Author: Igor Nastaskin

A Message from Riviera Elementary Principal, Christie Forshey

Riviera Elementary School is turning 70 years old! Did you or your child/ren attend Riviera Elementary School? Alumni, current and past staff members, and neighbors are invited to attend this special birthday celebration!  Riviera Elementary School will celebrate its 70th Birthday on Friday, September 9th, 2022 from 3:30-7:00 p.m. Stop by to listen to live music, dine at food trucks and tour the 10-acre campus to see upgrades view murals, take a walking tree tour & more!  The Jammin Jellies (some band members are Riviera alum) and Mrs. Laura Savitz will provide free entertainment. Happy birthday, Riviera! Speaking of alumni, South High School graduating seniors visited Riviera Elementary School on June 14th. Graduates addressed the student body and shared Riviera memories and their plans for the future.  SHS graduates visited with past teachers, watched their K-5 movie memory slideshow in the cafeteria and danced the Chicken Dance. It was a very special day. For more information, visit the Riviera Elementary School website at Riviera Elementary School Originally bought in 1950 for $25,000, Riviera Elementary School sits on a 10-acre lot and serves the area of Torrance bordered to the north by PCH, to the west by the beach, to the south by Calle de Arboles, and to the east by Hawthorne Blvd. The school opened its classrooms to students 70 years ago, on  September 4, 1952. What was life like in the U.S. the year Riviera Elementary opened? Harry S Truman was president Nearly 58,000 cases of polio were reported in the U.S, Dr. Jonas Salk developed the polio vaccine The U.S. tested the first hydrogen bomb Mr. Potato Head was introduced and was the first toy advertised on TV, More than one million were sold in the first year Average prices: A gallon of gas: 20 cents A car: $1,700 A house: $9,050 A movie ticket: 14 cents A loaf of bread: 16 cents Minimum wage: 75 cents/hour

Riviera Couple Celebrates their 70s on Everest

The Mountains Are Calling Not many people celebrate their 70th birthday climbing Mount Everest. But not a lot of people are like Riviera residents Laurie Jonqueres and her husband, Michel.  Just over two years ago, Laurie and Michel headed off on a Himalayan adventure that would prove to be the most challenging of their lives.  Avid hikers, the Jonqueres have trekked hundreds of miles including from the Eiger to the Matterhorn in the Swiss Alps, the Dolomites in Italy, and treks in Peru, Patagonia, Egypt and more.   But the lure of Nepal called, and the Jonqueres knew they needed intense conditioning to prepare their muscles and lungs for strenuous hiking in high altitudes. Toward that end, they spent the summer of 2019 hiking and backpacking above 9,000 ft. in the Eastern Sierras. That fall, Laurie and Michel headed to the Himalayas for two back-to-back treks with REI. First on the itinerary was Annapurna Base Camp at 13,550 ft., followed by Everest Base Camp at 17,600 ft. The Jonqueres flew to Kathmandu where they joined three other hikers for the 14-day trek to Annapurna Base Camp. It proved to be two challenging weeks that tested their balance and knees as they traversed up and down thousands of rocky uneven stone “steps,” through subtropical forests, remote villages and along high glacial valleys where no roads exist. Led by Sherpas, the group experienced unexpected late monsoon weather that waterlogged their tents forcing them to stay in rustic tea houses. “Indoor shelter was actually a relief, as the rain brought out tiny leeches in the fields where we camped that could only be seen once they expanded with our blood,” said Laurie. Arriving at Annapurna Base Camp, the group was rewarded with clear weather and encircling views of 24,000 ft.-plus high peaks and glaciers, and as the day turned to evening, a brilliantly star-studded night sky not seen at sea level. The Annapurna trek served as excellent conditioning for the rigors of climbing to Everest Base Camp, the hardest thing the couple has ever done.  Their group consisted of seven strong hikers, of whom Michel (at 75) was the oldest by 18 years.  Yet Laurie and Michel remained strong, not even requiring the high-altitude medication commonly needed by climbers. Not all Himalaya hikers are that fortunate—they saw two middle-aged climbers airlifted from halfway up on their quest to Everest Base Camp. The 19-day Everest trek involved many days of hard mileage and cold like they’ve never experienced. The strenuous climbs sometimes ascended 2,000 feet per mile, followed by an equal descent to cross a river on a swaying swing bridge. Every member of the group made it to Everest Base Camp on the Khumbu Glacier.  Their exploration at Base Camp however lasted less than an hour due to the onset of hard-blowing snow that hastened their return to camp three miles away. At 4 am the next morning, the dawn of Laurie’s 70th birthday, the group set off in the dark with headlamps to climb to Kalapatar at 18,865 ft. Reaching the top after a toe-numbing climb up steep snow and icy rocks, the group endured the breath-stealing cold to take in the extraordinary view of Mt. Everest at 29,029 ft. with its famous summit plume above and the Khumbu Glacier below. The group spent the rest of the day hiking 14 miles—a 5,000-foot descent—to that night’s stop in the tiny village of Pheriche, where the Sherpas surprised Laurie with a birthday cake baked over hot rocks. “It was so emotional as the Sherpa leader wrapped me in a yellow prayer shawl, the Nepalese good luck color, and our group shared a special bond in our common accomplishment,” said Laurie. “We are so grateful we had this experience at this time in our lives,” added Michel. “It was the adventure of a lifetime and we did us ‘old folks’ proud.” When they’re not conquering mountains, Laurie and Michel enjoy gardening (the roses in front of their Paseo de las Tortugas home are stunning) and tennis. Married for 46 years, they moved to the Riviera in 1977. What’s next on their agenda?  Nothing short of hiking around Europe’s tallest peak, 15,000 ft. Mont Blanc, crossing through Switzerland, Italy, and France. We can‘t wait to see those photos!

