Meet Your Neighbor: Jhan Schmitz

By George Stephens
Information Advisory Committe (IAC) Member

By all accounts, Jhan has had an interesting and extensive career as an engineer and project manager – recently as the Program Director for the Panama Canal expansion.

During his career, Jhan typically managed multi-billion dollar projects, including being the program director for the $6.4 billion capacity enhancement program for Philadelphia International Airport, the $20 billion new Hong Kong International Airport, and a $25 billion commuter rail project which connects Heathrow Airport with the Canary Wharf financial district through central London. His first job was as a Weapons Engineer with Honeywell in their Defense Systems Division. He mentions that he learned how to blow up airport runways before learning how to build them!

Jhan Schmitz and his wife Connie Brennan

His work has taken him to 34 different countries, and his wife Connie Brennan has accompanied him to many of those countries. (Talk about earning frequent flyer miles!)

Jhan is very proud of the many projects he has been involved with over his career, but the building of the Panama Canal expansion is fondly remembered.

For those of us who have not traveled the Panama Canal in a cruise ship, some interesting facts are noteworthy. King Charles V of Spain is credited for first suggesting a canal through the Isthmus 500 years ago. But it wasn’t until the French attempted the first excavation that the challenges of building were first experienced. They failed for many reasons, not the least because of  Malaria, Yellow Fever and other tropical diseases. Building of the canal was taken over by the United States under President Teddy Roosevelt’s administration in the early part of the 20th century and completed several years later in 1914. Giants of the project were engineers John Stevens and George Goethals -- and especially Dr. William Gorgas who led the effort to eradicate tropical diseases in Panama. The canal orientation is north (Atlantic) to south (Pacific), not east to west, due to the curvature of the Isthmus, which can be a bit disorienting. The Panama Canal has been ranked as one of the seven wonders of the modern world by the American Society of Civil Engineers. Total cost in today’s dollars, including both French and US efforts, was about $14 billion. The latest expansion cost was $5.25 billion.

Jhan’s ability to manage large projects was instrumental in the successful completion of the new third set of locks, which double the capacity of the Panama Canal to handle larger container ships. Millions of cubic yards were excavated for the new locks and more concrete was placed for the expansion than for the original canal. The expansion project began in 2007 and opened to ship traffic in 2016.

Jhan was born in Santa Monica and his family were “reverse migrants” after WWII. Once the war ended, war production industries scaled back, and his aeronautical engineer father moved the family to Minnesota to find a job - at the same time large numbers of Midwest folks were picking up and moving to Southern California. Jhan grew up in Minneapolis, and attended the University of Minnesota and then law school at William Mitchell College of Law in St. Paul. He re-connected with his California roots early, with train trips during summer school breaks to visit his grandparents in the LA area, starting when he was 8 years old. (That’s the longest traveled summer camp I’ve ever heard reported.)

He met Connie on a blind date in Boise in 1984, and they’ve since lived/worked in many places around the world: Hong Kong (for 8 years), London (twice), Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Kuwait, Cairo, Dubai, Mumbai, Panama (twice), and Sydney. And almost in some of the real top spots around the globe - like Turkmenistan.

An interesting aspect of his work history that his friends would find out of character is that he was once accused of insubordination and almost fired by his boss on a project in Saudi Arabia because he wouldn’t alter his opinion on how a job should be done. Doesn’t seem like that held him back in any way for future employment.

He says: “Picking Shadow Hills was a happy accident.” Jhan and Connie came from Boise on a visit in 2004, just happened to stop by the SCSH model homes on the way back to the airport, and entered Pulte’s lottery for homes being built here in Phase 1. They “won” the lottery and bought the house  as an investment, not intending to live here. The accident, so to speak, was that Connie inadvertently sold the house in Boise while Jhan was in Iraq, with no other place to go other than SCSH. So they’ve made Indio their nest and have enjoyed life here ever since.

