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GC: Top 5 Neighbors

By Jessica Rodrigo
Jan. 26, 2012 at 12:05 p.m.
Updated Jan. 25, 2012 at 7:26 p.m.


Neighbors come in all shapes and sizes including the pets, kids and grandparents. They can take away the worry of feeding the cats while you visit your dear Aunt Sally in Arkansas or they can be dependable to cheer you up after a surgery or long hospital visit.

No matter where the neighborhood lies in the Golden Crescent, there are those few that people that are reliable for a smile, a meal and some company.

These are the Top 5 Neighbors in the Golden Crescent as voted on by none other than by the neighbors themselves.

Herman Novak

A little more than 20 years ago, Herman Novak and his family moved from El Campo to a new neighborhood in Port Lavaca. In the Oak Grove Subdivision, the lawns are neatly manicured and everyone knows each other.

After settling in, the insurance agent would walk nightly in the neighborhood with his wife, Angela, and on occasion, they would see their elderly neighbor pushing her daughter around in a wheelchair. This small act of love and display of dedication inspired the Novaks to lend a helping hand to their 93-year-old neighbor across the street.

"We saw how she was with her daughter and wanted to help her in return," Herman said. "I help her whenever I can."

That elderly neighbor, Inona Buren, nominated Herman Novak because of his helpful hand when her husband was still alive and the help he continues to give after his passing.

"Any time I need anything, he's there to help," Inona said. "He has mowed my yard, planted a shrub and fixed my window screens many times."

Herman, an agent for the Herman Novak Agency in Port Lavaca, served in the U.S. Navy in the '70s and received his bachelor's degree from Sam Houston State University. When he is not helping Buren with her yard or other tasks around the house, you may see him on his hog because he is an elder for the Victoria Area Chapter of Bikers for Christ.

Family: Wife, Angela, 55, married for 35 years. Two children, daughter, Kelli Power, 32, married with 2 children in Spring; son, 22, student at Texas A&M-College Station.

Do you remember a neighbor who made a lasting impression on you?

Inona Buren, at age 93, has always given my wife and me lots of wisdom and excellent advice. She inspired me with the care she gave her handicapped daughter for 65 years. She is one amazing woman.

What characteristics do you think make a great neighbor?

The characteristics that make a great neighbor are friendliness and honesty. I want a neighbor I can give my house key to and know it's safe. Mrs. Buren has done a lot of nice things for my family. She would feed our dogs when we would leave town. She's been a great friend and loyal neighbor.

Is there something in particular you can think of that makes your neighborhood a great place to live?

There are a lot of great families in the Oak Grove Subdivision. The neighbors are quiet and respectful. My wife and I walk the neighborhood most evenings, and there are always friendly people outside. I wouldn't live anywhere else.

What advice can you give to someone moving into a new neighborhood?

When moving into a new neighborhood, first and most importantly is to respect your neighbors. Think about their comfort and remember the Golden Rule.

Pickle Cash

"Pickle" Cash and her husband, Joe, have lived in the same neighborhood for six years. About a year ago, without knowing what would become a lifelong friendship, Pickle was greeted by her neighbor, Charlotte Hale.

"It was nice because usually I have to go over there and introduce myself," Pickle explained. "So, I was so excited."

Pickle, who is originally from Ganado, has lived in several different places before settling in Hallettsville. Having always been on the move, she said becoming familiar with her neighbors was and is still important to her. She added she is always interested in lending a hand and meeting the other people who live in her community.

And as a teacher's aide for pre-K at Sacred Heart Catholic School and a caregiver at Solid Rock Christian Daycare, she knows a lot of people. "She knows everyone, and children adore her. She's just a sweet Pickle," Charlotte said playfully.

Pickle, 59, may have a full workload with the school and the daycare, but there is always time for a game of Aggravation with Charlotte and her mom, Jeanette Odneal, who both wrote wonderful things about Pickle and nominated her as a great neighbor. "She's like my other daughter," Jeanette said.

When Charlotte moved her mom to the neighborhood about a year ago, the duo became a trio. Now you can see the ladies sitting outside on the patio together, laughing, teasing and finishing each others' sentences. "We've adopted each others' families," Pickle added.

Family: Husband, Joe, married 37 years. Children, Twins, Donald, 36; Ronald, 36; and Kasey Phelps, 29.

Do you remember a neighbor who made a lasting impression on you?

Charlotte Hale, of Hallettsville. We had just moved to Hallettsville, and I didn't know anyone in my new neighborhood. One day, I was outside sweeping my driveway, when my next-door neighbor came over to introduce herself. It was the greatest day. We talked like we had known each other forever. Charlotte is my best friend. She is always there for me and my family, and now her mom also has joined us.

