Members Corner

Graber Olive House, a Longtime, Valued Supporter of the OCWS

The Wine Society would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge Graber Olive House for their friendship, generosity and continued support over the years.

Graber Olive House has provided their specialty olives to the Commercial Wine Competition for many years. As you know, palate assault can be extreme even though wine judges may expectorate every sip. The acidity in white wines and tannins in red wines can be a painful experience after a full day of tasting. A small cup of Graber olives placed alongside each judge neutralizes the elements in both reds and whites, work wonders for the palate and taste fantastic, too.

Graber olives are hand-picked when they’ve ripened to a cherry-red color, then “cured in covered vats without being oxidized,” according to Graber Olive House. After the curing and canning processes, the olives are of varying shades of nutlike color.

Graber Olive House is located in quiet, serene surroundings. Visitors will be delighted to discover a bit of early California when they visit. Along with olives, Graber Olive House offers many other products, such as crisp California almonds and pistachios, California dessert fruits, olive oils and elegant gift baskets. When in or driving through Ontario, visit Graber Olive House and pick up a few cans of olives and other items. You can also visit their website at to have products shipped directly to you.

Graber Olive House is located at 215 E. Fourth Street,
Ontario, CA 91764.

In Memoriam: Carolyn Wolsfelt

Carolyn Wolsfelt, a beloved OCWS member, sadly passed away on May 4, 2018 surrounded by her husband, Richard, daughter, Cheryl, and son, Rich. The Wolsfelts joined the OCWS in 2000 and Carolyn quickly became known and loved by many for her ever-present smile and gregarious laughter. Over the years, Carolyn brought smiles by volunteering to […]
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In Memoriam – Suzy Skoczylas

Suzanne Skoczylas, beloved wife of OCWS Director, Rich Skoczylas, and long time OCWS member, sadly passed away on March 19, 2018.  Her amazing, upbeat attitude belied physical battles suffered for many, many years. Her love for her husband, and for life itself, sustained Suzy through 42 years of numerous bouts of cancer. She can first and foremost be described throughout those years as the epitome of a true survivor.

Born in Oklahoma City, Suzy became a medical secretary and was set up on a blind date with Rich, then a young Air Force officer, by her mother who worked with Rich at Tinker Air Force Base.

Suzy and Rich were married on May 3, 1972 and shortly thereafter moved to Boston, where Rich was transferred, before moving to California in 1978. After moving to California and settling in Fountain Valley, Suzy and Rich joined The Wine Society in the early 1980s.

Always at Rich’s side, Suzy supported him through many years of chairing numerous OCWS events, several stints on the board of directors, the creation of amazing desserts for events and, always when able, Suzy was found volunteering herself for many OCWS gatherings.

Suzy’s love of people and passion for helping others found her active with the Newcomers Clubs of Fountain Valley and Huntington Beach, CHOC, the American Cancer Society, the Breast Cancer Angels, and as a volunteer for several years at Orange Coast Memorial in Fountain Valley supporting cancer patients.

Suzy leaves behind her loving husband, a brother, a sister and a brother-in-law and many, many friends, along with an amazing legacy of strength and love. Suzy was an incredible woman whose memory will be treasured and held in many hearts.

In Memoriam – Christopher William Cunningham

December 19, 1949—March 4, 2018 It is with great sadness that I write of the passing of Chris Cunningham. Too often our paths cross with someone who is almost larger than life. Unfortunately, we do not know their whole story nor do we recognize their amazing attributes until they are gone. Chris, a member of […]
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In Memoriam: Dave Carter

Dave Carter passed away on November 27, 2017 after a long illness. He and his loving wife, Pam, joined the OCWS in 2006 and together they enjoyed participating in many OCWS events. One of Dave’s favorite events was working at the OC Fair, but he was particularly proud of taking home several ladles for his prize-winning chili […]
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Northern California Devastated by Fire: Giving Back

After many, many years of being supported by hundreds of Napa and Sonoma County wineries by wine submissions to the Commercial Wine Competition, it was our chance to support them in their time of need. The Orange County Wine Society has made donations totaling $11,000 toward relief efforts for the Northern California fire victims. A donation of $5,000 has been made to the Sonoma County Resilience Fund, with another $5,000 to the Napa Valley Community Disaster Relief Fund. Both of these relief funds came highly recommended by several renowned winemakers who, out of the goodness of their hearts, act as Judges for the Commercial Wine Competition.