Riviera Roundup: a Message From Riviera Elementary Principal, Christie Forshey

Riviera Elementary School Recognized Two Students From Each Class for the Character Counts All Pillar Awards at a Ceremony on May 23rd Here is a picture of our 5th-grade recipients!  The students selected for the All Pillar Award exemplify the pillars of citizenship, respect, caring, fairness, trustworthiness, and responsibility. Parents, student body and Riviera staff were all present at the awards ceremony.  To date, Igor Nastaskin has donated $41,000 to support the Riviera Character Counts Program over the last 17 years. Each year, the school is able to provide a school-wide Character Counts assembly and student incentives for the school’s Character Counts Program. Each month, individual pillar awards and teacher choice awards are given.  Riviera’s 583 students earn Super Stars and incentives in a tiered system of reinforcement for being responsible, respectful, safe, present and for being a friend to others.  A student store certificate, shout-outs over the loudspeaker, lunch with the Principal at Rocketship Park, extra recess, Character Counts T-shirts, and trips to the office prize box are a few of the coveted Super Star incentives that students work towards receiving! Riviera Village Summer Festival It’s back!  Grab your sunglasses and head out to the Riviera Village Summer Festival, June 24 from 4pm – 9pm, June 25 from 10am – 8pm and June 26 from 10am – 7pm.  Shop the more than 200 arts & crafts booths, fill up at the international food court, treat the kids to carnival rides and enjoy the beer garden and live bands. The fair takes place at the corner of Catalina and Avenue I and free shuttles are offered from South High. I’ll see you there!

Local Author Ruth Stevens Pens Dementia Novel That Inspires & Uplifts

Hollywood Riviera Resident Ruth Stevens on Her Novel Stage Seven Alzheimer’s is a disease Hollywood Riviera resident and author Ruth Stevens knows all too well.  Her mother, once a vibrant and accomplished woman, suffered from Alzheimer’s for the last five years of her life.  It was during those tough years of witnessing her mother’s memory and personality slowly slip away that the narrative for a novel began germinating in Ruth’s head. This year, her debut novel, Stage Seven, was published. First produced as a play, Stage Seven tells the story of two caregivers who meet in a memory care facility while visiting family and soon begin a romance that must navigate the paths of love and duty. The title refers to the last and most severe stage of Alzheimer’s when a person usually has no ability to speak and requires assistance with everyday activities. It’s a sad and touching novel but is also imbued with humor and hope for anyone who loves someone with dementia. “I was determined that Stage Seven would not be a relentless downer,” said Ruth, who previously was in public relations and wrote advertising campaigns and articles for newspapers, magazines, and journals. “I’m a big believer in the power of laughter to ease our pain so I always weave humor in my writing—while still taking care to respect the subject matter.” June is Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month, a time to reflect on the growing impact of this relentless disease that gradually erases the memories of those afflicted. More than six million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s, and one in three seniors dies with this or another dementia. In fact, dementia kills more people than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined. Stage Seven was chosen as the June book for this summer’s AlzAuthors-HFC Summer Book Series. HFC is a national non-profit movement to accelerate progress in Alzheimer’s research, founded by actor Seth Rogan and his wife. Stage Seven is also a popular book club selection, and Ruth has personally appeared at several local book club meetings to discuss her novel with attendees. Ruth and her husband, David, moved to the Riviera in 1989 and raised their son here.  When she is not busy writing her next novel, she enjoys hip hop classes, musicals, and hiking. For more information about Alzheimer’s, visit Ruth’s website at or go to To purchase a copy of Stage Seven, visit To invite Ruth to your book club meeting, contact her via her website or email her at  