Residents are encouraged to suggest candidates for the Sun City Shadow Hills website’s Human Interest stories. The Information Advisory Committee is inclusive for all residents in Shadow Hills. You may make your suggestions directly to

Meet Your Neighbor: Dick & Sharon Ewers

By George Stephens
Information Advisory Committe (IAC) Member

Dick Ewers

Dick Ewers grew up admiring his father, who had earned two Silver stars flying Marine Corps helicopters during the Korean and Vietnam wars, and two Distinguished Flying crosses for combat flying in World War II and the Korean war. Dick decided early in life to follow in his dad's footsteps and become a pilot. This led him to the US Air Force Academy in 1964, from which he graduated in 1968.

In the fall of 1967 he met his future wife, Sharon, during her blind date with another Air Force Academy cadet. She was attending the University of Denver at the time. After courting Sharon, Dick asked Sharon to marry him. They married on January 4, 1969. Dick claims this was the best decision of his life. Yes, they are having their 50th Anniversary very soon.

After graduating from the Air Force Academy, Dick took a commission in the Marine Corps and was sent to Quantico, Virginia, for officer basic training. He then went to Pensacola, Florida, with Sharon, for Naval Jet Flight Training. He earned his wings in May 1970. The following 21 years he served in the Marine Corps as a fighter pilot, flying F-4s (Phantoms), A-4s (Skyhawks), and finally the F/A-18 (Hornet).

Sharon was a complete neophyte to the military way of life, having grown up in Buffalo, New York. She soon found out she couldn’t park in front of the commissary where a star was located in the parking stall! (Those were reserved for admirals and generals). Military protocol was not taught at Cazenovia College in Upper New York, where she attended before transferring to the University of Denver. The family then accompanied Dick to his first squadron duty station at Kaneohe, Hawaii. In March 1972 during a squadron party, the commanding officer ordered all the pilots back to the base to begin immediate deployment preparations. The squadron was going to fly out in 3 days. Dick could not tell Sharon where he was going or when he would return. It turned out to be an unplanned combat deployment to Vietnam.

Along with the crews of 11 other F-4 Phantoms, Dick took off heading west from Hawaii—first to Wake Island, then to Guam, and then to the Philippines. The final destination was Da Nang Air Base, South Vietnam. Dick flew combat missions in both North and South Vietnam for about 3 months before returning stateside. He went on to serve in several other Marine Corps squadrons, one Navy Phantom squadron, and one Air Force Phantom squadron before eventually commanding a Marine Corps F-4 fighter squadron. The F-4s Dick flew from aircraft carriers took off and landed in about 150 yards of deck space (or about the same length of one of our par threes) at 150 miles per hour. Dick said it was fun during daytime, but the most demanding thing a pilot had to do in the night. (Talk about pressure to perform. Dick claims this is what made his hair turn grey.) Dick made over 200 carrier landings and currently has more than 14,000 flight hours in all types of aircraft—from the B-52 to blimps. He retired from the Marine Corps in 1989 with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.

After retirement he worked for Westinghouse Electronics Systems Group as an engineering test pilot out of the Baltimore Washington International Airport. He and his family then moved to Edwards, California, where he was a test pilot for NASA. He flew his last professional flight, a NASA science mission over South Korea, in June 2016. Along the way Dick earned a Master’s Degree in Aeronautical Systems.

Sharon & Dick Ewers

Dick and Sharon moved to Sun City Shadow Hills (SCSH) in December 2017 after exploring dozens of possibilities in all four corners of the United States. Sharon did her homework and came to realize they had enjoyed their time in the Coachella Valley. The low homeowner’s dues, the amenities, the clubs, and clubhouses in SCSH offered the best value.

They have two grown children and three granddaughters. Their daughter lives in Telluride, Colorado. Their son lives in Western New York where he is an emergency medical helicopter pilot. Dick owns his own Cessna 210, which he keeps at the Thermal Airport. He uses it like a station wagon to pick up and fly family all over the country. They fly back to Western New York every summer to a cottage they own on a small lake. This is a good way to avoid the 120 degrees in Indio in July.