After much research, and taking into consideration numerous potential donation sites, the Board, on behalf of the OCWS, chose these two organizations to receive donations. In addition, the OCWS has donated $1,000 directly to an employee of Carol

Shelton Wines. Carol and her husband, Mitch, having also lost their home and belongings to the fires, did not look for help for themselves, but rather selflessly requested assistance for an employee, who also lost everything. Knowing Carol Shelton’s truly lovely heart, and appreciating all she has contributed to the Wine Society over the years, the OCWS could do nothing less than to help when asked.

Besides requests for donations, the common message we received from hundreds of wineries is to support those areas hit hardest by the fires by continuing to visit the wineries and purchase wines. We have been told in any number of ways that the continued support of the wine country will be a huge boost to both the local economies and to the spirit of those communities. As OCWS members and wine lovers, the Board encourages you to visit the many wineries in Northern California, make a purchase to help boost the economy of the region and the many wineries who have supported the OCWS!

– The OCWS Board of Directors

In Memoriam: Vivien Owen

Vivien Owen, a beloved member of the OCWS, sadly passed away on November 4, 2017. Her diminutive stature belied the enormous size of her generous heart and passion for giving. Vivien joined the Wine Society with her husband, Charley, the very first year of its founding, in 1978. Beginning with selling wine at the Fair each year, her passion for the organization led her to creating the displays at the Fair for many, many years and leaving a documented history of the OCWS by acting as historian until just a few years ago. She participated in just about every aspect of the organization at one time or another over the years and, most recently, enjoyed sharing her knowledge of wine and the OCWS with Fair attendees by being an OCWS Courtyard Ambassador during the OC Fair.

Vivien’s life took her on many adventures with Charley, the most loved of which was raising a beautiful family together. Vivien was blessed with her daughter, Janet, who married Paul Peal, and her son, Jack, who married Sheila Lambert. She leaves her two children, their spouses, six grandchildren and four great-grandchildren with an amazing legacy.

Born in Los Angeles, Vivien held a degree in Psychology from UCLA and a Life General Elementary teaching credential. During her professional career with the Tustin School District, she taught every grade level from Kindergarten to 12th grade, as well as special education classes.

As a volunteer throughout the years, Vivien was second to none as a Girl Scout leader, holding any number of positions on PTO Boards and as President of the Tustin Area Woman’s Club, to name just a few of the many organizations and endeavors that were fortunate to have her leadership.

Vivien found a different direction to her volunteerism after having served on the OC Grand Jury for a year. She joined the Past Grand Jurors Association and subsequently was appointed to the Water Facilities Corporation of the Municipal Water District of Orange County where she served a six year term.

In 1989, Vivien was appointed to the Orange County Public Cemetery Board of Trustees to which she had many reappointments by various County Supervisors, served as Chairman of the Board six times and was still serving upon her death.

Vivien and Charley’s love for travel found them traversing California in a camper truck mostly visiting wineries and attending UCLA football games. Their camper travels within the USA found them visiting their son in Iowa and Florida, while bunking down in Elderhostels. Their cruise adventures found them going from Tahiti to Russia and back on U.S. soil in Alaska. Other adventures found Vivien joining Charley throughout his professional career in cities as exciting and diverse as London and Istanbul.

So many more details about the life of this loving, passionate, highly intelligent woman are left unsaid here. Simply saying that Vivien touched countless lives during her own with her infectious smile and loving nature says it all. Her life was a blessing to all who knew her, her memory will be a treasure and she will be missed beyond measure.

Cheers to Viv!

President’s Wine Snips – Those Who Came Before

As I sat down to write my first Wine Press article as President, I thought about all the things I could say to the OCWS membership over the next 12 months. I could easily recap events that have just taken place, or I could highlight upcoming events. These are things that, if you read this newsletter every month, each Chair of these gatherings is sharing with you in their articles with far more interesting detail than I can. I also thought about all the questions I have been asked as a Director over the past five years and realized that I have been given a platform to tell you things about the organization and the people involved that you otherwise might not know and, just maybe, answer some of those questions that have crossed your mind at one time or another.

As the incoming President of the OCWS, I would be remiss if I didn’t use this first article to pay homage to those who came before me and set the tone for this amazing organization. After being a member for 17 years and a Director for the past five, I thought I knew a lot about the OCWS. After studying the list of Presidents beginning in 1978, I realized the one thing I didn’t know as well as I could is the history and commitment of the 24 people who served as President before me. Many of them served multiple terms, and through their encouragement and kindness, have held my hand and heart on my journey to the presidency.


With that being said, we honored one of those individuals at our recent Annual Business Meeting with the designation of President Emeritus. The title denotes the perpetual status of an individual who has helped move the organization to new heights as a former key member on the Board of Directors. In this case, as President an unprecedented four terms (2000-01, 2002-03, 2008-09, 2013-14), with none of those terms consecutive. This year Dennis Esslinger joined the ranks of just a few who have garnered the President Emeritus title. He joins a small, elite group of past Presidents who not only gave their time and effort over a number of years, but continue to do so and for that I, for one, am grateful.

