The Altadena Chamber of Commerce and Civic Association (www.altadenachamber.org) has named its 2015 Citizen and Business of the Year.
The Citizen of the Year is Dr. Jane Brackman, President of the Altadena Historical Society and nationally-known scholar on the interaction of dogs and culture. The Business of the Year is Two Dragons Martial Arts, Shelene Hearring, CEO.
The honorees will be recognized at the Chamber’s annual installation event at the Altadena Town & Country Club on Feb. 5, 2016.
Citizen of the Year: Jane Brackman, Ph.D, President, Altadena Historical Society
As the one who guides the team that maintains Altadena’s attic, Citizen of the Year Jane Brackman came into preserving history in a roundabout way.
She’d always been interested in historic architecture. As an art education teacher, she created a high school course on the history of architecture. Later, she worked for the city of Chicago issuing film shooting permits when she met her husband, film and television director Rod Holcombe. She says that Holcombe convinced her to move to Los Angeles by driving her around the neighborhoods with historic buildings. They purchased a vintage Craftsman house in Altadena, and have been restoring it, one room at a time, for 35 years.
Brackman has also pursued a lifelong interest in dogs. She worked with guide dogs for the blind for over 20 years, and was Executive Director of Guide Dogs of America in Sylmar. She was also appointed by the governor to manage the California State Board of Guide Dogs for the Blind and serves on Caltech’s committee that oversees the care of lab animals. She has also participated in several research programs on wild carnivores, including wolves.
Professionally, Brackman is one of the top experts in the nation on the nexus between dogs and culture. At the Claremont Graduate School, she earned her Ph.D. by studying dog breeds as a human cultural phenomenon — how the written descriptions of ideal dog breeds influenced the appearance and health of purebreds over the course of a century. Her paper was published in a leading academic journal.
Shortly after moving to Altadena, she started volunteering with the Altadena Historical Society. Because of her experience running a nonprofit, in 2002 she was asked to join the book committee. The charge of that committee was to create what became Altadena: Between Wilderness and City, the definitive history of the community, written by 2012 Citizen of the Year Michele Zack.
“We had $830 in our bank account, and we needed to raise $70,000,” Brackman said. “The committee met every week for three years … and because we printed that book, it turned the organization around.”
Brackman became president of the Society in 2010. Since then, the collection has continued to grow, and the all-volunteer organization brings in $16,000-$20,000 a year in memberships and donations, as well as receiving 50-100 items or collections into its archive annually.
In December 2015, the society also opened its first museum exhibition at its home in the Altadena Community Center — a look back at Altadena’s contributions to the Rose Parade.
Currently, Brackman says, AHS is working to digitize its collection and make it available online.
A professional writer on canine genetics, health, and domestication for popular publications, Brackman also writes a blog, “Doctor Barkman Speaks,” (http://doctorbarkman.blogspot.com/) on dog-related topics.
As for being Citizen of the Year, Brackman says she’s just part of the AHS team. “I’m not a person who likes to be the center of attention. I’m one of those people who likes to manage as a team,” she says. “But one of the advantages [of being Citizen of the Year] is the opportunity to tout the progress we’ve made at the Altadena Historical Society.”
Business of the Year: Two Dragons Martial Arts, Shelene Hearring, CEO and head instructor
Two Dragons Martial Arts has been a fixture in the community for over two decades. Started in 1995 in Pasadena, the studio moved to Altadena in 2010.
Along with teaching Chinese-style martial arts to students of all ages, the studio is committed to serving the community, especially helping families raise up the next generation.
“People think about martial arts as fighting,” says Shelene Hearring, CEO and head instructor, “but it’s really about character-building. It’s about leadership, it’s about how to have that confidence, how to work as a team or individuals, how to present themselves, how to understand that respect and responsibility is the number one thing they have to have to build themselves for the rest of their life.”
A martial artist for over 40 years, Hearring started taking classes in shodokan aikido during the summers while in high school. Later, looking for training in self-defense, she met Steve Hearring, who was the manager of a kenpo karate studio in Pasadena, and invited her to attend.
Steve Hearring became her instructor, and later, her husband. They opened their first studio in Seattle, but as Los Angeles-area natives, they eventually moved back home and opened the studio in Pasadena.
The Hearrings were married for 30 years. Steve Hearring died of cancer in 2007. Three years later, Shelene moved the studio to its Altadena location, 2490 N. Lake Avenue.
The move was a good one, Hearring says: Altadena is “more community-oriented, the people are more friendly, the environment is people raising families and coming together.
“I think of my studio as part of the village — I am part of the village that helps you raise that child. Those things that you want, I want, too.”
Many of her students are families — frequently moms and dads take classes, as well as the kids. She also started a “Mommy and Me” class for children from age 18 months to three years (working on balance and movement, rather than self-defense). Two Dragons also has an after-school program where children get a snack and do homework before working out on the mat. Hearring said she started it because because she couldn’t find a good after-school program for her own two now-grown daughters.
Two Dragons students also organize performance demonstrations at community events, especially for cancer causes. “Because my husband died of cancer, I do the cancer events regularly,” Hearring said. “We provide martial arts performances for those kind of events and it helps our kids learn that they are responsible to the community. It’s a connection — you get to find out what’s going on in a community and you participate and become part of the community. That for me is important for family life.”
Two Dragons also holds fundraisers throughout the year for the Steve Hearring Legacy Foundation, which provides scholarships to give economically disadvantaged kids access to martial arts.
As Altadena’s Business of the Year, Hearring says “I believe it’s an honor for me as a business owner and a parent. It’s an honor for me to know that people entrust me with their most precious commodities — their children. It’s an honor for me to help and assist them and work together in that way.”