Riviera Elementary Award Recipients

Riviera Roundup:  Riviera Elementary Award Recipients I have a soft spot for Riviera Elementary  — my wife, Suzy Silver Nastaskin went there, as did our children, Isabelle, Aaron and Jacob.  It has always been a top-notch school and continues to provide a first-rate education to Riviera students.  Congratulations to these honorees who were recently selected by the Riviera PTA for working & volunteering above the call of duty and making a lasting impression on the Riviera community. From left to right: Presenting the awards, proud Riviera principal, Christie Forshey Jen Carter- Outstanding Staff Award. Riviera’s health assistant for the past 6 years, during the last two years Jen increased from 3  to 6 hours a day to provide excellent care and implementation of safety protocols to ensure the well being of the school community during COVID. Jacqueline Ahn- Outstanding Staff Award. Riviera’s licensed vocational nurse, Jackie’s knowledge and expertise were critical as students returned to school post-COVID closure.  Implementing safety protocols, contact tracing and communication with families, staff and district nurses were all essential to the school’s operations.  Jen Adams- Honorary Service Award.  A Riviera parent for 12 years, Jen has served in multiple capacities, including planning Craft Fair, Movie Nights, Father-Daughter and Mother-Son events and Handbag Bingo.   Sara McKown- Honorary Service Award.  Sara has volunteered on campus for five years and served as PTA President during the pandemic, keeping the school’s community connected during uncertain times.  She is also a TUSD Substitute Teacher. Jenny Yiakas- Honorary Service Award.  A Riviera parent for 8 years, Jenny co-chairs the Annual Giving Campaign which raises over $100,000 for field trips and enrichment and supports all PTA programs.  She is also an Adventures In Art docent and playground volunteer. Jill Strosneider- Very Special Person Award- A Riviera parent for 6 years, Jill served on the Executive Board as Recording Secretary and has planned many community service events, including Red Ribbon Week, Blue Ribbon Week and the Holiday Basket Auction.  Marissa Bernal- Very Special Person Award– A parent volunteer for 9 years, Marissa served on the PTA Executive Board, was Room Parent for multiple classes and has planned Riviera’s Gala and International Fair.  Marissa has been a Student Supervision Assistant for the last two years. Post-Covid, she checked temperatures at the entry gates and supervised socially distanced snack and lunch breaks.  Betty Lieu, a TUSD School Board member and  Past Honorary Service Recipient, attended the ceremony. Her two sons were Riviera Elementary students.

Do you live in a “Kissel-built” home?

Do you live in a “Kissel-built” home? If you live in the part of the Hollywood Riviera with a 90505 zip code, it’s very possible you do. That’s because hundreds of homes in the Riviera were built by developer Harry Kissel. Mr. Kissel’s home-building endeavors in the Riviera began in the 1950s. At the time, Riviera resident Dr. Ellinwood, who passed away in 1977 at age 94, owned all the land from Paseo de Gracia and Pacific Coast Highway south to the Palos Verdes limits at Via Colusa and Calle de Arboles, and then east to the end of Tortugas and north to Anza and Pacific Coast Highway. That’s a huge amount of land, and it was vacant at the time (many homes west of this area, which now have a 90277 zip code, were built in the 1940s and earlier). When he visited the area, Mr. Kissel saw sun-drenched fields with balmy breezes and views (although at the time some of those views were the oil derricks still covering much of Torrance). Torrance was in a growth phase, and Mr. Kissel made the most of the opportunity before him. Toward that end, in 1954 he paid Dr. Ellinwood $1,500 per acre for his huge landholdings. Today, the Hollywood Riviera is an exclusive enclave of ocean-close homes, with most valued well above $1 million. The empty fields are gone, but our area is still sun-drenched, with balmy sea breezes and fabulous views (that thankfully no longer include oil derricks).

