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AV Thanks Doctor Apfel

If on a dark and stormy night Dr. Mark Apfel ever wondered if anybody really appreciated him the question has now been resoundingly put to rest. On Saturday On May 7th around 2:00 a whole lotta people began to gather under the redwoods at the Fairgrounds and by 3:00 it was packed. The Hernandez Family Mariachi Band livened up the beginning of the party in a big way.

Burt from Boontberry was on hand valiantly making his famous paella. He seemed to be slowly turning blue in his Hawaiian shirt and no jacket in the stiff and quite nippy breeze. He and his staff brought a raft of other goodies including their delicious Caesar salad. Every attendee was given two free drink tickets by Janet Lombard to be traded for local wines and beers making the merry crowd even merrier.

It was very fun to see people many unseen for the past two years because of Covid. We all looked older and (sort of) wiser. People seemed to be touching each other more than usual like animals brush up against each other in greeting. Someone called it “A real smoozefest”. A big event always brings out people from many different chapters of a life in this small valley. It’s a reminder of why we choose to live here. It’s sweet. In the beginning it was all chatter, chatter, chatter but then MC Patti Liddy encouraged all to “Move in closer” so we gravitated to the picnic tables in front of the stage for the formal part of the program. Our purpose was to honor Dr. Mark Apfel for his years of service to our community. Deanna Apfel told Patti that that would be officially 45.5 years!

Patti introduced Assembly member Jim Wood who presented Mark with a large framed proclamation from the California Legislature on behalf of Senator Mike McGuire and himself. The proclamation included 5 whereases and details but probably the most important is the number of years of service to our one very small, very lucky community. Assemblyman Wood emphasized how hard if not impossible it is to get doctors to devote their careers to rural communities for any length of time- over 40 being a pretty much unbelievable contribution. Interestingly the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors’ proclamation printed in last week’s AVA included 13 whereases proving I guess that we in Mendocino County know an awful lot more about Mark’s contributions than the folks in Sacramento or Washington - which is as we like to say, “appropriate”.

A coming together like this doesn’t just come out of nowhere. Lots of earnest effort is required by lots of committed people. The base of the pyramid in this case was Denise Mattei, Mary O’Brien and Eric Labowitz and Captain Rainbow. Burt Cohen, Stephanie Gold, Jeannie Collins, Kathy Borst, Patti Liddy, Keevan Labowitz and Palma Toohey and I all helped in different ways along with many others.

Patti Liddy in her nurse Wretched or Ratched guise was the glue that held the program proceedings together. Sitting at our table in between her introductions she was feverishly making last minutes additions and subtractions to her notes. Dressed in a vintage nurses cap (askew) and cape (flying) that had once belonged to Denise Mattei’s mother she looked every bit the busy on-the-fly nurse. The wind really had its way with that cape as Patti struggled to keep it on while cracking a joke or introducing a “muckedy-muck” a category she hilariously lumped the attending dignitaries into. Jez or is it Jess? Anderson read a nicely a framed certificate of appreciation from Congressman Jared Huffman. Lucy Plancarte spoke at length of the appreciation coming from the Mexican community. Kathy Cox and Cindy Novella expressed thanks from the Clinic staff. Val Hanelt from the Community Services District, Sandy Mailliard from the AVVFA and Philip Thomas from the Senior Center also honored Dr. Apfel. 

Someone read an excerpt from an old newspaper article from the beginning days of the clinic that commented on Dr. Mark’s Hawaiian shirt, beard and Birkenstocks. Later someone on stage mentioned that in 40 years Mark’s fashion-sense has not changed. This got a big laugh from an audience filled with aging back-to-the-landers with exactly the same fashion preferences. Leslie and Michael Hubbert of the Deep-End Woogie Review played on stage throughout warming up wind-chilled crowd. Paula Gray Artist presented Mark with a marvelous retirement statue a three dimensional portrait of Dr. Mark in his trademark Hawaiian shirt, reclining with a golf club across his knee with a “Little Birdie” perched upon in. Next to this a little bottle of pills labeled “Prescription for Happiness”. Kathy Borst thanked Mark for saving her husband Bill Cook’s life.

When all the accolades were done Dr. Mark took the microphone and gracefully thanked many people who had “Made it possible for me to do what I do”. Some of the names he mentioned were Terry Anderson, Peggy Miniclier, Judy Nelson, Judith Dolan. He also talked about how when his first wife died the community really stepped up to support him and his family. Daughter’s Lily and Essie were both at the party to see how much people honored their dad.

While all this was going on some were enjoying the display in the Gazebo put together by Mary O’Brien that included a timeline of Mark’s career, a very fun walk down memory lane through old photos (the one of Mark and Deanna on their honeymoon with little kids Lily and Essie really brought home how time has flown by). Also up there was a computer broadcasting an old Variety Show act with Mark, Keevan, Captain Rainbow and nurse Patti working together to give Judge Labowitz a colonoscopy!

After all the presentations one last treat was in store. I understand that Captain Rainbow was the perpetrator. Titled “Know Your Doctor”  a quiz show format included three mystery men in Dr. Mark Apfel Masks. The ever-ebullient Keevan Labowitz served as quiz master peppering the three with snappy questions many of which seemed to have something to do with golf and all of which made people laugh.  Ultimately the two imposters were revealed to be Mark’s twin brother and Eric Labowitz. When the final mask was removed- Whaa-Lah - there was our man of the hour good sport Dr. Mark himself. And so the party was over and just the good memories remain.

Clean-up crew included the usual suspects many former school employees accustomed to doing more than their fair share and pitching in. J.R. Collins always seemed to have a broom in his hands at the end of every school event. He and Jeannie were right in at the end this party too. Stephanie Gold and Philip Thomas excused from clean-up crew with their matching (broken?) foot boots. Heal quick.

An early suggestion to Denise that perhaps a receiving line where Dr. Apfel could greet his many admirers was firmly vetoed by her. Denise said, “Mark just wants everyone to have fun, eat, talk and laugh”- Mission accomplished. The most important part of the whole thing was to make sure that Dr. Mark Apfel would “Feel the Love” and surely he did. Thank you again for 45.5 years of service to this little berg. When people say, “It’s not such a big deal - not it’s really a matter of life and death” Well in your case Dr. Apfel sometimes it WAS a big deal and we thank you for being here with us for so many busy, hardworking, lifesaving years. We know this well-deserved acknowledgement was a success because Deanna Apfel who often looks radiant was literally incandescent with happiness by the party’s end.

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