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SDMG :: Looking Back at 2014-15, Looking Forward to 2015-16

Looking Back at 2014–15, Looking Forward to 2015–16

September 1, 2015
by Lisbet Thoresen








Jill Williamson and Angie Cannon greet visitors at the sales booth.



TTHE SUMMER HIATUS provided many of our members the opportunity to take a well-earned break from a hectic schedule of planning and mounting events between September and June: eight monthly General Meetings and four bi-monthly Mineral Division Meetings, including the February "Show and Tell" held jointly; Gem Diego, the Club's big annual show held in November; open house at December Nights (Christmas on the Prado) in Balboa Park; sharing holiday cheer at the Christmas Potluck; celebrating the club's mission, history, and legacy at the Annual Banquet in March; followed by the Annual Barbeque in May. Planning that begins the preceding fall culminates with the six-week San Diego County Fair held at the Del Mar Fairgrounds in June and July for which SDMG's members play a big role both behind the scenes and before the public.

SDMG classes continued to be a Club mainstay that attracted lots of students. The shop was perpetually abuzz with activity. Thanks to Bob Hancock and School Director Wayne Moorhead, the shop and equipment were kept in good working order, with day to day operations running smoothly. In the school year ending last June, 29 classes in 11 different subjects had been taught by 22 instructors.

SDMG instructors donated enormous time and effort to share their professional experience and knowledge on a wide range of subjects, including descriptive mineralogy, cabochon carving, faceting, silver fabrication, metal work, casting, stone setting, rock carving, and sphere making. And by the way, some of our instructors, along with more than a few volunteers, did double-duty demonstrating sphere-making, lapidary art, faceting, and metal-working at various events over the past year, including the Gems, Minerals & Jewelry Dept. at the San Diego County Fair and at the Gem Diego Show. The dedication of our instructors is a big part of the value SDMG provides to its members.

Returning instructors for the 2015 Fall semester will include Andy Anderson, Miguel Asmar, Donna Beers, Rocio Bergum, Jim Claypool, Jon Evans, Bob Hancock, Lee Jackson, Simon King, Jan Kunsa, Wayne Leibitzke, Jackie Leverone, Lois Lukasky, Elbert McCune, Patty Miklik, Doug Peeler, Ellen Riceman, Jerod Schneider, Dee Smith, Denny Turner, Paul Williams, and Rich Yarbrough. If you are interested in taking classes this Fall, remember to renew your club membership if you haven't already done so before signing up. And before coming to class be sure to consult the instructor about space, prerequisite skills/classes, and supplies/tools you may need to bring to class.

Mineral Division and General Meetings. Mineral Division chairperson Jane Roush lined up some great speakers, and past SDMG presidents Jim Parrish and Garry Cannon stepped up to lend a hand to current president Paul Williams with some of the General Meetings. Speakers and topics this past year were varied and interesting. They represented a vast repository of combined experience and knowledge, so we appreciate having had the opportunity to introduce them to our members at our meetings. Doug Peeler made three presentations beginning with the syllabus for his new Descriptive Minerals class, a second presentation on the mineral differences of sagenite, plume and moss agate, and a third on the provocative topic: "Everything you wanted to know about twinned crystals, but were afraid to ask." Jim Parrish was a repeat speaker, as well, presenting a talk on tourmaline and leading the "Show and Tell" meeting in February. Dr. Jeffrey Patterson spoke about his work at the Little Three Mine in Ramona; Dr. Steve Hardinger, owner of Dragon Minerals and longtime collector and mineral dealer gave an intriguing presentation on "Gypsum: Not Just Wallboard Ore"; and Bob Sanger, owner of BKW Opals made a presentation on – you guessed it – Opal. Wayne Leibitzke offered insights into historical gem lore with a presentation on "Aaron's Ephod and Breastplate."

The San Diego County Fair. Singing the praises of many unsung SDMG heroes (i.e., volunteers), Anne Schafer, who took over as Fair Coordinator this year from Greg Anderson after 34 years(!) of impeccable administration, wrote a report on "A Fair to Remember." The list of credits is long, for this event is a marathon for the many volunteers and staffers who toiled long hours, many of them working over the entire six weeks of the show, not to mention attending countless preparatory meetings months in advance. The 2015 Fair article features pictures and a full list of SDMG members' award-winning competitive entries.

