“It was a night of happiness and friendship,” in the words of Bernice Balson as the Fellows gathered at the very well attended Annual Appreciation Dinner on August 12, 2023, at The Virginia Robinson Gardens. The evening was a spectacular success and is held each year in appreciation of the Fellows’ generous support of the restoration and preservation of Robinson Gardens and the very popular Childrens Science Program. It is also an occasion to honor our most generous donors, including the Santa Monica Westside Legacy Fund for Women and Girls, represented by Carol Bennett and Anne-Marie Spataru, who gave an extremely generous donation to the Childrens Science Program this year.
The late-afternoon golden rays of the sun bathed the Gardens with warmth, and Fellows Chair Jeanne Anderson, a true artist, outdid herself with her magnificent arrangements of flower centerpieces highlighted with exotic orchids, one more beautiful than the next. The richly hued fuchsia and rose-colored tablecloths enhanced the vibrant beauty of the scene on the Great Lawn. Our wonderful Superintendent Diane Sipos welcomed the Fellows as they entered the house and strolled into the gardens.
The distinguished guests, beautifully dressed, happily mingled and enjoyed cocktails and hors d’oeuvres catered by Sean Murphy Catering & Events on the Back Terrace and the Great Lawn. Thai vegetable spring rolls, five spice crusted ahi tuna, and seared lamb loin on cornbread cake were delicious and beautifully served under Sean’s watchful eye.
Our terrific President Lynn Whitaker welcomed the Fellows and started by thanking Lisa Gimmy for spearheading the HALS project (The Historic American Landscapes Survey) whose documentation represents a comprehensive survey of the development of The Virginia Robinson Gardens. The Archive Project is also in full force, thanks to the dedication of Patty Elias, and hopefully by the end of the year, we will have a portal to access the history of the Robinsons and the Gardens. Lynn also thanked past President Betty Goldstein and founder of the Friends Joan Selwyn for working on the House Museum accreditation for Robinson Gardens. “With the wonderful support of the County, our estate will one day be known throughout the country.”
Lynn thanked Leslie Kavanaugh, Patty Reinstein, and Kerstin Royce for the Childrens Outreach Science Program which is very important to the Friends. She explained that during Covid when the children couldn’t come to VRG, these “three dynamic ladies with their energetic enthusiasm” created science kits and more than 7,000 have been sent out to grades 3-5 of Title 1 schools. It catapulted us “into a whole other realm and was nothing like what the schools had seen before.” Lynn concluded by thanking Superintendent Diane Sipos who has been so helpful to us, and our County representatives who were in attendance at the dinner, and Norma Garcia and her team at the County.
Ann Petersen then spoke, “I firmly believe, having been in the charitable world since I was 21 years old, that the donors are the lifeblood of any charitable organization, and they need to be recognized in a permanent way.” Ann formed a committee with Evelyn Carson, Kerstin Royce, Jeanne Anderson, and Maralee Beck in 2014. Superintendent Emeritus Timothy Lindsay suggested that we use Virginia Robinson’s wrought iron ornament on the Back Terrace to create a Donor Tree in its image.
Three levels of leaves were added with a Copper Leaf representing a donation of $25,000 to $49,000, a Silver Leaf representing $50,000 to $99,000, and a Gold Leaf representing $100,000 or more. The donor names are etched on the leaves and placed on the tree to memorialize their contributions. Ann continued, “Tonight, I have the great pleasure of acknowledging this year’s donors who have merited a new leaf or increased their leaf to a higher level:
Patty & Michael Rosenfeld
Santa Monica Westside Legacy Fund for Women and Girls, represented by Carol Bennett and Anne-Marie Spataru
The Harold McAlister Charitable Foundation
Beth Rudin DeWoody and Firooz Zahedi
After the speeches, the guests enjoyed the dinner which was absolutely superb! The menu featured a summer nectarine arugula salad with goat cheese; pan seared sea bass with creamless cream corn, avocado relish, and wild radish; braised beef short ribs with horseradish, mushrooms, tomatoes, onions, and charred asparagus; and a vegan wellington with chickpeas, walnuts, and a mushroom demi-glace, all accompanied by red and white wines. The wild berry peach cobbler with whipped cream and vanilla bean ice cream, cornflake crunch marshmallow chocolate chip cookies, and lemon crinkles completed the sumptuous culinary feast. The very talented Sean Murphy never disappoints!
Our beloved Jeanne, whose birthday it was, was surprised by a raspberry and chocolate birthday cake (arranged thanks to Kerstin Royce), with the culinary staff and guests singing “Happy Birthday” to her. Jeanne was surrounded by love, as she gives so much of herself tirelessly to Robinson Gardens. That the Fellows, Patron, Benefactor, and Angel levels of membership grow each year, now comprising more than half of our members, is a testament to how special and wonderful Jeanne is. The extraordinary events she organizes and creates help preserve our beloved Robinson Gardens.
This past year, the Fellows were very lucky to have the opportunity to hear a fantastic lecture by Eric Haskell on Claude Monet at Shiva Moshtael’s home; a fascinating interview conducted by gallerist Mark Selwyn with Beth de Woody and her passion for collecting art, followed by a lunch at Joss Cuisine; a visit to Suzanne Rheinstein’s gorgeous home and garden in Hancock Park; and a visit to the Gamble House and the Wrigley Mansion in Pasadena. Janice Jerde who assists Jeanne in these premier events hosted a fabulous party at her lovely home for the Patrons, Benefactors, and Angels. The attendees enjoyed a piano and violin recital and a delectable dinner catered by Sean Murphy Catering & Events. Capping these wonderful events is always an incredible trip arranged by Jeanne. This year, the Fellows traveled to Ojai, where they reveled in glorious private gardens and amazing lunches and dinners.
Thanks to our angel Jeanne who imbues each event with her artistic and thoughtful touch in grand style, and to our amazing Superintendent Diane Sipos, Curator April Walton, Recreation Service Leader Justus Ross, and Member Relations & Administrative Manager Barbara Remedios, who helped organize and set up the event, the evening was just perfection! As Lynn remarked, “We could not have done it without them!”
Kerstin said,“It felt like Virginia looked down upon us and gave a most heartfelt approval. We are so lucky to spend an evening like this on the Great Lawn, following in the tradition of her way of entertaining and still having the same magic.”
If you haven’t already done so, consider upgrading your membership to the Fellows level to enjoy these exclusive and extraordinary special events! You can upgrade here.
Post by Linda Meadows
Friends of Robinson Gardens Board Member
Editor of the Happenings
Photos by Linda Meadows, Ron and Elaine Stein, Sean Murphy, Katie Marsano, and Barbara Remedios