The other eight Presidents Emeriti are Jim Graver (1978-79), Lora Howard (1995-96), Bob Trout (1996-97), Charley Owen (1997-98), John Goodnight (1999-2000), David Hirstein (2001-02), Larry Graham (2005-06, 2006-07), and Leslie Brown (2009-10, 2010-11). I want to thank these people, along with the other past Presidents for laying the foundation of the OCWS. I can only hope to continue in their footsteps and do good for the organization this next year. When your paths cross with theirs, please thank them for their commitment and hard work in bringing us to where we are today.

My heartfelt thanks go to the current Board of Directors for electing me to this office and having the confidence in me to lead the organization for the next Board year.

BOD 2018

In closing, if there is anything you would like to see answered in this column over the next several months, please email me at I can’t promise everything will be addressed in this column, but I will do my best to answer everything asked of me in one way or another.

– Fran Gitsham, President

2017 President’s Award

At the Annual Business Meeting last month, Jim Beard awarded the 2017 President’s Award to Ken and Irene Scott. As many of you know, the President’s Award honors and recognizes those members for their exceptional contribution and dedication to the OCWS.

Both members for a number of years, Ken and Irene are passionate in supporting the various initiatives of the OCWS. They consistently contribute their expertise, knowledge and talent to many events and committees doubling the benefit to the OCWS.

As members of the Marketing Committee, Ken and Irene helped develop a marketing strategy promoting the mission and message of the OCWS. Their best practice approach made a significant impact in implementing a fresh approach toward brand recognition by updating materials and information provided to California wineries in connection with the Commercial Wine Competition. The brochures and other marketing materials they created carried that same brand identity into the Homewine Competition and the website.

This year, as members of the Commercial Wine Competition, they co-chaired the Volunteer subcommittee coordinating hundreds of workforce volunteers in various roles and schedules during the wine competition – no easy feat as both spent hundreds of hours making sure that everything ran smoothly, and they worked tirelessly at the Competition and behind the scenes.

Congratulations to Ken and Irene on receiving the 2017 President’s Award. This year’s award is in the hands of the most deserving and worthy candidates!

OCWS Board of Directors Elections: Last Call. Don’t Wait. Declare.

See BOD Candidate Statements

Declare early and take advantage of the opportunity to introduce yourself to the OCWS members volunteering at The Courtyard during the Fair! The Courtyard offers a unique venue for members to gather before and after shifts or to simply stop in and enjoy a glass of wine. Take advantage of getting some valuable “face time” with members to discuss your qualifications and desire to be considered for the Board.

Declare now, don’t wait until the filing deadline. Put yourself in front of your photo and written statement in an informal, relaxed and friendly setting.

Commitment. The overall time commitment for a member of the Board of Director varies, based on assignments and participation. All Board Members are expected to attend the monthly Board Meetings. Board members are also expected to organize or act as liaison for certain events and projects as assigned by the President. These responsibilities will generally require several hours per month of your time. Additionally, Board Members are expected to attend as many OCWS events as possible and are granted free attendance at most events for their participation.

Skills and experience a candidate should possess, but not be limited to, are:Elections

  • A general knowledge of OCWS events and activities
  • Experience as a volunteer in some events; involvement with event committees
  • The ability and time to organize events during the year
  • Experience in selected events and budget management
  • Be a member in good standing

Submission and Deadline. To declare your candidacy for a position on the Board, the candidate must present their Declaration of Candidacy in writing, by mail or via electronic media to the Election Chair no later than fourteen (14) calendar days prior to the scheduled Annual Business Meeting. The last date to declare candidacy for this year’s election is the hard date of Friday, August 25, 2017.

During the Annual Business Meeting, you will have the opportunity to speak to the membership and present your qualifications. A written Statement of Qualifications must be presented to the Election Committee no later than five (5) calendar days after your Declaration of Candidacy.

Questions, Reach Out. If being an OCWS leader interests you, feel free to contact Greg Hagadorn with any questions related to Director responsibilities, the election process or other matters related to the election. Greg can be reached at 714.388.8803 or at Involvement as a Director of the OCWS can be both personally and professionally rewarding.

Candidate Statements. As candidates declare their candidacy in accordance with election protocols, their photo and statement will be uploaded on to the OCWS website for your review and consideration. BOD Candidate Statements can be accessed on the OCWS website either at About>Our Organization or at the link on the landing page at Please be sure to visit the site frequently.

– Greg Hagadorn, 2017 Election Chair