Each year, five new inductees grace Porterville City Hall’s Wall of Fame. Those honored are recognized for their significant contributions, efforts and service to the Porterville community. Due to the COVID pandemic, the previous 2020 and 2021 winners were not publicly honored until Friday when they were recognized, along with the 2022 winners, at Centennial Park.
The names and biographies of the 2022 recipients were published in Wednesday’s edition of the Porterville Recorder.
The 2021 Porterville Wall of Fame recipients and the person who nominated them are the late Jeff Edwards, selected by Mayor Monte Reyes; Janice Castle, selected by Vice Mayor Martha A. Flores; Virginia Gurrola, selected by Council member Kellie Carrillo; Teresa A. de la Rosa-Garcia, chosen by former board member Daniel Penaloza; and Gang Sue, selected by council member Milt Stowe.
Described as someone who truly had a legendary life, the late Edwards was born in 1922 and survived polio and cancer. And though he didn’t see combat due to the effects of polio, Edwards served in the U.S. Army as a base photographer during World War II, documenting everything from John Steinbeck and U.S. presidents. to community and other Porterville events.
Released in 1946, Edwards returned home, opened his own studio, eventually opening the Edwards studio on Main Street where he remained in business for 52 years. Edwards also freelanced for local newspapers and is known for photographing a Hells Angels showdown on Olive Avenue.
Edwards collected old community portraits and became the go-to resource for museum exhibits, historical overviews and centennial celebrations. He has also published several books. “Main Street – Then & Now” in 1976, and because it was often stolen from the Porterville Library, it prompted the creation of the History Room. “Porterville Main Street” was used to fund downtown improvements, and “The Zaluds of Porterville” was written with the blessing of Pearle Zalud, a good friend of Edwards.
A storyteller and photographer, Edwards became a local icon synonymous with Porterville history, as he ensured that all of the history he recorded was preserved as he published his work in many forms. He is the author of over 40 books and publications, most on the history of the Porterville area. He also wrote an autobiography.
Edwards preserved 70 years of work in thousands of slide copies of historic photographs, which were donated, along with many personal photographs, to the Porterville Museum, prompting the creation of the “Jeff Edwards Room”.
An avid golfer, Edwards married Rosemary and had three children, Guy, Gayle and Gwenn.
A Porterville native with deep roots in the area, Castle graduated from Porterville High believing it is the responsibility of every citizen to give back to the community and make it a better place to live. Therefore, she dedicated her career endeavors to helping people achieve their dreams.
As Market President for the Porterville/Lindsay region at Bank of the Sierra, Castle joined the team over 30 years ago with a passion for helping clients.
She was nationally recognized by the United States Small Business Administration in 2006 for her commitment and dedication to helping women in business, with a focus on minority entrepreneurs and small business owners. .
Castle is also active in her community. She was named Woman of the Year by the Porterville Chamber of Commerce in 2007 and has served on numerous boards including Porterville College Foundation, Tulare County Office of Education Foundation, Central California Family Crisis Center, and served for over 10 years on the Board of the Sierra View Foundation.
Through the Porterville Breakfast Rotary Club, Castle was credited with founding and supporting the “Stars in the Hills” ball, an event presented to students with intellectual and developmental disabilities in the area.
A graduate of Lindsay High School, Porterville College, and Cal State Bakersfield, Gurrola’s political leadership began as a MEChA advisor at Porterville College when she aimed to inspire and show her students the importance of local government in involving them in the political process. She ran for and was elected to the Porterville City Council as the first Mexican-American woman to serve on the council. Gurrola became the first Mexican-American mayor in the city’s history. She remained elected for 13 years, serving from 1995 to 2003. Gurrola was reelected in 2012, appointed mayor from 2012 to 2013, and in July 2019 appointed to the city council to fill a vacant position until December 2020.
In addition to his general duties, Gurrola chaired Porterville’s Tax Transactions and Usage Oversight Committee, served on the Tulare County Governments Association for 12 years, the Mitigation and Rail Committee and at the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control Board.
