Past Speakers – 2013

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Kay Harmon
November 2013

Kay Harmon is a member of the Ninety-Nines International Organization of Women Pilots, and the Salinas Owners and Pilots Association. She became interested in flying right after WW II when her future father-in-law started flying off a dirt strip near her parent's ranch on Fairview Road in Hollister. Her father-in-law was the first operator of the Hollister Airport after the Navy completed operations there during WW II – she got her first airplane ride with him at the age of 16. Kay is married to Ron Harmon, already a pilot . . . and that is how it all began.


Luke Rizzuto
October 2013

In November of 1907 the French newspaper Le Matin and The New York Times issued a challenge that would set the stage for the 1908 Greatest Auto Race on Earth and unknowingly precipitated a chain of events that helped shape the world. The challenge: to travel by car around the world from New York to Paris. The American Thomas Flyer, the German Protos, the Frenchmen de Dion, Motobloc, and Sizaire all started from New York, with three of them making it to Paris. What drove these men to take six months out of their lives and embark on a journey that no one at that time had ever attempted, their prize: a trophy and knowing that they had done, what was considered at the time . . . impossible!

This race was immortalized in the 1965 slapstick movie “The Great Race” staring Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon and Natalie Wood. The supporting cast included the great actors Peter Falk, Keenan Wynn, Arthur O'Connell and Vivian Vance.

Speaking in October will be Mr. Luke Rizzuto (no relation to the baseball player Phil Rizzuto). Luke is the coordinator and an avid participant in the upcoming 2013 re-enactment of the 1908 race. Luke will also be bringing his car, a vintage 1918 Chevrolet V8 to our luncheon for all our SIR members to see and experience. This is the same car that Luke will be using to participate in the 2013 Race.

The 2013 version of the Great Race will begin in Japan and follow the route used by George Schuster and the other 1908 participants to race around the world to San Francisco, CA. Luke is calling this homage to the early automotive pioneers The Longest Auto Race World Tour.” He explains, “It is more of a caravan than a race, so that more drivers can join the adventure. ” We are invited to follow along with the participants online, as they embark on this historical journey with an intrepid group of auto enthusiasts as they yet again prepare to drive into the history books.


Michael Kenneth Hemp
August 2013

Michael Kenneth Hemp, a Cannery Row historian, was born and raised in Berkeley, California and is a graduate of the University of California at Berkeley. He has seen old Cannery Row through thousands of eyes over his twenty years of direct oral and archival historical research of the magical place Pulitzer and Nobel Prize winning author, John Steinbeck, made world famous.

Mr. Hemp will present information on interviews with cannery workers, skippers, fishermen, residents and working people on old Ocean View Avenue who worked its fishing and canning industries and knew Ed Ricketts and John Steinbeck. He has a presentation that illustrates the information, understanding and appreciation of Cannery Row history, the basis of John Steinbeck's Cannery Row and “Ed Ricketts underlying conservation lesson for the new century.

Mr. Hemp also has an extensively indexed historical map guide to Old Ocean View Avenue, including those locations used in John Steinbeck's "Cannery Row" with Ricketts and Steinbeck's research resources.


James “J.R.” Williams
July 2013

J.R. Williams is President and Chairman of the Board of Directors for the League of WW I Aviation Historians. In this capacity he also serves as their Director for Marketing and Advancement. As part of his involvement with the League of WW I Aviation Historians, Mr. Williams has been a guest commentator on the History Channel and on WarBird Radio. He is a frequent speaker on WW I Aviation history and has made numerous research trips to Northern France, Belgium, and Germany.

Members of the League of WWI Aviation Historians receive the League's quarterly journal "Over the Front," the premier publication on WW I aviation history. In addition, members become part of the great global community of WW I aviation history enthusiasts. Its members include researchers, historical tourists, modelers, replica builders and pilots, and RC enthusiasts.

The subject of J. R.'s talk will be "The Red Baron's Last Flight."


Ron Freund
May 2013

Ron Freund is an Electronic Engineer with Hewlett-Packard and Chairman of the National Electric Auto Association. Starting at a young age in upstate New York, Ron dabbled in electricity, graduating to amateur radio by age ten with a novice class license. Enamored by anything electronic or electric, he built audio and electronic gear for his childhood musician friends, eventually deciding that there was more money to be made in electronics engineering than in music. After five years studying electrical engineering focusing on analog circuit design, and completing graduate school focusing on computers and optics, Ron headed west to Silicon Valley. Working for a major aerospace R&D lab for five years, and then at a microwave communications firm while doing consulting on the side, Ron soon found pleasure in applications engineering as the digital frontier beckoned. Much travel followed and on the day our space shuttle exploded shortly after launch, the company “invited” him to Wisconsin to continue his career there, as local operations were closing down. Having established himself here in the valley, Ron instead joined Hewlett Packard as a technical training developer, to teach their field repair force how to repair a new line of computers being rolled out. A few years later, Ron started working in the software domain, and then still later discovered his current passion – software security. Ron has been driving a purely electric car since January 1998. Never once has he been stranded; he enjoys the simplicity and cost effectiveness of his car. The rooftop mounted solar panels on his home provide all the electricity for not only the house, but all of his annual miles driven as well. It didn’t break the bank to get to this position, and today the EV and PV prices are better than ever. Today Ron will discuss the current state of the electric vehicle, and briefly cover the basics and some of the surrounding related topics. As product offerings expand in 2012 and beyond, the future for transportation all over the world looks increasingly electric. The necessary technology is already here; no need to wait. Tens of thousands nationwide have discovered this truth since late 2010.


