The auditorium of the was packed on February 10 with over 110 seniors plus a number of volunteers and staff members, celebrating the Valentine’s Day Social.
Love was in the air.
The auditorium was tastefully decorated with red and white balloons. Most of the seniors were wearing red or pink attires. There was soft music playing in the background.
At the entrance the seniors were given raffle tickets as well as a slip of papers which said “ I love Carl because……………." The seniors had to fill in this slip of paper and hand it back to the volunteers.
It was soon evident that this event would be more a farewell party and tribute to local legend "Chef Carl" than to St. Valentine. Carl Bousino, 75, is a senior-friendly recreation specialist who has worked part-time for the City of San Leandro since 2001. He knows most of the seniors by name.
Bousino has cooked for the Valentine Social since its inception in 2005 and will be retiring on March 1, 2011.
He is famous for his lip smacking pasta.
When the first Valentine Social for seniors was started, only a few attended the event. But now it has grown into a hugely popular affair thanks, at least in part, to Bousino.
An exemplary employee, Bousino has gone the extra mile in organizing the small details of senior events to make sure everyone is comfortable. At the Marina Community Center, he sets up for classes. At 11:45 a.m. he is seen rolling in the huge round tables for the senior lunch program.
Whether it is the Cherry Festival or a rental event at the community center, Bousino is always at hand to provide the necessary fixtures and equipment.
As we talked about his younger days, an interesting story began to take shape.
Bousino was born in Oakland and did his early education in Catholic schools. Before he could complete high school, he enlisted in the United States Air Force and was given survival and medical training and sent to Korea.
After a few more assignments, he was sent to Victorville, California where he met his greatest Air Force hero, legend Chuck Yeager, the first man to break the sound barrier.
After returning from the Korean War, Bousino completed his high school and attended Chabot College. He married his wife, Gloria, around that time, and they've been together for over thirty years.
Bousino is what most seniors would call the unsung hero.
As a senior himself, he says, “Seniors should not be left behind and forgotten. They are not asking for special treatment, but they don’t want the door shut on them either."
"After all, seniors are the ones who forged the trails that have gotten us this far.”
The seniors enjoyed the Valentine's Day feast cum farewell party very much.
Towards the end of the event, Louie Despeaux,Bousino’s supervisor, presented him with a heart shaped rigatoni with an "I love Carl" slip inserted in it. Obviously, Bousino cares about seniors very much and they care about him.