Where Your Life, Pictures and Stories are Visited

Ardith Vignati Willner

Remembrances of Days Passed

Many Places - Lots Of Memories 

  • San Francisco and Burlingame CA
  • England, Sweden and Israel
  • Los Angeles, Hermosa Beach, Woodland Hills, CA
  • Santa Cruz, CA

Living in all of these exciting places has been fun and a life altering experience.  Most of all, I met interesting fun people everywhere.

Those Were The Days

Stories and Remembrances of my Adventures

  • Halloween one year was special as my mom made my brother and I monkey costumes, with monkey faces and long tails. Also the twin baby dolls I got one Christmas from Santa were a real find and a great joy to me.  Of course all of my dolls had names and personalities and were alive to me.
  • Flying Tigers got me to Tokyo, Viet Nam (during the war), The Philippines, Guam, Korea, Turkey, Israel and Hawaii by way of Anchorage Alaska. So I also got to see polar bears close up and the gigantic veggies in Alaska – land of the midnight sun!  I can attest to the fact that vodka never tastes colder than on a snow bank in Alaska.
  • I also flew into Saigon, Vietnam under heavy Viet Cong enemy fire more than once, carrying young American soldiers and Marines in and some fortunate and less fortunate ones out – a bit thrilling as such things are – an adrenalin rush for sure.  It was scary and a bit surreal to be there, so when I landed in San Francisco a week later my activism to the war had begun.
  • I came back to the US in the late sixties after years abroad and it as a natural thing for me to find my path evolving again.  So I chose to become a San Francisco hippie and flower child. But one who always had a job and drove around in a most colorfully painted VW Camper.
  • Those early days when the Haight-Ashbury era first began in San Francisco were quite innocent. Before the hard drugs and the thugs it was truly about peace and love and we were a happy bunch.
  • I got to work under the master furrier Paul Zenter in San Francisco. With my own fur crafting machine I started my first little business, ’Funny Furry Things’ and got a chance to meet some of the interesting and famous people Paul served such as the great ballet star Rudolf Nureyev.
  •       1987  AKW to London
  • Litton BTS hired me to sell privately owned phone systems to businesses such as the Alioto law firm in San Francisco, the Archdiocese of the Catholic Church and others, in competition with AT&T. It was the ‘Interconnect’ battle royale to break the then great AT& T monopoly.
  • On one joint sales call in downtown SF at a major law firm Leo and I drove those high priced attorneys to distraction with a bag of giant walnuts we had purchased along the way that Leo placed dead center on their magnificent mahogany conference table . They could not take their eyes off those walnuts, as down to Earth they were not.  They did sign the contract to buy our fancy Litton BTS telephone system.
  • As I was approaching the age of thirty, and had already been engaged four times, my Mother warned me that if I didn’t go through with and marry Leo….she would never plan another wedding for me. Not to worry mom, I knew Leo was my soul mate!  We are so grateful to have found one another.
  • Every summer mornings in those days I would set the dining room table, start dinner and then put on sun tan lotion to go out and begin painting the outside of our new house near LAX.  Fred, a neighbor, would pick on Leo when he could, with “I like the way you train your wife and have her paint your house!”.  I had had it with him so I spoke up saying: “No Fred, that’s not the reason, the real reason is that Leo is so good in bed I don’t want to tire him out!!”  Fred, stalked away talking to himself.

  More Fun Highlights Closer To Now

  • UCLA Interior Design School was amazing in all aspects of art, design, architecture, style and period and a challenge on the drawing board. Later I put it all to good use employed by several high styled design houses plying the Beverly Hills, Encino and Malibu crowd.
  • American Sales Masters training was a real challenge. They started very early in the morning and they were compulsive and relentless. Happily, when classes ended I had won their ‘Oscar’ for most accomplished on sales prowess.  I still utilize the lessons I learned in that class.
  • Up at Sequoia National Park the bees and the bears had their way with us one holiday. What a surprise I got coming out of our cabin to brush my teeth at dusk one evening. There, just feet away, by the patio picnic table sat two bears munching on the rib bones we had foolishly left behind as a treat for smaller game. The bears glared at me and I gawked in awe as I very quickly jumped back thru the cabin door.
  • Hiking and camping at the highest of the High Sierras in California near Royce Lake at over 11,000 feet was grand. While we didn't catch the legendary Golden Trout, neither did we catch a cold. Just lots of adventure and a bit of rock climbing in the clear mountain air. The high mountains and big trees have always been a place that lights up my heart.
  • We finally had the financial means and as Leo was between senior executive assignments for the summer we had the time to take a seventeen week, seventeen country, automobile tour of Europe in 1984. Early in June we picked up a new red VW Golf Convertible at the factory in Frankfurt, Germany and off we went maps in hand only returning to California in October … what an adventure it was from Norway to Greece!.
  • I sewed myself two beautiful Hawaiian dresses and five matching shirts for Leo to wear and off we went on a great corporate junket to the Hyatt Hotel at Kanapali Beach, Maui. There we hosted thirty senior executives and their wives for a week of fun and sun, as their reward for greatly exceeding the most challenging business plan of the major food company Leo served as President. It was a fancy and costly junket!

