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Award Winner's Life and Livelihood Took a Different Turn After Burglary

November 11, 1987|Herbert J. Vida

A few years back, Suzanne (Suzie) Wajda thought her brother's friends were the culprits who burglarized the house in Huntington Beach where sister and brother lived with their mother.

And her brother thought her friends were responsible for stealing the television, stereo and other items totaling $1,500.

Although it proved to be neither, "it helped me to understand how people think and feel after they have been burglarized. Everybody we looked at was a suspect," Wajda said.

Those were the reasons she changed jobs 10 years ago from medical secretary to Neighborhood Watch specialist for the City of Huntington Beach.

"I remember when they asked me why I wanted the job," she said. "I replied, 'I was a victim of a burglary.' "

For herself, "I remember the awful feeling when (the burglary) happened, the anger I had knowing I had no real privacy and nothing was off limits."

And then there was the disappointment when she felt the police didn't do anything about it. "Ten years ago, police really didn't know what neighborhood watch was," she said. "I think they thought it was a vigilante committee."

But Wajda, 41, who accompanies an officer when residential groups ask for help to protect themselves with a Neighborhood Watch program, said, "I know better today. Police can do just so much. The public has to help."

Her efforts have paid off. Gov. George Deukmejian recently shook her hand after she received the 1987 Governor's Crime Prevention Award, sponsored by the California STOP CRIME Coalition.

"The day I was notified . . . I was on Cloud Nine," said Wajda. "I was proud of what Huntington Beach Neighborhood Watch had accomplished."

The governor noted that while the city's population has grown 22% in the last 10 years, the residential burglary rate has decreased by 34%.

There's still work to be done in Huntington Beach, so Wajda plans to stay awhile, especially since she's a year-round beach person who finds happiness on the sand, especially during the winter when there is open space.

"During the winter, you have a chance to do some serious thinking on the beach, figuring out what you want to do with your life," she said, "the goals you have and how to attain them."

But she noted that "one of these days I'll make my home in Hawaii. The islands would be the ideal spot to end a person's working life."

Living on Guam before World War II, Jose Castro wanted to be an American serviceman--any branch and any duty station would do. Now at age 62, his wish has come true, sort of.

The Guam native, who saw his island invaded and occupied by the Japanese, worked side by side with U.S. Marines who liberated the island.

As a Guam policeman, he helped the Marines secure the island.

"They picked 40 of us to help them mop up," said Castro, who later was one of 15 who participated with Marines in the invasion of a small nearby island. He acted as an interpreter.

Castro considered himself a Marine, although the U.S. government did not.

It wasn't until recently that Castro, who immigrated to the United States in 1963, was notified that he had, in fact, been classified as a Marine.

He received discharge papers along with the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal and the Victory Medal and was cited for working with the "Guam Combat Patrol."

The awards were presented to him in formal ceremonies at the Naval Weapons Station in Seal Beach, where he works.

"I cannot express my feelings," Castro said. "I'm happy I'm still alive to receive them."

They threw a party for Ernest (Boney) Broadwell at the H. Louis Lake Senior Citizen Center in Garden Grove and it set a record. He was the first center member to celebrate his 100th birthday there.

Instead of a birthday cake, Broadwell said, "I'd rather have apple pie and ice cream." That's what he got, but guests were served slices from a regular birthday cake.

Acknowledgments--Saddleback High School freshman Duc To of Santa Ana won first place and a $200 savings bond in the Automobile Assn. of America's school traffic safety poster program. His poster will be used in the AAA's national campaign for traffic safety.

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