The Names in Lights Have a Tale to Tell – Part 3

by Ken Katz

This is the third and last in a series of articles about the twenty-seven Names in Lights panels in the Splash Pad Plaza that were dedicated in 2004. The first two articles were limited to the six panels that specifically grouped together businesses in the Grand Lake commercial district. This month’s News covers the remaining panels whose contents include a few businesses outside the commercial district, approximately fifty names in memoriam, lots of individuals and families, plus a lone panel on the freeway side of the seating wall that we’ll save for last.

Let’s begin, however, with a reminder that the names, phrases, quotations, and images were all cut through one-quarter-inch steel plate using high pressure, computer-guided water jets. Some of the resulting details are amazing–particularly on some of the commercial panels we shared previously, but also on the following examples:

This is our personal favorite! Incidentally, if Eli, Tammy, Cory, or friends or family are reading this, we’d love to know what kindled their fixation with this particular Dr. Seuss volume.

Number two on our list of intricate detailing is Harry Yagligian’s tribute to his father who was the long-time, beloved owner and operator of The Original Kaspers on Telegraph at Shattuck.

Tied for number two is this image of Lakeview School which was captured from a print in Principal Stan Vukovich’s office and paid for thanks to a fundraising campaign conducted by one of the teachers. If you know her identity, please comment below.

Worthy of special mention for detailing and for messaging is the steeple from Lakeshore Avenue Baptist Church, which proves year after year how much they believe in this community by continuing to host community meetings, including all of Walter Hood’s Splash Pad Park presentations–not to mention the historic gathering in protest of the proposed McDonald’s in the (former) Kwik Way location.

Members of the Splash Pad Neighborhood Forum are well represented in the panels:

Edith Robertson was a member of the SPNF Design Committee and also an active member of Caroline Kim’s Eastshore Park Preservation Committee. About Trader Joe’s, in the end we got our cake and subsequently ate it too–in addition to Peach Salsa and a good brioche.

Liza Calef was the SPNF Treasurer who managed the organization’s books throughout the fundraising campaign. They would have been up the creek or maybe worse without her.

Thomas O’Guinn, a member of the Fundraising Committee, spent fifty-two Saturdays at the Farmers Market under the freeway on mostly cold and windy and sometimes rainy days soliciting donations for the Names in Lights and/or for the “Splish Splash, Thanks for the Cash” T-shirts.

The aforementioned T-shirts were printed by Ant Tees • Rael T’s–the same shop that produced Splash Pad’s 10th Anniversary celebration shirts.

As you may already know, Annalee was a long-time City of Oakland tour guide and also the author of an ongoing series of feature stories in the Oakland Tribune about Oakland’s historic landmarks. What you probably don’t know is that back in 2002 she led a tour of Grand Avenue as part of Splash Pad’s fundraising efforts.

Each and every name in the memorial section is undoubtedly worthy of special mention (including members of my own family), but the one name we’ll single out is JoAnne Hausler, who led the campaign (along with Arvi Dorsey) to halt the destruction of single-family homes bordering the Rose Garden long before the current concerns over gentrification.

Five other neighborhood groups or blocks are specifically mentioned in addition to the Rose Garden: the Arimo, Calmar, and Haddon Hill associations. Eric and Priscilla Hughes’s contribution is less specific or, we’d like to think, all-encompassing. The same applies to one that simply reads “We Love Our Neighborhood!”

Some of the individuals and families are loosely grouped  by neighborhoods, including Balfour/Rosal, Calmar and Valle Vista–all areas where SPNF members actively solicited donations. One of those loose groupings begins with KRKD Jazz–a low bandwidth radio station operated by Calmar resident David Tonelli, who is listed further down the panel along with his partner David Leinbach. Both have unfortunately passed.

There are a few other businesses and organizations scattered across these twenty-one remaining panels including the above. Rainwolves may or may not actually have been a business, but a Google search did turn up a reference to board games. Maybe it was tied to the game shop on Lakeshore in the early 2000s. We couldn’t find anything close to the animated design company–a search that was complicated by the two vertical lines in the name. Nonchalance Collective was led by Jeff Hull and, according to this 2013 article, his “Oaklandish” sticker eventually led to the creation of the T-shirt shop that bears its name.

Other businesses and organizations listed include the St. Germain Foundation, which owns the property that houses Grand Jewelry Repair and Nail Pro, and has its meeting space on the second floor. Other businesses and organizations include Gilbert Tile, Chris Sheffield Custom Upholstery, the Oakland Kiwanis Club, and Grand Lake NCPC.

The above messages speak for themselves. Conversely, the ones directly below are begging for some answers.

A question mark after “Hukilau” might have been more appropriate than an exclamation mark. We looked it up on Wikipedia and literally it seems to suggest, “Let’s go fishing!” Is that the actual intent? As for “The Roberts Girls,” we’d love to hear from their parents as to whether or not they’ve been able to carry that wonderful combination of traits into adulthood.