His father is still living at 95. Dick flies over to visit him regularly. Dick’s favorite possession is an F-4 Phantom Arresting Tail Hook, a reminder of his carrier landing days. Dick, we thank you for your years of service to our nation! We are grateful you’ve chosen SCSH for your retirement!

For more about Dick, come to the Discussion Forum Group and hear his stories first-hand:

  • When: Thursday, December 13
  • Time: 7:00 pm – 8:30 pm
  • Where: Montecito Ballroom (Front Half)

Refreshments will be served and a small fee is charged at the door. Members can pay $10.00 for a Season Pass to all events.

Residents are encouraged to suggest candidates for the Sun City Shadow Hills website’s Human Interest stories. The Information Advisory Committee is inclusive for all residents in Shadow Hills. You may make your suggestions directly to

Meet Your Neighbor: Arlene Wohlgemuth

By George Stephens
Information Advisory Committe (IAC) Member

When I first contacted Arlene Wohlgemuth to write this month’s article, I was told to meet her Saturday morning at the Jacqueline Cochran Regional Airport (KTRM). She wanted me to observe her and her fellow Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) club members conduct a Young Eagles rally. EAA members are committed to encouraging more young people to become pilots because of the acute shortage of pilots in every facet of aviation. The opportunities for well-paying careers is wide open, and EAA members want to help Coachella Valley youth take advantage of the opportunities. The EAA club sponsors free flights during the season at the Thermal airport for interested students.

At the rally I attended were 15 students ranging from 12 to 17 years old from Desert Mirage High School. They were paired with an experienced pilot, given a briefing, walked around the plane for a safety check, and then boarded their respective planes for an exciting flight. After completing the Young Eagle flight, the students are qualified for a free ground-school training program valued at $200. This was the first flight for most of the students, and their obvious excitement was very rewarding for the pilots who participated.

Arlene requested that I make this article about the young people in the program sponsored by EAA. The Young Eagles program was launched in 1992 and currently more than 2 million students have enjoyed the free introductory flight through this program. But I couldn’t write about the Young Eagles without also writing about the fascinating woman pilot in our community.

Arlene flies a Cessna 172. She comes across as decisive, analytical, and obviously very talented.

Arlene jokingly says her childhood ambition was to be a newer version of Annie Oakley, someone who is in charge of her own destiny and motivated. She said she has all of that because she decided to become a pilot and flight instructor at the Fort Lewis Army Flying Club in Washington State 47 years ago.

She and her husband, Mikeal, have been married 51 years and moved to Shadow Hills two years ago to be near their two children and grandchildren. They picked their home based solely on FaceTime recommendations from their daughters, who along with a realtor, showed Arlene and Mikeal the house on their iPhone. They moved here from Texas. That’s pretty obvious when you hear Arlene’s gentle Texas accent.

Arlene chairs the local Ninety-Nines Chapter, which is an all-women aviation club started by Amelia Earhart in 1929. The club was named the Ninety-Nines to honor the 99 licensed women pilots who signed up at the time to start the club. Prior to retirement, Arlene was a Texas State Representative and then the Executive Director of the Texas Public Policy Foundation.

She continues to be an active pilot. Her next event will be the Havasu 600 Air Race that starts at the French Valley Airport in Murietta, California, with Arizona stops in Sun Valley, Cottonwood, Tucson, and finally Lake Havasu. She also is learning to play Mah Jongg with neighbors in her spare time and hopes to again participate with Needles and Pins. She and Mikeal hike and ride their bikes, and enjoy the safety within Shadow Hills.

