■ Matt McPherson / Columnist
In 1975 Dianne Verdugo started volunteering her time at the Valle Vista Library and in 1980 became a member of Friends of the Valle Vista Library Board, where she remained for 25 years.
In that time Verdugo oversaw the rebuilding of the library, where she was an advocate and was extremely vocal in the evolution of Valle Vista’s hidden gem. In 1993 she initiated a program at the library which sent valentines to hospitalized veterans at Loma Linda Hospital for more than 22 years. The program had a box in the library, which encouraged children, students and families throughout the area to decorate and bring in cards for injured veterans. The program was exceptional in that it not only benefitted the veterans but also drew in the public to experience the Valle Vista Library. Beginning this year, Lynn Peterson and San Jacinto Community Builders took over the program, collecting valentines for the veterans throughout the valley.
In May of 2003 Verdugo began donating time to the traveling Vietnam Veterans Memorial, “The Moving Wall,” when it came to San Jacinto and she continues to cooperate any way she can. In previous years she was integral in locating names on the wall for fallen service member’s families and friends. Her knowledge of the computer databases and related memorial books has made her a special asset in the sacred ceremonies and commemorations associated with the wall.
Another tradition of Verdugo’s is reading the Roll Call at the Riverside National Cemetery on Memorial Day. She has participated in this patriotic event every year since its introduction in 2009. The first year it took place, the Roll Call began on Armed Forces Day and continued through Memorial Day, naming 48,000 to 50,000 service members and took place 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, with volunteers reading for an hour each until completed. In recent years the Roll Call has been reduced to include veterans from year to year.
Verdugo has also maintained and contributed to the service member memorial board on the northwest corner of Fairview and Florida avenues, which remained for more than 10 years as a dedication to fallen service members from the Middle East conflict. Due to vandalism and wear from the weather, the board was eventually taken down respectfully and the pictures and memorabilia were gifted to local museums.
Verdugo is currently hosting “Moments in Time,” a monthly speaker program at the Valle Vista Library, which begins March 9. The first speaker will be Verdugo, who will share her experiences as a volunteer docent for the Vietnam Moving Wall Memorial in stories, pictures and archival materials. She will also talk about observing March 30, which is “Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day,” and was made a state of California holiday by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger during his tenure. 2017 is the 50 year anniversary of withdrawal of troops from Vietnam.
The April speaker, Mike Herman, will talk about hiking up the famous Indian Canyon in Palm Springs. Mike is a very knowledgeable canyon ranger supervisor and guide for the Agua Caliente Indian Tribe in the Coachella Valley. In May, Mr. and Mrs. Warneke, long-time residents of the San Jacinto Valley, will talk about the famous landing of a Russian airplane in San Jacinto in 1935 at the intersection of Cottonwood and Sanderson avenues. Another interesting talk will be given by Verdugo’s husband, Edward Verdugo, who is a pigeon breeder and expert, who is slated for June.
The Valle Vista Library hosts an assortment of activities and gatherings each month, including preschool story time, young readers and writers group, movie night, and Wii Games day. Stay tuned for upcoming events and activities throughout the year. If you are interested in speaking at a future “Moment in Time” event or have an interesting story about the valley to share, contact her at the Valle Vista Library, which is on the southwest corner of Fairview and Florida avenues at 25757 Fairview Ave., Hemet, CA 92544. You can contact them at (951) 927-2611.