Looking out at the overflow crowd, Julie Smith, standing behind the podium, after adjusting the microphone, expressed her feelings.
Make that her true, deepest, most sincere feelings.
“First of all I want to say, ‘Wow’,” said Smith, the sister of Ted Shaw, the beloved civic leader, businessman, father, grandfather and great grandfather, whose passing in early February has left a giant hole in the heart of South Pasadena.
The standing-room only audience inside the chapel at Holy Family Church, where hundreds gathered on Monday to pay their final respects, was a testament of the love and devotion pouring out to the huge impact left behind by a man who touched so many.
To Smith, growing up with up with her older brother, he was simply known as “Teddy,” affectionately saying, “He was my teacher, he was my friend, but most of all, he was my big brother—and protector.”
She was born with Ted’s same sense of humor and enduring sarcasm, joking: “Sometimes I didn’t want to protect him, but…,” prompting a laugh.
Julie talked about growing up in the 1950s and ‘60s, when South Pasadena “was our playground,” she said. “It’s the place we grew up in a time when South Pasadena was safe and secure and small. We were truly a village then and took care of each other.”
It was at time when she, Ted and her younger brother, John, would go down to Arroyo Park to play, take a dip at The Plunge—the local swimming hole at Orange Grove Park—and romp around any number of city parks from Eddie to Garfield.
“We did it all—right behind Teddy,” she recalled, reminiscing about buying a cherry Coke at Burr’s drugstore in a bygone era on the way home from school, passing Taco Treat, Fosselman’s Ice Cream, and Swan’s, all of which were among the town’s favorite stores in those days.
Seemingly always following his lead, with Julie and friends in tow, the group would wind up in the Monterey Hills’ area of the city. “We had great days catching trap door spiders,” she explained to the congregation, describing a spider that lives in the soil. “If you take a stick—and of course Ted taught us this—stir it around really fast, you get the spider caught up in its own web and put it in a jar. We collected them. We collected lizards, we collected king snakes, and my mother was the beneficiary of all of them.”
Laughter cascaded throughout the chapel as she continued to talk about her childhood and the many adventures the kids took back then, often finding hillsides to ride down on cardboard boxes, and constructing forts in nearby lots close to home.
Julie recalls how much she and John loved South Pasadena, but “Ted was obsessed with the city,” she explained. “Even as a young boy named Teddy he had vision. He knew what it was to feel that small town embrace he loved and cared for. The love of the city and the love of the people in it were so important to him.”
Believing she will join her brother in heaven someday, Julie closed her remarks fighting back tears, adding, “I think Ted had a hard time leaving this city, and he certainly had a hard time letting go of all of you. But I know I’ll see him again, and I miss him—so terribly much.”
John Shaw said his brother “paved the way for me” and let him know what was coming, saying: “I don’t recall a time he was ever not nice to me. Think about that.” John talked about Ted being a gifted athlete, recruited by two high schools, and noting he will forever be remembered as “simply the best salesman God ever put on Earth.” The principal at St. Francis High School in La Canada Flintridge where Ted attended high school told his parents not to worry about their son being successful “because he could sell a native San Franciscan the Golden Gate Bridge.”
Shaw, 75, died February 1 in Cayucos, California. He and his wife, Joan, along with family members, were visiting the central California town for the funeral of his brother-in-law. He was born to parents John and Julia (Abbate) Shaw on July 20, 1944 in Alhambra, California, and later attended Holy Family Catholic School in South Pasadena before graduating as a Golden Knight from St. Francis and University of Southern California.
On August 24, 1963 he married Joan Monson. Shaw began working in the insurance industry in 1986 and two years later he opened Shaw, Moses, Mendenhall & Associates Insurance Agency in South Pasadena with two partners, building it into a thriving, successful company that earned numerous industry awards. In 2016, he sold the agency to his daughter, Sandy Miranti, and her husband Mark—the company president—and other daughter Janet Benjamin.
“He was always selling,” recalled John, before launching into another story about his brother. “I should know. I was one of his clients. When the premium bill came, I would call complaining that something must be wrong. My bill was just too high. And he would simply say, ‘You have lots of stuff…end of negotiation.’”