The 54th Annual Barbeque. Stepping up to chair the May event was Doug Peeler, taking over from Angela Cannon. Together with a host of stalwart volunteers, Doug greeted a late spring morning of uncharacteristically inclement weather, and braving the elements, they rallied to put on a successful event. A near-debacle was averted when the blustery winds abated and the clouds gave way to a flood of sunshine. Read Doug's (hmm) blow-by-blow report of a fine afternoon on the green »

The 81st Annual Banquet. Charlene Churilla chaired the event for the 21st time: once again she did a great job arranging the restaurant venue (94th Aero Squadron), the fare, and the program. Sixty-five members and their guests attended and were treated to a presentation by Jade authority Roger Merk. He made an informative and entertaining presentation on his favorite topic, focusing on Jade from North American localities. This year, the Carmelita and Bern Swarts Scholarship and the William Tirk Scholarship were awarded to Amanda Linn, for Geology, and Kaiya Rainbolt, for Jewelry and Metalsmith, respectively. The scholarships customarily are given every year at the Banquet to assist two students in the pursuit of their educational endeavors. Scholarship recipients are nominated by the Department Heads of the Geological Sciences and the Jewelry/Metalsmithing College of Fine Arts. Read the review of the Banquet »

Christmas Potluck. Chairperson Bonni Macintosh coordinated another great gathering replete with a fine feast and festive festooning. Stepping up to help out were many of the usual suspects: Donna Casey, Cathy Davis, Sharon Griswold, Mike Harlow, Lee Jackson, Simon King, Betty Jo Lively, Lois Lukasky, Jim and Sally Parrish, Anne Schafer and Wayne Moorhead, Marty Roks, Jane Roush, Gladys Walker, and Jill Williamson. 2014 was Bonni's last outing as chairperson of the Christmas Potluck. She and her team of elves earned well-deserved admiration and praise overseeing this end-of-year celebration, not least for having done it for many years. If there is to be a Potluck dinner in 2015, the Club needs someone willing to step up and take over. If you're interested, contact SDMG president Paul Williams.

December Nights (Christmas on the Prado). In early December, SDMG threw open its doors for a public Open House as part of the annual holiday festivities at Balboa Park. Co-sponsored with the City of San Diego and the Balboa Park Conservancy, the two-day event featured dance and musical performances, carolers and choirs, twinkling lights, and an international food court. Restaurants and museums stayed open late to welcome up to 350,000 visitors. Meanwhile, at the SDMG building, Lois Lukasky, Donna Casey and Debbie Clough decorated the museum, with Lois and Bonnie Zeranski setting up the potluck meal for all the volunteers who set up and staffed the sales booth and shop area for tours. Kudos to our member volunteers who participated: Mike Harlow, who spent hours upon hours cutting geodes for the sales booth; Rocio Bergum, Jill Williamson, Diana Willner, Angela and Garry Cannon, and Jim and Sally Parrish, who staffed the sales booth, with Angela, Garry, and Sally also preparing specimens and the museum for the Open House. Doug Peeler and Donna Casey helped Lois Lukasky with items benefiting the Junior Division. Paul Williams, Denny Turner, Bob Hancock, and Rich Yarbrough welcomed the public into the shop area, giving fascinated visitors a glimpse of what goes into making jewelry and lapidary art. Read the review by Jim Parrish »

Gem Diego Show. SDMG's biggest event filled two floors of the Al Bahr Shrine Center in San Diego. Organized by Bob Hancock, with Roger Merk coordinating the vendor booths, last year boasted the most successful, best-attended show ever. There were Sales Booths, 14 Vendors, dozens of Exhibits, door prizes and a raffle run with humor, fanfare, and great panache by Simon King and Gladys Walker. On Sunday afternoon SDMG president Paul Williams presented Jill Williamson the coveted Jaguar Trophy for her Best of Show display featuring her jewelry and cabochons.

