Outside a window where he works sits a special tree.
It’s a Moreton Bay fig, where children regularly play, climbing around its magnificent roots.
As Steve Fjeldsted described so eloquently in a documentary recently celebrating South Pasadena’s heroic freeway fighters, it’s called the “Library Tree,” protected as part of South Pasadena’s rich history.
Walk a block in any direction of the tree, pointed out Fjeldsted, will reveal beautiful neighborhoods and architecture surrounded by an urban forest.
It’s one of many aspects of South Pasadena Fjeldsted will surely miss.
He soon will be departing the city that has grown on him – or vice versa. South Pasadena owes nothing but gratitude to the man in his mid-60s who has given so much.
His mere presence has put the South Pasadena Library, where he has spent countless hours, on the map in a major way. He claims retirement is the cause, but there’s reason enough for some to believe he’ll be employed again before his working days are done.
“All my life I resided in California,” Fjeldsted said during the public event showcasing the words and images of freeway fighters featured in nine digital stories capturing their thoughts forever of how it feels to thwart the 710 Freeway extension, which would have ripped a six-lane swath either at surface level or under South Pasadena.
Each speaker, including Fjeldsted, was given about three minutes as the large gathering inside the community room applauded, enthusiastically celebrating the city’s monumental effort of beating the odds against transportation officials.
For about 25 years, Fjeldsted has been a library director in northern, central and Southern California, landing in South Pasadena more than a dozen years ago. He grew up in nearby La Crescenta and now resides in Eagle Rock with his wife, Peggy, who is facing some significant health challenges.
His scheduled final day working for the city is June 27.
South Pasadena, Feldsted noted in the film, has not been swallowed up by urbanization while retaining its “slower pace charms. It also has a rich history and an arts oriented preservationist culture.”
In his official notification letter to the Library Board of Trustees, addressed to President David R. Uwins, Feldsted wrote in part on June 13: “I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for all that you have done for the Library and the community and attest that it has been my pleasure and honor to serve as the City Librarian/Director of Library, Arts & Culture in South Pasadena for more than a dozen years. It has been great to have worked in public libraries for 40 years and as a Library Director in Northern, Central, and Southern California for a majority of that time.”
Last Friday, Fjeldsted thanked his staff, the Friends of the Library, the Restoration Concert Committee, the Bookstore staff, letting them about his pending departure.
“Tomorrow [Friday, June 14] I will sign an agreement for the City and I will be notifying the City Council as well and offering my gratitude and fond farewell,” he wrote in his letter to Uwins. “Because a big influencer on my decision to retire at this time is a serious family health concern, I have requested that no farewell party be conducted. But I have been working to coordinate a public comedy event in the Library Community Room on June 27, my last night, and hope to be able to announce it soon. And for me it will be good to have the focus on others and leave with some smiles.”
Under his watch, the library, he explained, has coordinated hundreds of projects to honor its unique identity and showcased many noteworthy writers, actors, filmmakers, musicians and achievers. Among them, and it’s just a small portion, include South Pasadena history buff Rick Thomas, Dodger historian Mark Langil, the club’s announcer Joe Davis, executive Ned Colletti, and peanut man Roger Owens, actors Stefanie Powers, Robert Wagner, a host of comedians, including former resident Don Friesen, talented musicians David Plenn, Brad Colerick, and Dave Kinnoin, and, perhaps, the most notable person to grace the library community room and make a major impact – the beloved American author and screenwriter Ray Bradbury.
As a group, there’s one that might top him – that dedicated, hardworking, unwavering bunch never-ever once giving up on battling a transportation system that made no sense to them.
“During my 12 years here, I came to the realization that the most heroic South Pasadenans are the freeway fighters who battled Caltrans. It won many fierce David and Goliath battles and so far have kept a massive freeway from cutting right through it,” he said in the film.
During the 710 event, the freeway fighters were paid tribute in what FJeldsted revealed was the first official public honor following their longstanding fight. The collection of stories about the now dead freeway were a way to recognize those who toiled fighting all those years “and remind us that you can make a difference and keep what is best about a place for generations,” he said.
Oh, and that fig tree outside his place of work, you can be sure he’ll never forget it.
“I may not be here in 100 years,” Fjeldsted said in his taped segment. “But I’m guessing this place will, with that fig tree standing guard right next to it.”