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Woman of the year spent life advocating for others

Longtime Claremont community activist, volunteer and senior citizens’ advocate Sandy Hester was recently recognized for her numerous accomplishments and contributions to the region with a Congressional Woman of the Year Award from Rep. Judy Chu, D-Pasadena.

Since retiring as program director for the Council on Aging Orange County in 2007—before that, she was the director for Planned Parenthood in Orange and San Bernardino Counties—Ms. Hester has become a full-time volunteer. The 74-year-old has dedicated her life to helping others.

Among her many leadership positions, Ms. Hester is currently the chair of the California Senior Leaders Alliance’s Los Angeles region, AARP district liaison for the San Gabriel Valley Region and community representative for Tri-City Mental Health Services, which serves Claremont, Pomona and La Verne.

A lifelong Democratic, Ms. Hester was a California State Senate candidate in 1988, 1992 and 1994, and recently retired from her position as vice president of the Democratic Club of Claremont, which she says she helped reactivate when she moved to Claremont in 1973.

“Politicians make the rules that govern our lives,” Ms. Hester says of her political activism. “If we don’t pay attention to who those people are making the rules, we are in big trouble.”

Ms. Hester, who has been occupying herself with helping four local non-profits apply for $10,000 grants related to community well-being through Tri-City, was surprised and excited by the announcement of her award, and reflected on her time serving Claremont.

“I love meeting all kinds of people and listening to them and learning about their lives and their challenges and their successes,” Ms. Hester says. “I’m just very interested in my community and helping to make people in my community have a better, more successful life in any way I can.”

Ms. Hester likes that the city is close-knit, and that children can grow up together and attend the same junior high and high school. She says her sons, ages 51 and 49, “have friends to this day that they met in grammar school.”

She also appreciates how engaged and involved with their community Claremont citizens are.

“Even though people come and go, the hub of the activists are here and we’ve all gotten to know each other,” Ms. Hester says. “We get along because we’re working toward the same objectives: to make life better for the people in our community.”

Ms. Hester has ties to the Claremont Colleges as well — she received a master’s degree in public policy from Claremont Graduate University in 1997, served as the associate director of Pomona College’s public policy program in the late 80s and has been renting out rooms in her house to international students from the Keck Graduate Institute for the past six years.

“I love students,” says Ms. Hester, who is currently hosting two women from India. “The first year, I had two young girls from China. And I’ve had Taiwan, Philippines, Saudi Arabia. So it’s very interesting.”

She says her partner-in-crime is John Ammon, a retired teacher from Auburn whom she met in 2012 at a Senior Leaders Alliance meeting in Oakland. Ms. Hester says Mr. Ammon called her on the phone every night for months afterward, and moved to Claremont that fall.

“It’s great to have that support and a loving partner is like a miracle in my life,” Ms. Hester says. “We are like a team.”

Ms. Hester will be honored at an awards ceremony in San Marino on Saturday, April 8.

—Kellen Browning

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