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By Lew Avera

Several weeks ago at a City Council meeting, a young woman stood to address the City Council on a city-related issue. She introduced herself by name and then indicated that she had lived in San Clemente for 60 years. I couldn’t believe her age and then assumed she must have been born in San Clemente and lived here her entire life. I then thought of all the folks I know who have “lived here 35 years,” “been here since 1981,” “grew up here,” etc. All of this led me to consider how long I have been here, and what constitutes a real or true “San Clementean.”

I constructed a matrix of all of the cities/states in which I have lived and how long in each location, including San Clemente. This is not intended to be about me, but about what it takes before we can call ourselves a San Clementean.

I was born in Ithaca, New York and lived there for two years. My family returned to a suburb of Atlanta, California, for 13 years, then to Hawaii for two years of military service and of high school for me. The family returned to Augusta, Georgia for military service and four years of college for me. Then, I joined the Marine Corps for the next 20 years. I lived the next 20 years in various places: North Carolina; another three years in Hawaii; 11 years in three different cities in Virginia; two years in Vietnam; and significantly two years—1963 and 1964— in San Clemente.

Upon retirement from the Marines, I returned to California in 1975, living in San Marino, Los Angeles and Huntington Beach for a second career.

The significant event of all of this time was a second retirement from full-time employment in 2001 and a move to San Clemente 16 years ago.

With all of the moves consolidated, I have lived in California 44 years, much longer than any other state, and in San Clemente for 18 years, much longer than any city or specific location. As a result of this, I have every right to call myself a true Californian and a true San Clementean. Not only is it a pleasure to say this, but I say it with much pride, particularly the term San Clementean.

Sometimes I feel intellectually challenged in regard to this feeling. Often, shortly after beginning a casual conversation, people will ask, “Where are you from?” This is due to the fact that after all of these years, I have not lost my “southern accent”. I retort, in a kidding way, “What do you mean?” Interesting how some things stay with us for a lifetime, even though the fundamental values may change.

In closing, once again, the fundamental value that I have come to believe is that I am a true “San Clementean,” in my mind, as if I had been born here. Given that most of my years are behind me, this value will not change.

Lew Avera is a retired career officer, Lt. Col., U.S. Marine Corps. He was a director of the Talega HOA and served on the San Clemente Planning Commission from 2005-2013.

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