Joe Gunter
April 2013

After serving his country in the United States Marine Corps, Salinas Mayor Joe Gunter returned to Salinas and joined the police department in 1969. After 32 years as a police officer and detective, he retired in 2002. Over the years he has served his community in many capacities. He continues his service as a Reserve Officer. Joe has always been involved in community events and served six years as Director of Security for the California International Air Show. He is now the Past President of the air show, having served two years as President. He sits on the board of the Central Coast Federal Credit Union and is the Chairman of the Supervisory Committee, responsible for reviewing and signing off on millions of dollars in loans. He is a past president of the Women's Crisis Center for Monterey County, and has been a volunteer for the California Rodeo and Alisal youth sports for over 30 years. For many years he was a board member of the Bobby Sox as a coach and served as president of the organization. Joe is now the longest serving police officer in the history of the Salinas Police Department, with over 44 years of experience and service to the people of Salinas. He is also the first police officer ever elected to the position of Mayor of Salinas.


Gil Campbell
March 2013

Born in Exeter, England, Gill Campbell is the ideal person to oversee the world renowned and multi-million dollar Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, Calif. She was raised in the automobile industry, with the family business selling Morris Minors and two older brothers who raced alongside such greats as Colin Chapman and Stirling Moss. She graduated in History and Drama from Exeter University, St. Luke’s College and went on to become a teacher.

In December 2001, Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca called Gill to become the Interim General Manager for the race track. Two months later, the word “interim” was dropped from the title. During her tenure Gill has overseen a $7.5 million construction project, part of the Master Plan for Laguna Seca, which has resulted in the beautiful premier pit row suites and garages, information trylon and the Red Bull Energy Center. She was also instrumental in bringing the largest spectator event, the Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix, to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Today, the facility hosts five world-class race weekends each season, with elite road racing series from around the world.

Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca has won numerous accolades during Gill’s term including a "Hospy" from the Monterey County Hospitality Association, Economic Vitality Award from the Monterey County Business Council and several Business Excellence Awards from the Monterey Peninsula Chamber of Commerce.

Gill herself has had many achievements including the recent 2012 Economic Leadership Award from Coalition of Monterey County Chambers of Commerce. She currently serves as the President of the Road Racing Industry Council and on the Board of Directors of the Monterey County Convention and Visitors Bureau. Additionally, she is a sought-after speaker, having most recently presented at the Professional Motorsport World Expo in Cologne, Germany.

Reid Isaksen
February 2013

Reid Isaksen grew up in Palo Alto, California and was a member of the local Naval Reserve Electronics Unit. Activated in 1956 due to a crises in the Suez Canal, he was assigned Radar School on Treasure Island and six months later was flown aboard the USS Hornet at sea in the Pacific Ocean near Okinawa. He served aboard this "active" aircraft carrier during the Cold War in 1957 and 1958 as a Radarman. It was forty years later that he discovered that his ship was being saved as a "national treasure" and would become a museum ship at Pier #3 at the former Naval Air Station, Alameda. He immediately volunteered to do what he could to help them achieve that goal. He became a docent in 1997 and continued that work until 2007. Reid then joined the Hornet Museum Speaker's Bureau and has been making Hornet presentations to several groups in these south county areas for the past five years.


Manual Amaral & Laurel Doll
January 2013

Manuel Amaral, started in high school, as part of a trio from Salinas, at Salinas High School in 1958 and 1959, called the Fisher Brothers Trio. They performed their first " gig " at the Veterans Hall in Hollister in April of 1959, live over KSBW. Part of a band in the early 80s playing "a little bit Country and a little bit Rock and Roll". They played for about three years, then joined the Oriana Chorale in 1998 and performed for approximately 12 years until joining the Monterey Peninsula Choral Society to perform with 200 vocalists from California at the Lincoln Center in New York City for a Memorial Day Celebration. He was part of a 110 member vocal group from the Monterey Peninsula Choral Society to perform at the London Olympics in 2012. Manual is also part of a Doo-wop Group called "The Flashbacks" performing in San Benito and Santa Clara counties.

Laurel Doll started singing at a very early age performing for any family member who would sit long enough and listen! She began organized choral training in high school winning the California State Choral Championship for High School Choral Competition two years in a row. She went on to sing with the San Jose Choral Ensemble, the Santa Clara Chorale, and The San Benito Oriana Chorale in Hollister, California. After joining the Monterey Peninsula Choral Society in 2009, she performed with the choir in New York at Lincoln Center for the 2010 Memorial Day Concert.


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