Lydia Gonzalez, of Freeport, helped me when Joe was away working on his masters for a week at a time.

There were many friends and neighbors who were always there for me while we lived in Freer.

Esparanza Gonzalez and Anjelica Fieros, of Falfurrias, travelled to the doctor in Corpus with me and took care of me following surgery.

The Kay family, of Refugio, treated our whole family as part of their own.

All of these people were like family to me since I have always lived away from my own family.

What characteristics do you think make a great neighbor?

Being a great neighbor is someone being there for you when you need a helping hand or just being a good friend.

Is there something in particular you can think of that makes your neighborhood a great place to live?

It is a quiet place even though it is across the street from a high school and a daycare. We have many wonderful neighbors in addition to our special next-door neighbors, creating a big happy family atmosphere.

What advice can you give to someone moving into a new neighborhood?

Be open to your neighbors, and allow a friendship to develop.

Mary Cooke

Mary Cooke's home was built on a lot near the Colony Creek Golf Course and may have eventually coaxed her into the position of neighborhood "Mom."

"From my kitchen window, you can see I have a perfect view of the neighborhood," she explained from a designated position in the kitchen. "I can usually see people coming in or out the neighborhood."

Mary confessed that she's not paranoid about unknown people in the neighborhood, but says she just knows who is supposed to be there and who is not. It's no wonder she helped to start the Neighborhood Watch crime prevention program and got the neighborhood involved in the 2011 National Night Out with the help of the Victoria Police Department.

"She's very active in the neighborhood," said Nancy Zatopek, who nominated Mary as a great neighbor. "Everyone is close to her, and she takes care of everyone."

The neighborhood is peaceful with its view of the golf course and Loop 463 in the background, but if ever there is any commotion, homeowners can be certain that Mary will be there to check out the scene. She said there was one time when some neighbors were out of town, and she saw some kids breaking into a home down the street.

"I was on the phone, calling 911 and was running down the street," she said. "The police told me I didn't have to do it, but I had to."

She knows everyone in the neighborhood on a first- and last-name basis and refers to herself as the "Auntie" to all the dogs.

Family: Husband, Mark, married 36 years. Three children, Aaron, 32; Allison, 26; and Lauren, 23.

Do you remember a neighbor who made a lasting impression on you?

As a child, I was raised in Rayne, La. Amazing neighbors surrounded us in Louisiana, but our favorite had to be Mable and Elmo Boudreaux. She was our family doctor's nurse and he was the owner of the saddle/shoe shop in town. Before being of school age, you could usually find me having lunch with Mable and Elmo. Being a great nurse, Mable taught me a trick to not fear having a shot. I used this trick to teach my children not to be afraid of injections at an early age.

After moving to Victoria my sixth-grade year, my daddy was diagnosed with cancer. On many weekends, Mable and Elmo would drive down to visit and do a little Louisiana cooking for my family. They would do, and did, anything to help us out and were just a phone call away. They were great neighbors and lifelong friends.

What characteristics do you think make a great neighbor?

Like our neighbors from my childhood, the Boudreauxs, the key characteristic of a great neighbor is a person you consider as being more of a friend than just someone next door or down the street. A great neighbor is someone who you feel you can trust with everything you own and someone who will take care of you as if you were family. In fact, I believe that's exactly what great neighbors are: extended family.

Is there something in particular you can think of that makes your neighborhood a great place to live?

It is, hands down, the people in my neighborhood who make it such a great place to live. We have neighbors ranging from their 30s to their 70s, with some little ones sprinkled in between. We are all always looking out for each other. I can call on any of my neighbors for any reason, and they will do everything in their power to help in any situation. The little ones even feel comfortable enough to drop by now and then for a visit. I even have a little helper when I'm out working in my yard. Right, Seth?

What advice can you give to someone moving into a new neighborhood?

For anyone moving into a new neighborhood, my advice is to be receptive when a neighbor comes knocking. When we have a new addition to our neighborhood, I try to bake a little something, drop it off with my name and phone number just to say, "welcome to the neighborhood." Hopefully, this helps them feel a little more at home, and they will know that we are here if they have any questions and are willing to lend a helping hand if they ever need one.

Barbara Pozzi

When Barbara Pozzi married her husband, Bill, she never imagined she would live in Victoria. While they lived in Orange County, Calif., the couple would travel to Texas and back checking on property they had in Victoria. Eventually, once their children were older, they moved to where Bill has family, and settled into the scenery.

Now, they own a house at the end of Westpark Avenue, where Barbara, 62, has become a member of a group called the Women of Westpark, or W.O.W. for short.

