James Buzz Wisda


Did you ever feel like a pair of old brown shoes amid the tuxedos? Some of you have done some amazing things! I am looking forward to seeing all of you again and am very sad that we will not be joined by our classmates who have departed. In particular, wouldn't it be great to say hi once more to Anthony Albanese, Patty Healy, Mike Horton, Toni Lenwell, Paul Molloy, and Patty White?


There were many good memories at St. Monica's for me. There were great days surfing at Topanga with Nicky Saenz, Terry Flanagan, and the rest of the Topanga bombers. Terry and I thought about making surfboards at one point, briefly. He and I had some great days and I always admired his sense of humor--it was hard to tell if he was serious or not but he usually cracked a smile sooner or later. He made up "Mr. Samana" to blame everything on. One day when the surf was flat, three of us got blown offshore miles out into Santa Monica Bay in a rowboat and had to be rescued by the Coast Guard. I think it was Julian and Nicky, but I am not sure anymore. I just remember one of us getting naked to be able to wave his trunks for help at passing boats. I was very small and got cut on the first day of freshman football and had to find something else to do while all the friends I had played football with during Little Conference Football and CYO football had their games. That is why I started surfing in the first place. I grew a little and came back to football my junior year and got to travel with the varsity for the playoffs, but I sat on the bench during the games a lot. The mornings before school socializing with everyone are a special memory. It was amazing, we all came to school early just to talk with each other. There were some funny stories about the parties thrown at my house and Terry's house, but my memory is hazy as to who did what, and to whom. I just remember laughing about all of it afterward, and I hope everyone else does also. I remember a lot of pranks that might have landed us in jail today. Heck, one of them did land me in jail back then! I remember the guys you could always count on to be loyal and positive, particulary Bill Diebold and Ray Sabersky, no matter what was happening. And who could forget Brother Aloysius and the dowel that he paddled us with............so many memories.

After high school graduation, and a summer surf trip to Oahu, I entered Harvey Mudd College. It was too tough for me and my idea of what college should be like. I played football freshman year, dated a lot and lasted just 2-1/2 years with summer jobs at Rand Corp trying to figure out how far the USSR missiles could reach, unsuccessfully. One day after exiting Harvey Mudd, USC accepted me into their business school which led to a BS and MBA. The best part of USC, besides the football games and the frat parties, was meeting Valorie Jean Paschall on October 31, 1968. What a dream she is! We got engaged about a year and a half later on Kauai and married in June, 1971 in Long Beach. I cried at my own wedding, what's up with that? She was homecoming queen at Long Beach Poly and her friends still tease her as "Queenie". She has been my friend, partner, confessor, stabilizer, constant companion and the love of my life ever since. We have a son, Bryan, who graduated from the University of Arizona and now owns his investment advisory business in Carefree, AZ. In his spare time he is a reserve sheriff. He and his wife Sarah have two gorgeous boys, Cale (7) and Dane (4). We also have a daughter, Natalie, who graduated from USC and Boston University in Occupational Therapy and then married a young resident who is now an orthopedic surgeon in Charlotte, NC. They also have two gorgeous boys, Brady (3) and Jace (1).Ê

After USC, I worked for a couple of years as a financial planner for a crook firm, then sold houses in West LA for Jon Douglas Realty when he was just starting out (there were six of us in the firm). Out of the blue, I got a call from the brother of a Harvey Mudd classmate who convinced me to take a real paying job at Pardee Construction Company, which became Pardee Homes. I didn't have a clue about building anything but went anyway, figuring it would be short term. The Pardee brothers turned out to be three of the most ethical to walk the face of the earth and they taught me plenty. Thirty seven years later I retired in 2009 after having helped house over 60,000 families. For a second job, and none of you (particularly Havel) will believe this, I taught the Dale Carnegie Course at night for fifteen years. After taking the course to improve myself, I realized that it would be good if I stayed involved. Besides helping me, I saw that course change peoples' lives in ways I couldn't have imagined.

We lived in Santa Monica near Main Street until 1976, then built the first house in the Venice Canals in twenty years. Immediately after, the Venice Canals got very pricey so we sold that house and built our dream house in Palos Verdes for the school system for our kids, even though it meant an hour commute each way for me for the next 26 years. We built a house in Mammoth in 1978 and kept it until we couldn't ski anymore. We kept going back to Kauai almost every year and built our first house there in 1998 and our second and third houses there in 2006. We rent them out as vacation rentals now (hint, hint) and they provide a big chunk of our retirement income. We moved to Scottsdale in 2011 to be near our son and grandsons--Valorie was getting upset that the other grandparents were getting more face time with the grandsons than she was. I like being near them too. Moving to Arizona gave us a huge pay raise--no mortgage, lower taxes, lower cost for almost everything--if you are Republican you should consider moving from California to Arizona. Just saying.

I still surf about 40 days a year on Kauai where the water is warm and clean and the crowds are smaller and the waves are stronger. But my passion since college has been golf. I broke my leg in college in a motorcycle accident and took up golf to learn to walk again. When I was given an opportunity to join a golf club in LA, I jumped at the chance thereafter spending way too much time and money playing golf while I was working and raising a family. Now I play at least four times a week in Scottsdale. Some people never learn, but at least now Valorie is also playing and we have plenty of golf dates. In the middle of all this, I earned a second degree black belt in American Kenpo.

I am lucky my mother is still alive and kicking at 92. She plays bridge almost every day. Sharp as a tack. My brother John lives in Santa Paula with his second wife, who you might have known as Patricia O'Herlihy in high school.

Valorie and I just returned from Europe where I visited the town in the Czech Republic where my great, great grandfather John Joseph Hvezda was born in 1844 before his family emigrated to Ohio in 1850. Legal immigrants....I think. The red photo of us was taken in Vienna, Austria a few days ago.

See you Saturday. I plan to study hard so I can recognize everyone, but I hope we have name tags.