A Tribute to Mary Ann Parada

It’s time to take a moment to reflect on a special person in the South Pasadena community – Mary Ann Parada.

PHOTO: Ann Parada Collection | Early freeway fighters (South Pasadena)

It came as a complete surprise – that knock on the door about 25 years ago.


New in town, not long after I had been named editor of the local newspaper, two inquisitive ladies were at my doorstep seeking an important answer.

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One, I can’t recall exactly who, quickly wanted to know, “How do you feel about the freeway?”


A transplant from Northern California, where I’d spent most of my life, moving to South Pasadena – precisely Lyndon Street, a short distance from behind the high school stadium – was foreign territory to this newcomer.


As it turned out, I had so much to learn about the tiny community of roughly 25,000, known for its beautiful craftsman-style homes, excellent schools, youth sports, recreational opportunities, historic small-town feel, and more, including a topic longtime inhabitants like the two I was speaking to, seemed to make an everyday conversation.


“Ahhhhh,” I paused, further wondering what they wanted from me. “What freeway?”


That did it. My innocence opened the door – literally and figuratively – for an earful as I invited both visitors inside my new home.


In a matter of moments, I learned about a longtime freeway battle that would dominate the news in the newspaper I had been hired to work for in the years to come.

PHOTO: Parada Family | South Pasadenan.com News | Mary Ann Parada, a fixture in many Festival of Balloons parades.

 And Mary Ann Parada and Joanne Nuckols, two of the staunchest leaders in the fight, stood before me, ready to fill me in.


“If built, it’s going to wipe out your house and those around you,” said one, in so many words. “The 710 Freeway could come right through here.”


Instantly gravitating to the area, knowing from the start this was the perfect place for my family, and especially liking my new digs, knowing that a bulldozer could someday knock it down, Parada and Nuckols quickly earned my support.


“I guess I’m not for the freeway,” I mused with a shrug and laugh.


That must have been a relief to them, I assumed, putting some thought behind their visit, believing they would want positive press, editorials in their favor, expressing opposition to a major gap in the city for a huge roadway, joining the likes of the Arroyo Seco Parkway (110 Freeway) that had existed since 1940.


From day one since my arrival, with no convincing, I took a stance against the major thoroughfare – either above or below, the latter proposed in the form of an underground tunnel – respecting the efforts of Parada and Nuckols and group of dedicated freeway fighters who took aim over the years at dismantling the effort of Caltrans to build the estimated 6.1-mile stretch.


Sadly, with the recent passing of Parada, one of the original founders of Citizens United to Save South Pasadena against the 710 Freeway extension, one of the battle’s strongest activists, a key player in the fight, is no longer with us, but not before leaving her mark.


As appropriately stated in her obituary, Parada was a bridge between the founding members and the next generation of freeway fighters.

PHOTO: Esteban Lopez | SouthPasadenan.com | The 710 Freeway Fighters (L-R: Joanne Nuckols, Dr. Bill Sherman, Harry Knapp, Clarice Knapp, Mark Gallatin, Sam Burgess, Dr.Richard Schneider, Glen Duncan, Ernie Arnold; Joined by Mary Ann Parada and Mayor Dr. Marina Khubesrian


She was opposed to the idea of having a freeway running through South Pasadena constantly met with roadblocks and opposition from Caltrans officials and some nearby cities. After years of struggle, the community – with Parada and Nuckols at the forefront – finally got their wish, and the extension of the freeway was abandoned.


The pair, and the coalition formed against the freeway, held rallies, voiced opinions at local, regional and state meetings, and were a regular fixture in the city’s annual Fourth of July parade, always showing their objection to a six-lane freeway wiping out much of the town, by holding “No 710!” signs while chanting the words.  


In the long run, it was Mary Ann, Nuckols, and the hard work of a large team around them that helped keep the 710 Freeway from becoming a Southern California reality.


It’s seen as a great victory for South Pasadena and for communities everywhere that don’t want big highways coming through their neighborhoods.


Indeed, one of those leading the charge – Mary Ann Parada – will be deeply missed. Not only was she active in the freeway fight but also was a loving wife to her late husband, Bob, and family. She was an active parishioner of Holy Family Church as faith filled her heart.


Something I’ll personally miss is the way she’d make her departure following an encounter. It was never the standard “goodbye,” but a meaningful “God bless” instead.


Her friendly smile, caring thoughts, and constant fight for a purposeful cause will never be lost on anyone, most notably, her children – Judy (Louis) Gutierrez, Joan Parada, James Parada, David Parada, Danny (Krissy) Parada, Ron (Jessica) Parada, Robert (Koy) Parada, Tommy Parada and Juanita Parada, widow to eldest son, John, along with 25 grandchildren and 23 great-grandchildren.


Thank you Mary Ann for all that you did to protect the great city of South Pasadena from destruction, and now it’s our turn to say “God Bless” to you.

PHOTO: Esteban Lopez | SouthPasadenan.com News | 710 Freeway Fighters honored at the South Pasadena Public library, Mary Ann Parada