LIVE, LAUGH AND LOVE IN WESTCHESTER, MEET THE VUCHSAS’S
Gwen Vuchsas is a true westsider, raised by her father and grandmother as part of a large Latin family with roots running deep through the Santa Monica Canyon. All of her most prominent memories were made right here on the westside of Los Angeles, including the inception of her very own love story. In 1968, Gwen was with some girlfriends at Randy Tar Restaurant in Marina Del Rey, currently known as the Chart House. Her soon-to-be husband Jim was part of the LAPD at the time, and was there with some of his friends. Gwen was working for a criminal attorney that Jim was acquainted with, so his group of friends joined hers. The two of them chatted until everyone went home, but didn’t begin dating officially until 1970 when they ran into each other at a holiday party. Three years later, they finally married.
The loving couple moved to Westchester in 1977, where they established roots of their own. After serving more than 25 years on the LAPD, Jim started SECO, a family-run investigative agency where Gwen and her son Sean eventually worked for. Today, Sean manages a family law practice in Pasadena where he currently lives. She describes him as a bright, loving son that’s also a devoted uncle to his sister Courtney’s children. “Sean has a great spirit with a big personality. We always told him he was a magnet because people gravitate to his kind and loving nature”. Gwen’s daughter Courtney works for the Motion Picture Licensing Corporation in Playa Vista. Her love story also began right here on the westside of LA. Courtney met Brendan at the Gillis Volleyball Tournament in Playa Del Rey in 2002. She came home that very day and told her mom that she had met, “the one”. The two married at Visitation Church in 2008, where her 3 children now attend school. Courtney’s daughter Addison is a loving 8 year old who wants to do everything herself. She loves music, dance, sports, Girl Scouts, and sings in the church choir. Her younger brother Gabe is 7 years old and is intrigued by how things are made, perhaps that is why he loves to build things with Legos. He has lots of energy and enjoys playing soccer, baseball, basketball, and golf. His grandmother thinks that Gabe is a bit of a “daredevil”. Jared is the youngest at 3 years old, a wonderful and tenacious boy that never wants to get left out of anything. He attends pre-school and has recently fallen in love with puzzles.
Westchester is an essential part of this family dynamic. They find it to be a small town in a big city. Gwen says it is the, “kind of community where you never leave the house without your makeup on to go to the grocery store, because you will surely run into someone you know”. It is a warm embracing community and people care about their neighbors. She believes that, “one of things that makes Westchester special is that it has a modern-day “Mayberry” feel. There are some pretty special people in this community that have a giving spirit. It is a community of neighbors, friends, block parties, bike riding, swimming, and some simple down home fun.” It’s no wonder they have made Westchester home. Gwen notes that, “my children were raised here, and now my grandchildren. Community means everything to me and I have poured my heart and soul into contributing where I can make a difference.”
What a difference she has made. Gwen’s course into giving back to the Westchester community dates back to when Sean and Courtney were still children. It all started with the Del Rey American Little League, where Jim coached for a total of 9 years and Gwen became the first female President in 1980. Gwen has held a number of impressive titles throughout the years including Honorary Mayor of Westchester, Chairman of the Board of the LAX Coastal Chamber of Commerce, President of Westchester Rotary Club, as well as the Founder and Chair of the Rotary Teacher Mini-Grant Program. Gwen says her greatest accomplishment in giving back to the community is the 4th Of July Parade. “I was Chairman of the Board of the LAX Coastal Chamber of Commerce in 1999-2000 and the idea for doing a parade to honor the millenium presented itself. I knew nothing about doing a parade, but took it on with the support of the Chamber. The first parade was on July 4th, 2000 and several thousand people showed up on Loyola Boulevard. When I saw all the children and families out there waving the American flag, wearing red, white and blue, I knew there was no way we could not do it again. We are headed into our 20th anniversary this summer! I have often said I hope the parade will live forever and hope it will be my legacy to the community.”
Not only is the 4th of July Parade part of Gwen’s legacy as a community leader, she’s creating a new generation of leaders as well. Gwen is the current President of the Playa Venice Sunrise Rotary Club. It is a vibrant, dynamic club with projects that benefit the community by giving books to schools, scholarships to students, grants to teachers, adopting needy families at Christmas, working with Habitat for Humanity, raising money for the local firefighters, feeding the homeless at Midnight Mission, and supporting the Boys & Girls Club of Venice, just to name a few. More importantly, Gwen and Jim are setting the example as Grammy ad Papi. “We exposed our children and grandchildren to Rotary, which has been a wonderful thing. Sean and Courtney have volunteered for many Rotary projects and now Addy and Gabe have gave back by building bears for the sick, walking for peace, wrapping gifts for the poor, and are learning about service and giving back at a very early age”.
Not only is this family involved in leadership roles, they are huge Los Angeles sports fans. They love the Dodgers and their calendar revolves around Trojan football during the fall. Gwen’s family has been season ticket holders for over 55 years, inherited from her late Grandmother Mary Zullo. “We go to all the home games and have big tailgate parties, it’s a special time for our family. We fly a Trojan flag above our home and have lots of Trojan clothes, jewelry, artwork, photos, license plate frames, and other Trojan goodies. Jim and I, along with our children, have traveled to all over the country for games”. Courtney’s husband and his family are diehard Notre Dame fans and not very fond of the Trojans, but these are the times when a “family first” motto really comes to play.
“Love your family and respect who they are. Give where you can and enjoy your blessings and be grateful to live in such a beautiful community and appreciate each other. My daughter Courtney lives by the motto “Live, Laugh and Love”. She coined that phrase when she was a young girl and has continued to live by it ever since”.