As we were tabulating the number of pets named on the panels, we began to realize that we were getting into controversial territory. Lupita, Caterpillar, Nikita, and Charlie were pet cats belonging to Linda Roman and her neighbor, Debra Chaplan. (The former, by the way, is the heroine whom you might have seen interviewed on TV several weeks ago after she rushed to help an elderly gentleman who had been mugged on the corner of Grand and Mandana.) But we digress. As for Pumpkin, he or she was not only a cat, he or she was the “World’s Best Kitty.” I’m not a betting man, but odds are that Scratch, Flippy & Gray Grey were cats as well. And after just getting off the phone with Susan Biglovsky, we can confirm that Shanna was her cat, and Babe her dog. That’s eleven-to-one in favor of the felines–twelve-to-two if you count the wolf and Felix the Cat. The obvious conclusion is that (at least back then) dogs may have been Man’s Best Friend, but cats were members of the family.

The panel outside the seat wall that we mentioned above documents the various individuals and entities who were actively involved in the planning and construction of the new park.

  • Walter Hood and other members of his design team were chiefly responsible for the overall concept, the specific details (including the Names in Lights) and their implementation.
  • Dowling Associates is a traffic engineering company that drafted plans that included removal of Lake Park Way–the street that previously bisected the park, construction of two street medians on Lake Park, a traffic island on the corner of Lake Park and Lakeshore, and pedestrian safety improvements.
  • The office of Van Maren & Associates is right in the neighborhood on Boulevard Way. They provided structural engineering input.
  • Ray’s Electric (owned by Greg Gruendl) was the General Contractor and, if we recall correctly, Luke Middleton was the Project Foreman.
  • RMT is Oakland-based, family-owned and, according to their website, one of the largest Landscape Contractors in Northern California.
  • AJW did the paving. They are also Oakland-based.
  • Superior Builders installed the Names in Lights Panels and the adjacent Ipe decking. The owner is David Lorber, whose family is listed elsewhere.
  • Pacific Water Art, which is based in Sunnyvale, built the fountain.
  • Danny Wan was the District 2 Councilmember when the plans were approved, and he subsequently initiated the hugely successful Measure DD project. Pat Kernighan, who was then on his staff, played at an active role in the planning process. Most notably, she attended meetings of Jerry Cauthen’s Traffic and Pedestrian Safety Committee, got chain link fencing removed adjacent to the parking lot, and convinced the City to barricade Lake Park Way on Saturdays so the Farmers Market could temporarily move out from under the freeway.
  • Randy Mach and Jadia Wu were both from the Public Works Department. Jadia was the overall Project Manager who was involved throughout during the planning and construction process. Randy, a Resident Engineer, supervised onsite construction. For the historical record, he (with some volunteer assistance) tinkered with the fountain until it was eventually operating full bore.
  • It was and honor to represent the Splash Pad Neighborhood Forum in the planning process–even though community input was crucial and it was the members of our design teams, especially Jerry Cauthen, who did all the heavy lifting.

Major donors to the fundraising effort were also honored with a bronze plaque that’s affixed to the left of the fountain wall nearest the freeway.


  • The choice of which names and images to feature in this article was entirely subjective. We’d highly recommend a personal visit to the panels, but not on Saturdays during the Farmers Market.
  • If you have anything to add to this summary, or corrections that need to be made, please use the Comment tab below.
  • During a fundraising discussion, Walter Hood spontaneously suggested “Let’s put names in lights.”
  • The NIL donations and the T-shirts were supposed to pay for the fountain, but the costs were higher than expected and much of the funding came from other sources.
  • Although the lettering and images are held in place with incredibly thin pieces of steel, there’s only been one partial break; it was promptly repaired by the Public Works Department.
  • The tiny holes are meant to represent drops of rain.
  • Much of the lighting throughout the park (including the NIL) wasn’t functioning for several years. All the lighting was replaced or upgraded last year thanks to funding obtained by Councilmember Bas and additional resources from Public Works.
  • Several community volunteers, including Eric Hughes and Ray Banfield, have been working with Facilities Construction Manager Martin Tovar to anchor the panels more securely.
  • Once the panels are secured and the adjacent wood decking repaired (which is in the planning stages), we’re going to appeal for volunteers to scrub the panels thoroughly and, more tedious, remove the bits of gravel embedded in the lettering, images, and rainwater using dental or nut picks.

A semi-retired antiques dealer, Ken Katz founded the Splash Pad Neighborhood Forum in late 1999 and in his role as Chair,  coordinated the community efforts to lobby for a new park and subsequently served as a liaison to the City of Oakland and to Walter Hood’s office during the planning process. The first Splash Pad Newsletters were emailed beginning circa 2006. Currently, he acts as an editor, contributor and publisher of the online Splash Pad News. Keila Diehl proofreads all the copy, filters content as needed, and makes us look our very best.