flight ever- he did great!

Lynn’s history – Lynn here… my turn …

At 50 I married Jon (for his humor 😉), moved to the suburbs, became a stepmom to two amazing step-children Jake and Jess whom I love dearly, and I became immersed in the world of special needs. This has changed and enriched my life in more ways than I can try to explain, all of which is very positive and I love, but before joining the Elfins I had a bit of a different life living in Chicago, London, and San Francisco, working in mobile technology.

After high school I went to University of New Hampshire (UNH) and got a Bachelor’s in Electrical Engin, 1 of 3 women in my class. I moved to Chicago to work for Motorola, as one of their first female engineers. Being one of a few women was the norm in my tech career, which presented some challenges but I learned to speak up, was on diversity committees, chaired a Motorola women’s network (Legacy)… things improved over time… sorta… 🤔

I worked in radio communications design, got 3 patents, later management of network management systems, virtual networks… In 1996 I got an Executive MBA from Kellogg at Northwestern and in 1999 moved to London to lead Motorola’s EMEA market strategy for their new 3G cellular networks, developing carrier strategies for ways people might use them, i.e. to send photos, videos, and more someday via cellphones (seemed improbable at the time).

I also volunteered for 5 years leading a Motorola FIRST (For Inspiration & Recognition of Science & Tech) high school robotics team, started a Chicago Area Regional, MC’d a stage at the Nationals at Disney, and was selected to carry the 1996 Olympic torch down Michigan Avenue in Chicago.

After 20 years at Motorola I wanted a change and to live near the ocean and mountains, so moved to San Francisco to join the management team of a smaller mobile company. I continued in senior management at various smaller companies in mobile tech, including early mobile games and healthcare apps. After 35 years I grew tired of high tech, the stress, and the long hours, so I ‘retired’ to join the nonprofit world (i.e. work for free) and pursue other interests. 

Sunflower Hill 🌻 was just being founded so I joined the board. I later attended Alice Waters’ Edible Schoolyard Academy, which inspired me and another board member to create the SFH Garden in 2015, and I became a full-time farmer for several years. We transformed a 1-acre plot of dirt on a historic ranch into a beautiful farm/garden designed to provide educational opportunities for individuals with special needs, which produces thousands of pounds of organic produce/flowers yearly that are donated to local non-profits. I later joined the board and was Chair of one, Culinary Angels 😇 (culinaryangels.org), which provides nutrient rich meals for people facing cancer challenges. 

At UNH I continued to swim and did crew. Later I became an avid beach volleyball player, did a few triathlons (final one a half-ironman in Sonoma), and ran a marathon in Anchorage, Alaska. I loved traveling and had many adventures with friends and solo, highlights including Italy, Africa, the Amazon, Iguassu Falls, Manchu Picchu, Rio, the Red & Dead Seas, the Great Wall, Pyramids, Australia, and hang gliding in New Zealand … and lots of scuba diving and hiking. 

I did photography/ceramics/sculpting since college, then after ‘retiring’ I got interested in film, took a class, and made my first short film about Jake & Jess – Special Siblings (youtu.be/DmrSyunhcY0). I have since made a few non-profits videos, Founded/ Directed the Livermore Valley Film Festival in 2016 at the Bankhead, and started volunteering yearly at the Sundance Film Festival. Most recently I did the Sunflower Hill 10th Anniversary video (youtu.be/g8gQtj5JI3Y) for the fundraiser gala.

What’s Next for Us?

Lynn continues to volunteer, and is planning her next film, learning to weave, and spending time with our Cavapoo Luna. Jon is already scaling back a bit on work and is learning to play the guitar, and plans on retiring at the end of 2024, joining Lynn. We are both looking forward to spending more time enjoying the outdoors and other things life has to offer. We have a plot of land at Henry’s Lake in Idaho, 13 miles from West Yellowstone, where we are considering building a summer vacation home for retirement. But mostly, we are looking forward to finally seeing that lightbulb, and, as great as Livermore is, seeing a bit of the world beyond Livermore….