Residents are encouraged to suggest candidates for the Sun City Shadow Hills website’s human interest stories. The Information Advisory Committee is inclusive for all residents in Shadow Hills. You may make your suggestions directly to

Meet Your Neighbor: Grace Hutchings

By George Stephens
Information Advisory Committe (IAC) Member

Grace with husband Tom

Grace Hutchings and her husband, Tom, came to Shadow Hills after living in Sun City Palm Desert for 8 years. They made the move to Shadow Hills because of the amenities including our beautiful clubhouses, clubs, activities, and the friendly residents. Some may say that Sun City Palm Desert is better because of self-management, but Grace and Tom don’t agree with that assessment: “We have lived in both communities, and we feel that Shadow Hills is better for us in so many different ways.

Shadow Hills residents come from many different backgrounds. Grace was born in Chicago, Illinois, and is a third-generation Japanese-American with roots in both Southern California and Japan. Grace’s grandfather graduated from the University of Southern California in 1914 and returned to Japan before the start of World War II and the attack on Pearl Harbor. The war affected her family dramatically in different ways. Her father’s cousin was uprooted and interned at Tule Lake, California, for the duration of the war. Her parents were living in Japan at the time of the war. Her father was drafted into the US army and became General MacArthur’s attaché and translator in Tokyo during the Korean War. Grace continues to nurture her Japanese heritage and has been involved with the Japanese Tea Ceremony activity for over 50 years.

Her family eventually moved to California, where she graduated from El Camino High School in Woodland Hills. She says that as a 10-year-old she watched the 1964 UCLA basketball team under legendary coach, John Wooden, win the NCAA National Championship and became determined to go to UCLA for her college education. She graduated from UCLA with a BA in Japanese and a minor in mathematics. Grace later earned her teaching certification and an MA from Cal Lutheran in Education Administration. She was a translator for the Japanese Olympic team in 1984 when Los Angeles hosted the Olympics. She was a math teacher in the LA Unified school district for many years. When she and Tom moved to the desert she taught for the Desert Sands Unified School District in its special math programs. By all accounts, she was an inspirational math teacher for her students. She won the prestigious Jaime Escalante Mathematic Teachers Award in 1991, given to the outstanding math educator. She is still recognized and fondly remembered by her former students when she and Tom are out and about in our community.

When she moved to the desert, she decided to take golf seriously and threw herself into learning golf and improving her game. Subsequently she has been involved with the women’s golf club for several years as rules and handicap chairwoman, tournament chairwomen, vice president, and president in 2014 and 2015. She was instrumental in starting the Shadow Hills Couples Golf Club. She was the Desert Women’s Team Play President from 2014 to 2016. Apparently she learned quickly, as evidenced by having her first hole-in-one at PGA West 3 years ago in a team play match.

She is currently involved with the SCGA (Southern California Golf Association) course rating team, which rates golf courses in Southern California. (They don’t rate themselves!) The team goes on a regular basis to each golf course and measures the lengths of the holes; widths of the fairways; the locations of water, trees, and sand bunkers; the depths, widths, and speeds of greens; and the overall difficulty of the golf course. Shadow Hills South golf course was given a course rating of 69.9 and a slope of 127 for men, and a 75.9 rating with a slope of 138 for women from the white tees. Of course, the slope is used to determine one’s course handicap, which is to help level the field of play with other players. The rating number indicates the difficulty of the course for a scratch player who can usually shoot par. Course rating itself is based on a determined shot length made by a scratch player, whether male or female, from the tee or fairway. Two other Shadow Hills residents, Marianna Lasch and Lynn Strinic, are also on the rating team.

Her other golf interest is making creative golf club and golf cart covers—when she has time to indulge in her artistic side.

It’s easy to take for granted the many amenities that we all enjoy here at Shadow Hills. Maintaining and operating our clubhouses, golf courses, clubs and activities are not performed automatically; they are shepherded by the many devoted members in our community. Grace is one of our leaders who makes Shadow Hills a great place to live.