As a member of the group, Barbara throws themed dinner parties where everyone is invited to enjoy the company of other ladies in the neighborhood.

"It's always, eat, drink and be merry," said Sharon Burns, who nominated Barbara as a great neighbor. "And you don't have to do the dishes."

Another neighbor, JoAnn Hardin, wrote in her nomination that Barbara has taken upon herself to make sure that all the people in the neighborhood know each other.

"Because of Barbara, we know pretty much everybody," JoAnn said. "I'm so impressed she knows everyone."

For Barbara, building relationships with the rest of the neighborhood is important. She can be found inviting people into her home, entertaining, helping with events at Faith Family Church and Bible study, and bringing warm meals to her neighbors in time of need on Westpark.

"You may not be able to give them money, but you can give them a warm meal," Barbara said.

Family: Husband, Bill, married 32 years. Four kids, Jenny, 29, married; Katie, 27, married; Michael, single, 25; Emily, single, college student in San Marcos, 21; and one grandson, Will Jr., 1 ½ years old.

Do you remember a neighbor who made a lasting impression on you?

On my way to Texas, I was in a bad car wreck; my vehicle flipped, and I ended up through the windshield on my head. I was hurt pretty bad.

When my husband finally arrived, the neighbors, knowing what we were coming to do to the house, had come in and torn out all the tile and carpet in the house and cleaned it up and disposed of it. The Burns and Tucker families did that for us. Wow. What a welcome. What a blessing.

Countless other times, my neighbors have been there for us. I am so blessed to live here on Westpark. I don't deserve this recognition, we all do.

What characteristics do you think make a great neighbor?

  1. Caring personality
  2. Ear to listen when problems or good times occur
  3. Respectful of all people
  4. Keep up their property and are watchful over the safety of our neighborhood.
  5. Above all, they are there for you when you need help because there are times when we all need help.

Is there something in particular you can think of that makes your neighborhood a great place to live?

Everyone here is so amazing. People always have a wave, a smile or a minute to chat. They are kind and helpful. If you need something, you only have to ask. Many times, they just show up. I have been so blessed because I am new to Texas and to living in the country. They have told me about things that I needed to know about. I never want to leave my street.

What advice can you give to someone moving into a new neighborhood?

Do not wait for people to approach you; reach out and meet neighbors.

Go on walks, and if you see someone, stop and get their name and introduce yourself. Have dinner parties or small get-togethers, invite people into your home. Let them get to know you and vice versa. If some people don't respond, keep on reaching out. You never know what problems or tough times they may be going through.

I believe it is our responsibility to know and care about our neighbors. The Bible encourages us to love our neighbors and to help others. In a practical sense, it is important to know and care for them in case of a natural or national emergency. Every neighborhood I have ever lived in, I made it a point to meet the people on my street.

JoJo and Mary Machalec

As fate would have it, 49-year-old Mary, and 50-year-old JoJo Machalec live in the same neighborhood Mary's family grew up in when she was a child. As she got older, her relationship with her neighbor, Delores Hrncir, grew as well.

Delores and her husband, who passed away in 1988, owned a dairy along the street that the Machalec's house is on, and since then, Delores has watched as Mary and JoJo got married after being high school sweethearts.

The Machalecs help with Delores' dairy, feeding the animals and checking on the fences and other daily necessities ever since her husband passed away.

"Whenever they see something wrong," Delores explained. "They're willing to help."

Delores said she had to nominate them as a pair because it's not just one of them, "they work together so much."

JoJo checks in with her every day, to see that she is OK and that everything is taken care of; he'll check to see if the animals have been fed, that the garden is tidy and watered, and Mary will make sure there is a hot meal for dinner or one waiting in the refrigerator.

Delores works as a nurse in Yoakum and is seldom home. But when she is, she is seldom without company. Mary said the trio spends a lot of time enjoying each other's company on the porch at either of their homes.

"We have a bunch of good times," JoJo said with a laugh. "Just about every time we get together is a good time."

Family: JoJo and Mary, married 31 years. Two kids, daughter, Chassidy Picha, 29, married for three years to Keith Picha; and son, Jeremy, 27.

Do you remember a neighbor who made a lasting impression on you?

Our neighbor, Delores Hrncir, is always there for us. we grew up in the same neighborhood as she did. Also, she helps others a lot.

What characteristics do you think make a great neighbor?

A great neighbor is somebody who is there for you and ready to give you a hand when you need something.

Is there something in particular you can think of that makes your neighborhood a great place to live?

Everyone is friendly, and we all look out for one another.

What advice can you give to someone moving into a new neighborhood?

Just try to be friendly to whoever your neighbors are, and introduce yourself to them whenever you get a chance. Try to be nice to them, too.

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