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Mother's Day--the Way She'd Want It : Memorials: Alice Fiondella was killed last week crossing a busy Santa Monica street. Her son, owner of the famed Chez Jay, plans to celebrate her life.

May 12, 1991|CHARISSE JONES | TIMES STAFF WRITER

For more than 30 years, Jay Fiondella has sat in his landmark Santa Monica eatery Chez Jay and looked out at Ocean Avenue.

He cannot remember all the faces of those who have gotten hurt trying to cross it.

Last Monday, he learned from a police officer that the latest victim was his mother, 89-year-old Alice Fiondella. A few hundred feet from her son's eatery, she was struck by a car as she walked in an Ocean Avenue crosswalk that locals say has long needed a signal light. She died a short time later.

Maybe now, her son said Saturday, something will be done.

"Nothing can bring my mother back," he said, sitting at a table in the back of his fabled eatery. But "if we can get a flashing light there or some kind of solution, it would make the pain a little easier."

It will be hard, said many patrons and longtime employees, to face this Mother's Day without Alice Fiondella.

They knew her much less than a lifetime, they said, but she was their mother all the same. She listened to their problems over a cup of coffee and scolded them when they got out of line, remembered their anniversaries--and always made them feel at home.

"I never saw her be unkind to anybody," said postman Clarence Timmons, who delivered mail to the restaurant and had morning coffee with Fiondella for 12 years. "Every time I came in she'd always ask me how my family was doing. If I had a wedding anniversary or something she'd give me a bottle of wine. . . . It's like losing a member of the family."

She gave food to the hungry and money to charities, her son remembered. And seven days a week for more than 30 years, she reigned supreme at Chez Jay, opening its doors each morning, watching its books and comforting its customers.

So this Mother's Day, they will celebrate the life of Alice Fiondella.

"There's been a lot of crying around here since Monday," said her son. "But she wouldn't want us to put a black wreath on the door. . . . She always said the show must go on."

The accident occurred just before 8 a.m., said Santa Monica Police Sgt. Dick Tapia. Fiondella, who lived down the street from the restaurant, was struck by a southbound car driven by Joel Shukovsky, an executive producer for the television sitcom "Murphy Brown." He has not been charged. Tapia said the results of an investigation will probably be given to the district attorney's office early this week.

Fiondella said he and others have complained for years about the need for more lights on Ocean Avenue between Pacific Coast Highway and Pico Boulevard. Fiondella's wife, Lucy, was one of many to say Saturday that a light at the crosswalk could have saved Alice Fiondella's life.

"This woman contributed to this city and to a lot of people, and the fact that (her death) could've been prevented really upsets me," she said. "The way she died was unbelievably unfair."

Ron Fuchiwaki, city traffic engineer with Santa Monica's Land Use and Transportation Management Department, said no light is proposed for the crosswalk. Tapia said police are checking traffic patterns. But, he said, "I think eliminating (the) crosswalk might be the best answer."

Services will be today from 4 to 8 p.m. at Gates, Kingsley, Gates funeral home. A Mass will be held Monday at St. Monica's Catholic Church with a wake to follow at Chez Jay.

Times staff writer Steve Braun contributed to this story.

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