* A Note from the Chair of the Information Advisory Committee: If you know someone whose story would interest our community, please send in your suggestions to:

Meet Your Neighbor: Jerry Irwin

By George Stephens
Information Advisory Committe (IAC) Member

The best way to lower your handicap is to go on a golf outing with the Men’s Golf Club to Arizona for a quick three day- three golf course outing, organized by SCSH resident, Jerry Irwin. Golf courses, tee times, match lineups, hotel and dinner reservations all organized for a very reasonable price. You also hear some good jokes from Jerry (“the reason you shanked that shot Ed, ...There’s a piece of excrement at the end of your club!”)

Jerry and his wife Barbara have lived in Shadow Hills full-time for 10 years. While Barbara plays tennis, scrabble and line dances, Jerry is on the golf course making humorous comments and in general having a great time.

A little more concerning Jerry. Jerry was raised in Brooklyn, New York and as a kid he was so tall and skinny his nickname was “Bones”. He reports that his family was in the iron and steel business; he remembers his mother would iron and his father would steal! Never a dull moment while Jerry’s around!

He lived and worked in New Jersey as an accountant, later as a financial advisor for Smith Barney which explains why he is such an enthusiastic New Jersey Devils hockey fan. He loves hockey and he knows almost all of hockey history and players. Jerry has attended 3 Stanley Cup games. He loves to travel and he attends the NHL hockey draft each year no matter where it is held. He is an accomplished roller-skater and Wednesday evenings he will drive to Chino or Murrieta to skate. He and Barbara live in California because his favorite roller rink in New York closed! Why? That’s another story.

He picked Sun City Shadow Hills for its proximity to Los Angeles and his grandchildren. Shadow Hills amenities, value, and year-round golfing were the clinchers. He and Barbara love to travel and they’re always planning the next trip. Jerry started the SCSH Travel Club and was the President seven of nine years. He attends many of the Lifestyle events such as hockey and baseball games.

He’s a member of the Men’s Golf Club and has been its Treasurer for four of the past six years. He is full of stories and loves telling jokes, but he’s best known for his perfect timing telling jokes or pulling pranks.

Jerry is one of our residents, like so many others, who exemplifies the “can do attitude”. He volunteers his time to improve our living experience here at Sun City Shadow Hills. His sense of humor lightens the meeting or the day.

P.S. Ed picked up his club and looked at the head and said “there is no excrement on the end of my club! “To which Jerry replied “The other end of the club Ed, the other end!"

* A Note from the Chair of the Information Advisory Committee: If you know someone whose story would interest our community, please send in your suggestions to:

Meet Your Neighbor: Cynthia Bakshy

By George Stephens
Information Advisory Committe (IAC) Member

Cynthia Bakshy

Do you remember plate spinning as a part of a juggling act that was presented on the Ed Sullivan Show in years past? When a spinning plate slows, it will topple, fall, and break. The juggler had to revisit each spinning plate as it slowed to speed it up again. The greater the number of plates, the more frantically the juggler had to dash from plate to plate to plate to keep them all spinning. The image of a juggler rushing from spinning plate to spinning plate is a good analogy for describing Cynthia Bakshy, who has a history of balancing many activities (if not plates).

Cynthia and husband David will be celebrating their fiftieth (50) anniversary next year. Before she married, Cynthia worked in hospitals as a radiology and cardiology technician. After she and David married and were living in St. Louis, she went back to college. There she obtained an art degree with the intention of becoming a medical illustrator or a graphic art designer. That didn’t work out as planned so . . .

She and David then moved to California where Cynthia started her second career. She sold heart and cardiovascular surgery devices for 18 years. As if that wasn’t challenging enough, she and David bought an event production company and ran that for 20 years. She was president and co-owner with David and, along with 40 employees, they planned and presented corporate events for groups of between 300 and 2,000 attendees. And you thought having a dinner party on the patio for 20 friends was a big job! Being responsible for such large and critically important events for corporate clients was stressful and required planning for any unexpected calamities, such as generators and public address systems in case of power disruptions.

