La Verne Magazine
Community Heroes Call La Verne Home
by Michelle Zimmerman
photography by Natalie Fowle
Computer software does not intimidate John Powell. With his wife Darline,
the two have created a book of memories. The book contains more than 500
photographs, which they scanned into their computer to help tell the story
of their life together.
Together they have traveled the world, raised a happy family, suffered
the loss of a son, been community activists and remained happily married
for the last 70 years. Through both triumph and tragedies, they have supported
each other, and, even now, at the young age of 94, they seem like teenagers
in love. By all accounts, John and Darline Powell have lived what Darline
describes as a "blessed life."
The couple has been active members in the La Verne community for the
past 31 years. It is with this in mind that the city of La Verne chose to
honor the Powells with the "Community Hero" award at the 2000
Los Angeles County Fair. The annual award was bestowed upon them both for
recognition of their 70th wedding anniversary as well as for their continued
involvement within the La Verne community.
"We left a very lovely home in San Gabriel with lots of room and
moved out here so that in case either one of us became ill or incapacitated
the other one could take care of the ill one. We waited 28 years for that
to happen; my wife now is somewhat handicapped," explains John.
The Powells settled in the Foothill Ranch mobile home park in the city
of La Verne in 1971. Their home is decorated with family photographs and
momentos from their many vacations abroad. It is an eclectic collection
that includes everything from Japanese dolls to ancient pottery from South
Before they could even unpack their bags, the Powells became community
activists, lobbying for rent control within the city's mobile home parks.
When they first came to the city, they enjoyed the affordable rate of $82
a month per space rental. During the next couple of years, inflation caused
a dramatic increase in the rent.
The increase was of great concern to the senior citizens of La Verne,
as they were the primary inhabitants of the mobile home parks. They found
themselves in an unfortunate predicament; they owned their homes but not
the land. Many were on fixed incomes and could not afford the rent increase.
John was one of the first to become active within the park. He explains,
"We were all pioneers of this type of living, and we formed our own
recreational club and homeowner's association."
Although the Powells felt they were being treated fairly by the owner
of their park, they saw their fellow seniors from neighboring parks not
enjoying the same good fortune. John quickly sprang into action. He was
appointed chairman of a committee that advised the City Council on the rent-control
John recognized that many seniors needed a strong leader in the fight
to control the rapidly increasing rents. John, though modest about his work,
was their hero. His efforts paid off in 1984 with the passage of the La
Verne Mobile Home Review Ordinance.
John's involvement in the city did not stop there. He continued to be
a pioneer for senior causes in the city, striving to make La Verne a place
that had much to offer its senior citizens. He served on the city of La
Verne Senior Advisory Committee for 10 years. During his tenure, he helped
in the implementation of numerous programs, including the computer club,
bingo night, the Senior Fair and the Senior Nutrition Program. "We
created in this area the first smoke-free bingo program," John notes
as one of the many innovative ideas that were brought to action. In 1993,
John was awarded the "Outstanding Older American" medal by the
La Verne City Council.
Darline was left partially disabled after taking a spill while visiting
her grandson. John resigned from the committee to help care for her. He
explains, "That was the agreement when we moved to La Verne, that we
would care for one another." Although no longer active on the committee,
both continue to participate in the many programs they helped to establish.
The couple is particularly involved with the computer club and has used
the skills they have acquired for an amazing project.
The project took place over the course of a year. The two set about
documenting their life together. Since they have spent 70 years together
and traveled to 35 countries, this was no small task. With the help of journals
kept by Darline and their keen memory, they chronicled their many adventures
together. They compiled more than 500 photographs, which they painstakingly
scanned into their computer so that they could put together an amazing book
of memories. Darline carefully cut and mounted each picture in four separate
albums so they might share their history with their grandchildren.
The Powells are especially proud of their family. They had two sons,
one of whom died in 1996 due to complications from crohn's disease, a colon
disorder which causes chronic inflammation of the colon. The couple also
has two grandsons, both of whom graduated from USC, and two great-grandchildren.
"We have had a wonderful life, and we have done many things that others
have not been fortunate enough to do," John says.
As if all of those accomplishments were not enough for one lifetime,
they are only one small piece of the puzzle in a truly extraordinary life.
Together, through their marriage, they have raised a family, been community
activists and traveled the world. They have seen and done things most people
can only dream about, and yet John affirms, without a doubt, "There
is no place I would rather live than La Verne."
Through 70 years of marriage, John and Darline Powell have experienced
everything from the Great Depression to the turn of the 20th century. Both
agree that the secret to youth is always having something to look forward
to in life.