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By Brian Park
The 2014 class of inductees into San Juan Capistrano’s Wall of Recognition include a trio of dedicated volunteers, a former councilwoman who has become a vocal advocate for local businesses and a resident who has helped shape and build the city’s expansive open space.
The City Council on Tuesday approved the nominations of five residents: Laura Freese, Shirley and Wayne Howard, Dick Paulsen and Gwen Vermeulen.
Freese served on the council from 2008 to 2012. During that time, she helped oversee the passage of the Historic Town Center Master Plan, relaxed sign ordinances for businesses and the opening of the Marriott Residence Inn.
Since departing the council, Freese has remained an active participant in civic affairs, including serving on the Economic Preservation Subcommittee, which was formed to mitigate the impact of the Interstate 5/Ortega Highway interchange project on downtown businesses. She also works with the Chamber of Commerce and volunteers with the San Juan Capistrano Historical Society.
Shirley Howard is a member of the Mission’s Women’s Guild, the Woman’s Club of San Juan Capistrano and the Historical Society. Her husband, Wayne Howard, is a U.S. Navy veteran and a member of the San Juan Capistrano American Legion Post #721. He is also a member of the Historical Society and for 12 years, he has served with the Associated Senior Action Program, a group of senior volunteers who support the city’s Police Services Department.
The Howards are active members of the San Juan Senior Club and have helped feed the city’s seniors. They were both recognized for their volunteerism by the Parks, Recreation and Senior Services Commission.
Paulsen currently serves as vice president of the San Juan Capistrano Open Space Foundation and served on the former Open Space Committee. As a member of the El Viaje De Portola riding group, he’s donated both time and money to preservation efforts at the Mission, the Historical Society and the Boys & Girls Clubs of Capistrano Valley. As a member of the Open Space Foundation, he helped fund and build four of the city’s newest open space attractions, the Northwest Open Space and 2C Ranch equestrian staging areas, the Dr. Joe Cortese Dog Park and the Reata Park and Event Center, which opened Saturday.
Vermeulen has been the secretary for the Historical Society for over 39 years and volunteers with Mission Basilica Church every Monday to count donated money from Sunday Mass. Her family’s farming history in San Juan spans 65 years. The Historical Society, which nominated Vermeulen, noted that many students in the Capistrano Valley have worked summer jobs for the Vermeulens.
The council voted unanimously, 4-0, to approve the nominations. Councilman Derek Reeve abstained from voting because he said he didn’t have time to review Paulsen’s candidacy because he had been nominated later than others.
The five will have their names added to the Wall of Recognition, located at the Community Center, at a later ceremony.