John talked about how proud his brother was in leaving the agency in “very capable hands,” as well as the love of his life in wife Joan, whom Ted met when they were in their teens.
“Ted was an incredibly generous man with his time and energy,” he continued. “Ted and Joan lived in South Pasadena virtually their entire lives, and perhaps were the most active duo in town for most of those years.”
Mark Miranti, Shaw’s son-in-law, told Monday’s Holy Family Church gathering “for the last 25 years I’ve had the honor to spend almost everyday with Ted. I was thinking, the only thing in all that time he taught me was everything: how to be a husband, how to be a father, how to be a friend, how to be a businessman and, most of all, how to be a good person. He was such a great person. Every single person in here has a story about something he did for you, or something he told you that had a positive affect on your life. The one thing that sticks out for me is the time I went to him and said, ‘I don’t understand. How can you always let everybody take advantage of you?’ The only thing he said was, ‘Mark, kindness and weakness look the same, but they are totally different.’ I looked at him and knew, this is the strongest man I would ever know.”
Tim Stratz, another son-in-law once married to Shaw’s late daughter Debbie Marie Stratz, is grateful that he’s always been a part of the family. Now remarried with children after losing his wife to cancer, Stratz told the story of Lou Gehrig, an American professional baseball first baseman who played 17 seasons in Major League Baseball for the New York Yankees. He was renowned for his prowess as a hitter and for his durability, which earned him his nickname “The Iron Horse”. Gehrig was an all-star seven consecutive times, had a career .340 batting average, a .632 slugging average, .447 on base average and smashed 493 home runs. Most notably, recalled Stratz in recounting the player’s remarkable Hall of Fame career, was May 2, 1939, the day he voluntarily took himself out of the lineup, stunning both players and fans, after his performance on the field became hampered by amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, an incurable neuromuscular illness, now commonly referred to in America as “Lou Gehrig’s disease.”
The ailment forced him to retire at age 36, and was the cause of his death two years later. His farewell from baseball was capped off by his famed 1939 “Luckiest Man on the Face of the Earth” speech at Yankees’ Stadium.
His end-of-career remarks reminded Stratz of what Shaw once told him as the two dined at Shakers, one of Ted’s favorite spots in town. “In a way that only Ted can do, he leaned in and said, ‘Timothy, can you imagine being me?’”
Stratz, amused by the question about six years ago and not sure what to do with it as he sat across from Ted, who was showing signs of a lasting illness, coupled with tiredness, responded: “You’re diabetic, legally blind, you’ve endeared the horrible fall of cancer for yourself and your daughters, one that didn’t make it, and without missing a beat, he said to me, ‘You know Timothy, you are a jackass.’”
More laughter inside the chapel followed Stratz’s words before his tone quickly turned serious, recalling Shaw quietly saying, “I want to tell you something. I am the luckiest man in the world. Joan and I have been together for 50 years. Our children, grandchildren and great grandchildren are all doing well, but more than that they’re all good kids. We have everything we need with a great family, great friends and a wonderful community.”
And his warmth and compassion for family and friends didn’t end there. “He never stopped working to remind us to share our gifts, serving others, to love life and always make it bigger than ourselves,” Stratz told those in the crowd, remarking, “Mr. Shaw, I hate to break it to you. I know that we are the lucky ones. Thank you, Ted, we love you, too.”
Shaw’s involvement in a city project helped guarantee its success. Over the years, he was heavily involved in launching what is now the Festival of Balloons’ 4th of July Parade and festivities back in 1982. He was also a major supporter of the South Pasadena Tournament of Roses Committee, responsible for the city’s float in the Rose Parade as its oldest entry. Fifteen years ago, working with a friend, the pair spearheaded the Cruz’n For Roses Hot Rod and Classic Car Show that sets up annually with proceeds going to the SPTOR Committee, along historic Mission Street each year.
Shaw was the mover and shaker behind the Crunch Time Party, the largest fundraiser for the city’s float in the Rose Parade, which includes silent and live auction at the War Memorial Building. Many of the gifts and prizes he’d gather himself, simply by lifting the phone and bellowing that familiar, “How ya doing?” Minutes later he’d close the deal.
