As Friends In Deed celebrates its 125th anniversary this month, the nonprofit will honor a true power couple who’ve helped instrument prolific change across the city and worked their hardest to ensure that change is positive for all area residents.
Bill and Claire Bogaard will be recognized with lifetime achievement awards at the event, an honor that the 50-year Pasadena residents say they feel privileged and humbled to accept. Apart from having served as the longest-running mayor, with four terms totaling 16 years, Bill Bogaard has served on multiple nonprofit boards, as has Claire, who also served on the city’s Planning Commission.
“It is wonderful and gracious of them to think of us and we appreciate it very, very much,” Bill Bogaard said, recognizing the nonprofit without missing a beat. “I hope it also helps create an opportunity for us all to talk about the important work Friends In Deed is doing and really spread the word about the greater issues at hand. I’m proud of the commitment the city has made over the years to address the needs of homeless persons, and to support organizations like this that continue to help create solutions for them.”
Friends In Deed, meanwhile, said it is excited to bestow the honor and keep pushing forward the issues that affect those experiencing homelessness.
“This recognition is not only to our agency but reflective of Bill’s and Claire’s representation of model citizens here in our Pasadena community. It goes without saying what a wonderful job Bill did as our mayor, but his commitment now as a citizen speaks volumes of who he is as a person,” said Friends In Deed board chair Richard Cheung. “Claire also continues to make Pasadena a better place to work and live with her passion in historic preservation. We could not celebrate a more deserving couple alongside our 125th anniversary year.”
Sitting down to discuss the upcoming honor, the Bogaards reflected on some of their work over the years, touching on current issues and the work they still hope to achieve. At 80 (Claire) and 81 (Bill), they show no signs of abandoning their passion or vision for Pasadena.
“I’ve always said the only way I’m leaving this community is going to be in my pine box,” said Claire, who moved to Pasadena reluctantly after Bill proposed the area as a convenient commute to downtown and a good place to start a family. “I did, I came very reluctantly, but I got over that quickly. I fell in love with the place. There were a lot of younger families moving in and it was a wonderful time to be here. And it still is!”
The Bogaards came to the city in 1971, shortly after spending two years in Casablanca, Morocco (leading to years of amusement when folks would ask if they had frequented “Rick’s Cafe” while they were there: “Of course, there is actually a Rick’s there now,” Bill mused).
Before settling down in town, Claire had her heart set on living near the ocean, having spent time as a young girl near the Westside and originally hailing from San Francisco. But even back then, home prices were daunting, she recalled, and they quickly settled into Pasadena’s vibrant energy.
“This city has its own sense of place, a beautiful setting with the mountains, which I’ve come to love as much as I once loved the ocean, and also the diversity of people and activities is heartwarming and really provides a very comfortable place to live,” she noted.
Both Bill and Claire quickly became enveloped in community issues, including the schools, as their family grew to include four children, who all attended a mix of public and private schools, with three graduating from Blair High School. The parents both served as PTA presidents throughout the years.
“Pasadena has a tradition of being committed to nonprofits, and community involvement is a tradition within this community that was well established for generations, before even we arrived,” noted Claire, with Bill quipping, “It is Pasadena’s DNA.”
Bill, who never thought of himself as a future politician, gradually came to learn about pressing city issues when he stepped in at the West Pasadena Residents Association to succeed a work colleague. The group provided the perfect exposure to city government, prompting Bogaard to learn about land use planning, zoning, traffic compliance and other neighborhood issues affecting the group. Ultimately, he served on City Council for nearly eight years, including a two-year stint as mayor. Back when the city voted to terminate the informal council rotation for mayor in 1998, making it an elected position, Bogaard was the first to throw his hat in the ring. By that point, he’d worked for 20 years as an attorney in securities and financial services, and another 15 in banking law, and was taking a break, teaching at USC’s law school and litigating (“And trying to figure out what I wanted to do when I grew up,” he laughed), when the opportunity to run as mayor came up.
Claire was supportive from the get-go, which, in hindsight, may be the secret to their marital success: The Bogaards have been married for 58 years, and although it might be rare for a couple not to see some adversity in such a long period, the two always maintained mutual and individual interests.
“We’ve always been respectful of each other’s interests and supportive of those activities as opposed to resenting them. … There have been many issues upon which we don’t agree, but that hasn’t prevented us from maintaining a constructive, happy relationship,” said Bill. Added Claire: “I think we tried really hard to stay out of each other’s way when there were issues that we knew we’d have to deal with and might put one of us in a difficult situation — somehow, we always weathered it.”
The Bogaards ruminated on what they mildly recalled as some sticking points. Claire became a pioneer in the historic preservation movement, founding the Pasadena Heritage nonprofit and serving as its executive director for 12 years. In 1981, preservation was a foreign idea to many involved in city planning, who saw the movement and its organizers as radical obstructionists. Now, of course, the organization is viewed as having saved some of the city’s most treasured landmarks.
“There was no question that Claire was controversial at the time, but as the merits of the positions that Pasadena Heritage took and as the benefits to the community started to emerge, the attitudes toward it and toward Claire changed from obstructionists to a great appreciation for what the city represents today,” Bill commented, noting that he may have had to “bite my tongue” on a few issues, with Claire adding coyly: “I didn’t feel [obstructionist], I always just say I was a little noisier than some.”
Through Pasadena Heritage, Claire also became an advocate for low-income housing with the creation of Heritage Housing Partners, which later spun off as its own nonprofit. During recent years, Claire also chaired the “No 710” regional advocacy coalition that was instrumental in terminating the 710 Freeway tunnel project. She continues to help monitor the process of what will happen to the 120 homes along that corridor in hopes that they become affordable housing options and some new mixed-use affordable housing that might arise from the “ditch” that was supposed to become the tunnel.
That brings the Bogaards back to what they see as the greatest issue facing Pasadena now and in the near future: housing.
“It’s an enormous challenge, but the commitment to affordable housing to those who cannot afford at-market rate is immensely important,” Bill noted. “I hope the city continues to seek ways to meet that need, to continue strengthening the public schools, and the combination of our very diverse population, which makes for a wonderful and rich community. But as economic trends continue it’s harder for that diversity to be maintained.”
Until affordable housing becomes a reality, the Bogaards noted, they’ll continue supporting nonprofits like Friends In Deed that are providing comfort to those experiencing homelessness. Among its efforts, the couple said, the food pantry, bad weather shelter and the Women’s Room are of particular importance to the community. Claire, in particular, was an early supporter of the idea for the Women’s Room, noting, “As a woman, to be homeless, to have a safe space to clean up, rest, eat and converse with other women, it’s such an important attribute.”
Meanwhile, Rabbi Joshua Levine Grater, Friends In Deed executive director, said he looks forward to giving the Bogaards some well-deserved attention at the organization’s upcoming gala.
“It is time for them to be recognized so people can say ‘Thank you’ for their years of service. The Bogaards are very unassuming and low-key, but they pack a big punch,” he said. “They are truly a power couple that has impacted so many of our stakeholders.”