Monterey Park seniors lent a “hand” this week to help create a mural in memory of a former administrator they say helped transform their senior center into one of the busiest centers in the San Gabriel Valley.
Beth Ryan, who served as the city’s recreation supervisor for over 30 years, was honored Monday with the unveiling of a mural at the Langley Senior Center. Ryan, who passed away in July 2012, had previously been honored by the city for her work in creating programs and activities for the center and for helping its seniors come together despite their cultural differences.
The city and the non-profit Monterey Park Friends of the Seniors decided to bestow this latest honor to mark the one-year anniversary of her passing.
Former Monterey Park mayor and Friends of the Seniors president, Frank Venti, told EGP that it was Ryan who helped everyone feel comfortable despite the city’s changing demographics, which today predominately includes different Asian groups and Latinos.
“She was able to keep harmony in all these groups,” said Venti, adding that it was “an incredible accomplishment.”
The mural, designed and painted by Muralist Nathan Mauden with help from the public, is located in the center’s lunchroom. It depicts different types of drums symbolizing the community’s different cultures, juxtaposed on an American flag along with Ryan’s portrait.
Former mayor Betty Tom Chu is also a member of the Friends group. She told EGP the mural will add “some color” to the mostly blank interior of the senior center. Chu told seniors present for the unveiling that the mural signifies the friendships forged at the Langley Center.
“The mural itself will continue to promote peace and harmony among this multi-cultural group,” said Chu. “When you bring people together in activities that cross multi-cultural lines you begin to become friends with each other.”
Seniors and residents contributed to the creation of the mural by getting their hands dirty. Each person dipped their hands in paint and placed them on the mural to collectively create the artwork.
“All of us participated to make this come to life,” Chu said. “It brought everyone together, it wasn’t somebody else doing it.”
A monument honoring Ryan was also unveiled the same day at Beth Ryan Park, a pocket park located adjacent to the center.
Funds for the mural and the monument were raised by Friends of the Seniors. According to Chu, money for the mural came from big donors like Steven Forbes and the White House Historical Association, with the help of Ryan’s son, Frederick J. Ryan Jr., who worked with President Ronald Reagan before becoming the chairman of the board of trustees for the Ronald Reagan Library.
“Beth Ryan’s reputation has spread beyond Monterey Park,” Chu noted. “As a result of his [Frederick’s] involvement, people understand the work that she has done here.”
Ryan’s biggest accomplishment was founding the Friends of the Seniors organization at the center, Monterey Park Recreation and Community Service Director Dan Costley told EGP. She also helped obtain funds to expand the center and update equipment, like computers.
“This is her one-year remembrance and tribute to her,” Venti said. “It’s going to be very hard to ever find somebody like her.”
Langley Center is located at 400 W. Emerson Ave. Monterey Park, 91754.