“My brother truly loved South Pasadena,” said a tearful John Shaw. “He loved this place—Holy Family. He loved St. Francis, the Dodgers and the Trojans. He was a Golden Knight, to have bled Dodger Blue, who was clad in Cardinal and Gold.”
And Ted was a great son, noted John, saying his brother called his mother “everyday just to talk and say ‘I love you.’”
A councilmember for three terms along with being a three-time mayor, Shaw and his wife received many honors for their philanthropy, generosity and civic contributions.
He was a big booster of local schools, the couple regularly attending the South Pasadena Educational Foundation’s annual Parti Gras, the organization’s largest fundraiser, featuring food, music, dancing, live and silent auctions, held these days on the grounds at Arroyo Seco Golf Course in the city.
“He recognized their importance to our community,” said resident former South Pasadena school board member Bob Weaver and Ted’s friend of about 40 years and among those eulogizing Shaw.
Shaw often opened the doors of his insurance business to South Pasadena Educational Foundation officials and volunteers who used the facility as a phone bank to raise funds for the organization. Board of Education and community members filled the offices, making thousands of calls, asking residents to support the schools through the organization and get behind bond measures.
His “community service resume,” as Weaver called it, was enhanced as a huge booster of Holy Family Church, backing its many endeavors year-round. He was one of the founders of the South Pasadena Prayer Breakfast and was honored at this year’s event in mid-February.
Accolades seemed to never stop coming his way. Ted and Joan Shaw received the 1988 Citizen of the Year Award from the Los Angeles Council of Boy Scouts. That same year, Shaw presided over the city’s Centennial Celebration in 1988 featuring ostrich races at South Pasadena High School.
In addition, he spearheaded the establishment of the South Pasadena Senior Center, and participated in the annual Relay For Life, a fundraiser for the American Cancer Society in South Pasadena, with its roots going back to 2001.
Among his highest honors, Shaw was awarded the South Pasadena Image Award in 2005, recognized for enhancing the image of South Pasadena beyond its borders. He was honored with the Rotary Club of South Pasadena’s “Service Above Self Award” in 2009.
In addition, he served as one of the founding directors of the reestablished South Pasadena Chamber of Commerce in 2004 and was its chair in 2005-06 while serving on the board.
Shaw also showed great fondness toward the South Pasadena Police and Fire Departments, supporting a multitude of programs and projects throughout the years. His affection didn’t go unnoticed during Monday’s celebration of life as members of the local police department, led by Chief Ortiz, walked down the aisle of the church Boy Scouts from Troop 333 during the procession behind family members before the start of the service, marked by the spiritual words of Monsignor Clem Connolly and priests that touched Shaw’s life, along with prayers and offertory gifts from Ted’s grandchildren and great grandchildren and the singing of “Ave Maria” by family friend Lydia Banales.
At one time, Shaw was also in local news business, owning the South Pasadena Review and Quarterly magazine with two other investors from 2012-2017.
What many will remember about Ted was a man who didn’t mince words. “He was a talker,” pointed out Weaver during his remarks. “He often enjoyed and insisted on having the last word.”
Upon his retirement from the South Pasadena City Council, a dinner was held in Shaw’s honor. “All the male guests came dressed in blue blazers, gray slacks, white shirt, tie, and black loafers—the Ted Shaw uniform,” Weaver told the assemblage inside Holy Family Church. “After dinner, Ted was roasted for 30 minutes or so. Ted, while chuckling, continually warned the detractors that he would be the closer and would have the last word when it was his turn.
“And when he was approaching the podium,” continued Weaver, “all of the guests stood. All of the guests walked out.”
Laugher again overcame the Holy Family congregation, enjoying the moment.
“All the guests went home. It was one of the few times in his life he was left speechless.”
As the laughs died down, Weaver shared how he and Shaw would talk from time to time, talking about the man’s life and how he would like to be remembered.
“He always talked about having his name attached to a building, a garden or a ball field,” Weaver said in closing. “Ted’s last word on the subject was that he would be content knowing that he had made a valued contribution to the community—a community he loved. But, one final time, Ted is not going to get the last word. In social media, in local newspapers, and by the presence of all of you here today, people whose lives he touched and made better, are honoring him with their presence here today and with their words—the last words and a title well deserved – ‘Mr. South Pasadena.’”