More than any other SDMG-sponsored event, the Gem Diego Show takes a cast of thousands to produce. Perhaps I exaggerate, but only slightly. It takes Lifters, and Loaders, Movers and Packers, Electricians and Wire Pullers, Exhibitors, Educators and Demonstrators, Sales Staff, Promoters and Vendors. Their name is legion. Read Bob's long list of acknowledgments and review of the 2014 extravaganza »

Not to be outdone by their elders, the Junior Division, under Lois Lukasky's guidance, contributed to every Club event, showing off what they had learned in class with their own display cases, pitching in by volunteering at the Juniors' show booths, and hosting the General Meeting in May.

Over the past year the museum collection was enlarged thanks to some generous donors. The Donation Committee also accepted a trove of donated items destined for sale at SDMG's special events, which went a long way toward making them a success, notably the Club booth at the Gem Diego Show and the Open House at Balboa Park's December Nights. Simon King and Gladys Walker, who routinely step up to run every silent auction, door prize drawing, and raffle, ensured that they all were a fun-filled highlight of every event. We are grateful to them and our donors for their contributions, which help sustain the Club.

Credit for the success of SDMG-sponsored events also goes to our loyal Vendors, who always attract throngs of treasure seekers and bargain hunters with their unique offerings of gems and jewelry, lapidary art, mineral and fossil specimens, books, equipment and tools, and more. We appreciate their participation at our events year in and year out.


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By now, dear reader, you will have noticed the same names appear over and over again among the committee members and volunteers who help mount events for which SDMG is a participating organization or sponsor. Angela Cannon – who, incidentally, wore many hats this year, adding Membership Secretary to her many roles – reports that in the year just passed the Club has 765 dues-paying members, which makes SDMG one of the largest gem-mineral clubs in California. Given the size of our Club – which represents an enormous pool of talent, ability, can-do spirit, and yes, brawn – this year we really want to encourage more active participation from the wider membership.

The few have been doing a whole lot for the benefit of the many, but this year it will not be sustainable to rely on the "usual suspects" to carry us through the year. SDMG needs speakers, demonstrators, presenters. All of our indefatigable committee chairpersons of our signature Events and Activities could do with more support, starting with Bob Hancock, who would be pleased to have more hands on deck for the forthcoming Gem Diego Show.

The Society has critical vacancies to fill. As mentioned previously, Bonni Macintosh has stepped down from chairing the Christmas Potluck. We are more than two years out from having an official SDMG Field Trip organizer, which has been an overwhelmingly popular, core activity of our Club in years past. Surely, someone in our midst possessed of an adventurous spirit leavened with a little patience and a lot of good humor can step forward. Please contact Paul Williams if you're willing to give one of these roles a try.

SDMG historian and CFMS representative Shirley Leeson, who is the embodiment and institutional memory of public lands advocacy, announced in May that she was stepping down as president of the American Lands Access Association (ALAA), and shortly thereafter she resigned her position as historian of the California Federation of Mineralogical Societies (CFMS). Her spirit and force of will are undiminished, and she will continue working behind the scenes as a board member, but our weary warrior needs others to take the baton. With heavy hearts and much gratitude we say thank you to both Shirley and Dee Holland, who together have given a lifetime of service from which every gem-mineral and rockhounding club has benefited.

The rockhound community needs to continue actively championing the causes for which Shirley and Dee have been shining exemplars. In the year ahead, we'll need to galvanize our resolve and coordinate our BLM-related efforts. In California, recreational, non-industrial activities on public lands – rockhounding, mining, and access to collecting sites – are under threat like never before from sweeping land use amendment proposals.

Feel free to reach out to me ( if you can draft an article, rally the troops, broadcast a message, hand out brochures or display tabletop posters/placards at shows. Look for my byline here and on the SDMG website in the months ahead. A recent perspective on the ongoing saga of the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP) can be found at:

The relevance of our Club to its members can only be as meaningful as the effort its individual constituents invest. To be sure, donations and money keeps the lights on and machines humming, but dialogue, sharing, and participation forge a community. SDMG has built an astonishingly rich legacy over the past 81 years. The mantle of that legacy devolves to us, the current members – all of us – to nurture and extend it going forward.





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