After Cynthia thoroughly researched dozens of 55+ communities, in June 2014 she and David moved to SCSH from Cowan Heights in Orange County. Having demonstrated her ability to keep many “plates” in the air, she has been a positive addition to our community. She is currently a member of 10 clubs. (And some of us are overwhelmed about being challenged with two clubs.) Just to mention a few they include: Reformer Pilates, current Computer Club secretary, past president of Classy Niners, the Discussion Forum Club, and currently serving on both the Emergency Preparedness Subcommittee and the Covenants Committee.

Cynthia and David

Cynthia explains: “One of the things I’ve done all my life, as far back as I can remember, is to connect people to each other. Living here is the perfect scenario, with all of us starting a new life and finding all these amazing people! Everyone has a story to tell about their outstanding lives. I love finding out what residents might need and connecting them with another person to help them. I believe that’s why I was successful with my careers in sales and marketing.”

One of her current interests is in mentoring young women at Shadow Hills High School through the Ophelia Project. The JFK Foundation, through the Ophelia Project, “empowers and encourages young teens to increase their sense of self worth and maximize their potential contribution to society.” Cynthia meets with seven or eight high school coeds several times a month, hoping to be a positive influence in their lives.

I think you’ll agree with me that Cynthia has a lot of plates in the air. Like many others who help our community thrive, she deserves our respect for her devotion to our SCSH community.

Meet Your Neighbor: Marty Martin

By George Stephens, IAC Member

In our small city we call Shadow Hills we have 6000 souls, or thereabouts. All are interesting in their own way. Many of our neighbors have had successful careers and are now retired. They selected Shadow Hills over thousands of other communities. One of these souls is my friend Marty Martin. Here’s his abbreviated story:

We’ve all heard that you should warm up adequately before doing any exercise. But there are some of us in Shadow Hills who don’t subscribe to this theory. One person who does not is 80-year-old Navy Veteran, Marty Martin. Most club members arrive at the golf course 30 to 60 minutes early to hit golf balls to warm up. Marty doesn’t do this. From his perch above the driving range near the pro shop snack bar he looks out over the guys lined up 25 abreast and chuckles to himself, “I’m not going out there and using up any extra energy.”

Marty is a member of the Men’s Golf Club and his idea of warming up to play golf is to consume two cups of hot coffee before he goes to the first tee to hit his first golf ball.

Marty carries an 18 handicap and has braces on both knees restricting his ability to move. To describe his swing would not be a challenge since there’s not much to it. Just bring the club back about waist high and give it all you’ve got! Marty isn’t very far off the tee, but he is straight every time. While some members are hitting their balls left and right, and in some cases hitting them over 250 yards, Marty consistently goes straight down the middle of the fairway 140 to 150 yards! When you get to the green, Marty is there waiting for you!

Of course, playing with Marty can be very irritating because he’s on the green putting for a par or bogey and you’re hoping to get a double bogey! Proving the old adage: Drive for show, putt for dough!

Marty and his wife Jan of 59 years, love it here at Sun City Shadow Hills. They came here from Arrowhead Country Club across the mountains from San Bernardino. Marty was in the construction business during his career and built school district buildings around San Bernardino.

Marty is one of approximately 400 veterans that live in Shadow Hills. His Navy career consisted of aviation support. He met his wife Jan in Hawaii at a party celebrating it’s statehood on August 21, 1959. I wish I had such an easy way to remember our anniversary.

Marty is a fervent supporter of all that is Shadow Hills. An HOA Board candidate mentioned that Marty was behind every door that was opened during the campaign, including all the HOA Board meetings, the Veterans Club meeting, and the Political Action Committees, (including the Design Advisory Committee, Golf Advisory Committee, and the Finance Advisory Committee). He has also been the Men’s Golf President, Bridge Club President (Life Master) and he has been active in the RV Club. Marty and Jan are prime examples of the quality of people that we have living in Shadow Hills, who make living here so enjoyable.

We are not a great community because of who we are or what we have done. We are great because of the unselfishness of our neighbors who serve to make Shadow Hills better. Marty falls in this category.

If you are enjoying a cup of coffee with Marty remember this: he may be warming up to play golf!