  • When Leo became the President of a worldwide group of nine construction equipment companies, we had full access to its penthouse apartment overlooking the world famous Rubens Square in mid Antwerp, Belgium near its enormous ancient cathedral. From there we could venture north to Amsterdam and south to Brussels and Paris. It was a bit of European homecoming for me whenever I joined Leo on one of his business trips. 
  • In those days we had a house on the beach in Hermosa Beach, CA.  It was on a walk street, with a large front patio and a hundred yards of sand to the water.  We shared many evenings on the beach with friends for nice dinners, great parties and lots of good times... it was our place in the sun.
  • The time came, as my parents were getting up in age and my grandmother had reached ninety, to come back home to the Bay Area to care for our elderly family. I consider it a privilege and an honor to have been there for them in their time of need for support.                                                                                                                  
  •  Of course it is hard to beat  having access to the Napa Valley, Lake Tahoe, Carmel and San Francisco.  For all these reasons and more we were excited to be returning home.                                                                                
  • As Leo was now in his late fifties it was time to leave corporate life and all its great stress and move on to consulting – which he was anxious to do. So we chose Santa Cruz, CA as the best place to live in part for its superior access to three major airports for Leo’s upcoming travels. It’s been a wonderful choice.                                                                                       
  • I got very excited about the great surge of interest in California in gourd art. I took classes, met many fine artists, joined the Gourd Society and became one of its officers and created a body of my own work that has gained approval.                                                                                           
  • As a result I became the exclusive western distributor for Detail Master a renowned company in the wood and leather carving tool business that offered high quality tools for working on gourds. For a number of years I attended shows all over the country selling Detail Master tools at gourd shows. I met so many nice people and fine artists -- it was a great experience.                                                                          
  • As my interest in art grew I became acquainted with the amazing world of glass art.   I had great teachers and with their help tried out a lot of techniques.  Later I was chosen as a teaching assistant at the top American glass art school, Pilchuck in the state of Washington. There I participated with world renowned masters of the art - a heady experience for me.  This led to my innovating a novel Spousal Glass Art Class for attendees of major corporate business conferences - popular to this day. 
  • Between my interests in gourds, glass art and my flower design work at Pebble Beach I have remained as busy as ever. We love Santa Cruz, the people.. our good friends.. the great vibes etc..  For all of that and the fun life we share, we are grateful.
  • I finally got my wish and we purchased a VW Eurovan Camper in perfect shape. I had the outside redone to a most colorful design of my own - as you can see in the enclosed photos - it looks fabulous! So we took it up north for a shakedown cruise to the summer Reggae Festival in Northern California to camp among the big trees and all that ambiance. The reggae scene was all around us and the music was exhilarating and wonderful.
  • It has been a great adventure for me, like no other I have known.  I am thankful for all of it, even the occasional pain, and anticipate the next chapter with an open heart.
  • The following year Leo got his bucket list wish and we organized and eleven week, twenty seven states, ten thousand mile camping tour across the USA. Leo went ahead with our dog Giuseppe for four weeks on the northern route ending in Niagara Falls. There he picked me up at the Toronto Airport and we headed South and East. We stopped and stayed with friends in Bridgewater NJ, Philadelphia PA, Charlotte NC, Bardstown KY, Santa Fe NM along the way. What a fun journey - America is so vast and so beautiful.                                          
  • For my sixty eight birthday I went sky diving in Monterey and jumped out into the thin air at eighteen thousand feet attached to a topnotch skydiver. We stayed in free fall for more than two miles reaching perhaps 120 miles per hour, then the chute deployed and my guide maneuvered the chute prancingly for fun till we gently hit the ground – what a thrill!                                            
  • I have been on a spiritual quest ever since i was a little girl. So as I started the next decade of my life in February of 2014, I went off on a spiritual hiatus to The Oaks retreat in Ojai, CA.  It was a wonderful week of lessons in meditation, Chakras and physical training with 'Uber Wonderful' natural food and much else.  Taken together this spiritual adventure into self brought me joy, renewed energy and much delight.                                       
  • It has all been a great ride for me so far.. thanks to good health, good fortune and much love and also to many of you.

To Return to Ardith Willner Front Page