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A Chronicle Of The Passing Scene


Ian Swift, Boy Naturalist

A boy stands before a group of visiting summer campers at the Placerita Nature Center in Newhall showing the assembled youngsters how to make nice to a Mexican Red Leg tarantula.

As he talks about the giant spider he picks it up and holds it out to the children.

A sound like "Eeeeeooooooahhhooooo" comes from the wide-eyed kids.

"What if it bites you?" one little girl demands.

"You would die," another boy states with the absolute authority born of hours of watching creepy-crawly horror movies on television.

"Actually, I wouldn't be holding it if that were true, would I?" says 14-year-old Ian Swift, the volunteer doing the show-and-tell.

This is Ian's third summer of volunteering seven days a week, eight hours a day for the Los Angeles County Department of Parks and Recreation. During the school year he cuts back to all day Saturdays and Sundays. As the center's most experienced Junior Ranger, he does everything from cleaning cages and feeding the beasts to presenting the animal shows and leading nature walks.

"He's one of a kind," says Valerie Vartanian, the center's supervisor.

Ian, who wants to become a park ranger, met Vartanian three years ago at Cal State Northridge where she is a geography student and he was visiting his father, Michael Swift, curator of the geography department's map collection.

Ian visited the compound and was impressed with the collection of 75 snakes, birds and insects. Since then, he has volunteered upward of 1,200 hours a year, and has received several commendations, including being named the Volunteer of the Year by the county Parks and Recreation Department in ceremonies held this spring at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion at the Los Angeles Music Center.

When school starts, Ian will be a freshman at Granada Hills High School, where he hopes to make the baseball team someday. In the meanwhile, he's doing his 56-hour week at the old stand.

He gets away from his nature gig by backpacking in the Sierra with friends.

Crashing the Old Boys' Network

No one seems to have told Lillian Seitsive about restrictive things like the Old Boys' Network.

She seems clueless when it comes to questions of discrimination against her because she happens to be female.

One of 10 children born of parents who emigrated to New York from Russia, she became a medical doctor in 1927 at what was then the Medical College of Pennsylvania when women just didn't do that sort of thing.

She married another doctor and eventually they moved their joint practice to Northridge where she had a sister.

"The weather was nice and I like it here," she says.

That must be true, because she has a rap sheet as long as your arm detailing her 40 years of service to the community. It was good enough to get her nominated for the ultimate Old Boys prize, the Fernando Award.

The award, which honors outstanding philanthropic effort of people living in the San Fernando Valley, will be presented today at a luncheon at the Warner Center Marriott. In 33 years, the award has only been given to a woman once before.

"Well I'm sure it's a nice award, but I probably won't win it," says Seitsive, 86, who is still seeing patients three days a week at the same office building at the corner of Reseda Boulevard and Rayen Street where she has been in practice for 39 years.

During those years of general practice and obstetrics, she's found the energy to give time, as well as great amounts of money, to a wide assortment of charities and civic groups. She helped found Northridge Hospital and is the sole contributor for the new auditorium for the deaf at CSUN.

"Awards are not important," the doctor tells a caller. "It's the giving and doing that matters," she says.

For Seitsive, all those years of being a doctor and a do-gooder are in honor of her father who died of a brain hemorrhage at the age of 33 when she was 5.

"Before he died, he lost all four of his sons to illness or accident," Seitsive says. "I vowed I would not only keep my family name in his honor, but that I would lead a life that would honor him.

"I would be the daughter who was a son."

Persian Yellow Pages

When Salaman and Jenny Mossaband and their two children arrived in Reseda after fleeing Teheran five years ago, he set up a wholesale clothing company in downtown Los Angeles and she stayed home alone.

"I felt isolated," she remembers. "I didn't know many people. There were problems in language and I didn't know how to find an Iranian-speaking doctor or dentist."

What Mossaband did was set up a new business using her own experiences. Her Iranian Talking Yellow Pages helps other Persians who find themselves in the position she was in.

"There are 500,000 Iranians living in Southern California and most of them are looking for professional services performed by people who speak their language, so I formed a partnership with a new friend, Davood Asl, and we created our own Yellow Pages.

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