Fight Back Against Cancer

Relay For Life Returns May 14 at South High Everyone knows someone who has been affected by cancer. Maybe it’s your spouse, parent, sibling, friend, or worst of all, child. Maybe you’ve had cancer yourself. My mother died of pancreatic cancer when I was 18, and it affected me profoundly. According to the American Cancer Society, in 2021 there were an estimated 1.9 million new cancer cases diagnosed and 608,570 cancer deaths in the U.S. Cancer remains a leading cause of death, second only to heart disease. Relay for Life, the signature fundraiser for the American Cancer Society, is the world’s largest peer-to-peer fundraising event dedicated to fighting cancer. For over 35 years, communities across the world have come together to honor and remember loved ones and take action to save lives. During Relay For Life, teams have at least one member walking on a track at all times over a 24-hour period, because cancer never sleeps. Funds raised through Relay For Life directly support research, 24/7 support for cancer patients, access to lifesaving screenings, and much more. Relay For Life Torrance returns for its 20th year on May 14 at South High School. This year’s theme is “Re-Lei For a Cure,” and will include opening ceremonies at 9:00 am, followed by a survivor/caregiver walk at about 9:25 am. At 8:00 pm hand-made Luminarias will be lit around the track to represent a life lost to cancer, a survivor, or support for a person still fighting the disease. It’s a powerful demonstration that provides the opportunity to grieve but also offers comfort and hope. Closing ceremonies follow the Luminaria event. This will be my 14th year serving as captain for the Hollywood Riviera Sportsman’s Club Relay For Life team. Please consider joining our team if you’d like to get involved (women and men are welcome).  To sign up for the Hollywood Riviera Sportsman’s Club team, or to donate funds to the American Cancer Society, please contact me at 310-892-6016 or Donations are accepted until late August. Your gift is tax-deductible as a charitable contribution to the fullest extent allowed by law.  For more information about the American Cancer Society’s support for survivors and patients, call them 24/7 at 1-800-227-2345 or visit  I hope to see you at South High on May 14 as our community pulls together once more to fight back against cancer.

igor nastaskin, kindergarden, lenin, kyiv, ukraine

My Life in Kyiv, Ukraine

Though past issues of this newsletter have focused on my fellow Riviera residents and our local businesses, with everything happening in the world right now I feel compelled to use this space to share my story of life growing up in Ukraine. I Was Born in Kyiv, Ukraine When It Was Still Part of the Former USSR I remember Kyiv as a beautiful city full of gorgeous tree-lined boulevards, impressive architecture, a lively downtown, and the mighty Dnieper River. On visits to my grandmother, who lived in an old building around a major commercial area, I loved to peer out her window at the enormous circus building below. At that time the Kyiv circus was considered one of the best in the country.  Tickets were extremely difficult to get, but once a year my parents would manage to secure some and it was something I always looked forward to. As a child, I thought I had a great life in Kyiv. I had a lot of friends in school and loved my teachers and sports — soccer, hockey, basketball, team handball, and track and field.  I didn’t even mind our small apartment on the 5th floor of a pre-fab Stalin-era building that had no elevator. It was all I knew, and it was home. So I was shocked when, at the age of 12, my mother said she wanted us to leave Ukraine and the USSR.  I didn’t understand why we should leave what I saw as a perfectly good life for a future that was unknown at best and dangerous at worst.  I begrudgingly accepted her decision to leave my homeland and in the ensuing several years we endured many trials and tribulations before finally arriving in the U.S. in the mid-1970s. As I got older, I realized the great courage and foresight my mom had to take us out of Kyiv for a life of freedom and self-fulfillment in America.  She witnessed the corruption in the USSR and didn’t want that to be part of my future. As I sadly follow the tragic events in my old country, I can’t help but feel especially fortunate to live in what I consider to be the best country in the world. And even though it’s been 42 years since my mom passed away, I regularly think of her amazing courage and the incredible risk she took to give me this wonderful life. I would like to ask you to say some prayers for peace for the Ukrainian people and the millions of refugees caught up in this senseless conflict.  In this issue, I have included a few of the many charitable organizations accepting donations for the people of Ukraine. How to Help the People of Ukraine There are many opportunities to provide donations that aid the people of Ukraine. Here are just a few.  I encourage you to research these and others to determine if they are appropriate for you. CNN/Public Good: CNN has partnered with Public Good to provide a platform for donations to 40 organizations helping Ukraine, including Doctors Without Borders, the International Committee of the Red Cross, UNICEF and Save the Children. (Go to United Help Ukraine: This organization is working to provide life-saving first aid kits and other emergency medical supplies to the front lines. In addition, UHU is cooperating with other emergency response organizations to prepare humanitarian aid for civilians. (Go to Stand With Ukraine/Go Fund Me: Actors Mila Kunis and Ashton Kutcher set up a Go Fund Me page called Stand with Ukraine. Donations support, which is organizing shipments of relief supplies to refugee sites in Poland, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia and Moldova, and, which provides free, short-term housing to Ukrainian refugees. As of this writing, Stand With Ukraine has received more than $30 million through more than 67,000 donors. (Go to and search for Stand With Ukraine) United Way:  United Way is assisting Ukrainian refugees with transportation, shelter, food, medicine, infant formula, diapers, hygiene kits and more. (Go to