It’s a tightly-knit group

Retired educators solve problems while they knit

Photos by Matt McPherson/The Valley Chronicle
From left to right Tonda Stone, Mary Zo Judson, Toni Hunter, Paulette Cominotto, Lois Cook, Kitty McCullough, and Mari Crowl.

■ By Matt McPherson / Columnist

On any given Thursday at noon, you can find a group of seven lifelong friends who meet at Destination Coffee Bar & Bistro. This group of former educators gathers every week to dish about the many elaborate and beautiful knitting projects they are working on.
The group was originally called the “Lazy Daisy,” and throughout the years they’ve had many names for their clique – they currently call themselves “The Brain Trust” or “The Goddesses.” They jokingly explained that they gather to help solve the world’s problems: “If anybody has a question within this group, we can usually find a solution.” This isn’t surprising, considering that between the group’s members, more than two centuries of educating experience are represented.
While having lunch at the bistro one day, I couldn’t help but notice some of my former teachers deep in conversation while sharing their knitting projects. To my astonishment, they have all remained close friends for almost four decades and were as intellectually sharp as I remembered them from my childhood days at Ramona Elementary.

Mary Zo Judson shows off some of her elaborate artwork she does with the knitting group. Toni Hunter and Paulette Cominotto cherish their friendship that spans more than 30 years.

The group consists of Tonda Stone, who taught second grade at Ramona Elementary School for more than 25 years. She loves traveling and was an airline hostess and flight attendant before becoming a teacher. Mary Zo Judson has 32 years with the Hemet Unified School District (HUSD). She began teaching in Idyllwild, and then she taught computer classes at Valle Vista Elementary, which was a preparatory class for all grades.
Paulette Cominotto, who loves to travel and favors ski trips, has 25 years in the district with 23 years at Ramona School and two at Cawston Elementary, when it first opened. Lois Cook has 31 years with HUSD, teaching second and fourth grades at Ramona Elementary. She loves to garden and maintains a large citrus grove below her home on Park Hill.
Kitty McCullough has 34 years in the district and has taught kindergarten, third and fourth grades. Mari Crowl has more than 32 years in the district and taught kindergarten and a combination of second and third grades at Ramona Elementary. Toni Hunter was a district nurse for 15 years.
They claim they don’t always acquiesce to their sometimes differing viewpoints, but can always agree to disagree. The group is able to solve any internal conflicts due to their many years of friendship.
“We have a great support system and are very like-minded,” said Cominotto. “It’s such a special group because we’ve known each other for more than 30 years.”
When asked what the group does with the beautiful knitting projects they bring in weekly, I was told they usually give them as gifts to family and friends, wear them, and some end up next to the sink for washing the dishes.
Groups such as these are what make our San Jacinto Valley a special place. Destination Coffee Bar & Bistro has become a place where lifelong friends can gather and reminisce over the changes our valley has experienced, and has nurtured these unique friendships into this tightly-knit group that gathers every Thursday at noon.

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