During his tenure, many projects were envisioned and completed including the Sports Complex, Main Street Bridge Widening and Orange-Main-Date Street Corridor Revitalization, Casa Water and Development Project From Rio and East Porterville Water Supply. Project.
She has received numerous awards, was inducted into the Porterville College Distinguished Hall of Fame by the PC Foundation, named Innovator of the Year by the Kern Community College Board, received the Distinguished Alumni Award from the Lindsay Unified School Board, and received recognition from the California State Assembly for his leadership roles.
Gurrola’s 34 years at Porterville College included several leadership positions. She served as Director of Extended Opportunity Program and Services, Financial Aid Department, Office of Admissions and Records, and Executive Director of the PC Foundation.
She was also President of the Academic Senate, MEChA advisor and coordinated various early awareness programs.
Since 2016, she has chaired the South County Tourism Committee, the Mighty 190.
She has served on the board of the Family Crises Center, Comision Honorifica Mexicana Americana, and is a member of the American Association of University Women of Porterville and was a facilitator for Leadership Porterville.
TERESA A. DE LA ROSA-GARCIA
Born in Chihuahua, Mexico, de la Rosa-Garcia attended Universidad Nacional Automoma de Mexico in Mexico City, where she earned a degree in international relations. His graduation was delayed due to the student strike of the student movement of 68 – Movimiento Estudiantil. In 1969, she attended a UNAM Students and Chicano Leaders of the Southwest Conference in New Mexico. This conference changed his life.
She enrolled at Fresno State, where she also worked as a teaching assistant in the La Raza curriculum, and met her husband Roberto de la Rosa while on a hunger strike. Both were actively involved in the La Raza Law Students Association.
A graduate of Hastings College of the Law, de la Rosa-Garcia worked for the San Francisco Law Collective before moving with other law students from Hastings to Bakersfield where they founded their first OLA Raza office.
OLA Raza operated three law firms for several years until in 1988 they became nine Immigrant Rights Centers during the amnesty program. Currently, OLA Raza operates six Immigrant Advocacy Centers and de la Rosa-Garcia is Deputy Director and, since 2003, Director of Advocacy.
For her dedication to service and advocacy, she has received numerous awards, including the Ohtli Award from the Mexican Government in 2006. She has been recognized by the California State Legislature and the California Senate, the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Kings and Tulare Counties, the League of Mexican American Women of Tulare and Kings Counties, and the Association of Mexican American Educationalists. She also received the Human Rights Award from the Soroptimist International Club of Tulare County. She continues to serve on several nonprofit boards, including Legal Services of Central California, Family Health Care Network, Comision Honorifica Mexicana Americana, Inc., and has been involved in public service in as a member of the Porterville City Charter Commission, Sierra View District Hospital Redistricting Committee, Tulare County Redistricting Advisory Committee, and Tulare County Grand Jury.
Sue’s first restaurant, the Tea Garden-Chop Suey House was on Main Street across from what is now Don Vino’s restaurant. In 1948 Sue opened Gang Sue’s Tea Garden on North Main Street. In 1957, he expanded it to include the Jade Room dining room and cocktail bar, renowned for its grilled steaks and lobster. In 1967, the Lantern Room Banet and Golden Dragon Cocktail Bar were built, and the previous banquet hall became the Ming Room for fine dining.
Before the new Highway 65 bypassed downtown Porterville, the old highway ran through downtown and many movie stars and sports celebrities stopped and dined at Gang Sues including Marlon Brando, Steve McQueen, Maury Wills , Don Baylor and former President Richard Nixon.
The restaurant was also a place for business and meetings. It’s unclear how many business transactions were made in his lounges, and at least 133 service clubs encountered a Gang Sues weekly and monthly. The restaurant was also used for Christmas and holiday parties, birthdays, weddings, and seasonal vacations.
With the addition of the Golden Dragon Room and Lounge, Porterville had a place to dance, entertain, and socialize, and offered many bands the opportunity to start and perform in the Golden Dragon Room.