Clayton women honored by Soroptimists

By Bev Britton on April 2, 2018

Roxanne-LT and Sonja for websiteClayton’s community spirit was on full display at the recent Women of Distinction awards from the Soroptimist International of Diablo Vista.

The group recognized LaTonya Watts and Roxanne Pardi for their work with Clayton Theatre Company and Clayton resident Linda Cruz for her myriad volunteer contributions.

Tight-knit theater troupe

Pardi has known Watts since their teacher/student days at Pittsburg High School. “It was kind of a joke when she graduated, she said: ‘Hey, someday we should start a theater company together,’ ” Pardi recalls.

The two reunited a few years back and got serious about their plan. The Clayton troupe just concluded its sixth season at Endeavor Hall and has won five Shellie Awards for community theater.

Although Pardi says it’s been a challenge getting the word out about the small Clayton venue, they had record attendance at recent performances of “Lend Me a Tenor.”

In addition to three-week runs of a musical in the fall and a play in the spring, the pair offer a children’s drama camp in the summer. This year, participants will perform a reduced version of “Seussical.”

Pardi, the managing director, and Watts, the artistic director, both wear many other hats – including choreography and costuming. Members of the board of directors also help out at each performance.

“As far as we know, we’re the only all-woman run theater company, at least in Northern California,” Pardi notes.

The Pardis are long-time Clayton residents. Her husband Herc coached football at Clayton Valley for 37 years. Watts lives in Antioch.

Brightening the community

After retiring from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Cruz joined the Clayton Valley Garden Club in 2004.

“I grew up in housing projects and foster care in San Francisco and I was always surrounded by cement, so I always wanted a garden and greenery,” she says.

Cruz was garden club president in 2009 and became more involved with the club’s inner workings. “People kept recruiting me for things that I had never done before,” she says with a laugh.

She submitted club members for state awards in 2010 and hit the jackpot when the club won the most awards in the state. “I knew absolutely nothing, so I was reading and learning and initiated all these things the garden club had never done before – and awards was one of them,” she says. “And now we’re always winning awards.”

She has her own share of awards, including as Diablo Foothill District’s garden club newsletter editor and an Award of Honor from both the state and national garden clubs.

Cruz is also on the Clayton Historical Society board, serving as newsletter editor and as a garden tour coordinator.

She is thankful that her husband Jesse supports all her community projects. “Where there is a need, I keep trying to help,” she says simply.

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