Monday, August 2, 2021
Turning Passions into Life Callings
Waiter-husbands Jerry Mailman, Buzz Coe, Marty Lyon, Bryan Ries and Alex Margolin show off their bowties.
Wednesday, January 10, 2018



One woman found her calling painting ceramic greenware once a week at a girlfriend’s house, parlaying her enthusiasm for it into a career as a nationally acclaimed sculptor.

Another learned to figure skate on a dare at age 30 and ended up founding U.S. Figure Skating’s Adult Skating Program.

Wendy Pesky shares a moment with Lois Rosen.

These women and two others had the spotlight shown on them this past week in a unique presentation that allowed the women to introduce themselves to others, while encouraging those in the audience  to move forward pursuing their own passion.

Rhea Schwartz, Carolyn Olbum, Esmeralda Gordon and Wendy Pesky each got five minutes in the spotlight as the women of the Wood River Jewish Community held their annual winter Ladies Luncheon this past week at Esta’s.

RHEA SCHWARTZ quickly endeared herself to the women as she told them she would be happy to provide commentary on the upcoming figure skating competition during the Winter Olympics in South Korea.

Schwartz, a retired lawyer from Washington, D.C., founded the Adult Skating Program in 1995, overseeing the first adult national competition in the United States that year.

Juli Roos and Linda Cohen were among the attendees.

In 2000 she was named one of the 25 most influential people in figure skating by the International Figure Skating Magazine. And in 2004 she was named the first chair of the newly created International Skating Union Adult Figure Skating Working Group.

“Learning figure skating took me down a slippery slope,” she told the women. “I loved the movement and the artistry. I’m not the world’s best athlete but I was a dancer as a young child so I fell in love with the universe of skating, and I loved getting to know adult skaters all over the world.” 

CAROLYN OLBUM, the granddaughter of immigrants who fled Jewish ghettos in Russia and Romania, fell in love with ceramics during a weekly ladies get-together as a newlywed. While the other women gradually lost interest, she went on to take ceramics classes at Carnegie Mellon University and the then-fledgling Sun Valley Center for the Arts.

Today she creates large-scale bronze pieces of deer, mountain lions and aspects of nature with the help of a foundry in Baker City, Ore.  She has had solo exhibitions at Gail Severn Gallery and galleries in such places as Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Green Bay, Seattle and Las Vegas. Her work has even been featured at the Smithsonian Institute National Air and space Museum in Washington, D.C.

Sammie Mailman emceed.

She’s created sculptures for 55 years.

“Form fascinates me,” she said. “I love form. I love nature. I love three-dimensional products. And I love nature. I’m affected by my love for the environment and so I try to interpret it in the art work I do.”

ESMERALDA GORDON told the women that she’s been a “jewelaholic” since 9.

She turned her love for necklaces and earrings into a career as a jeweler, gemologist, designer and artist, creating luxury jewelry in her studio in Ketchum’s light industrial district.

Her first clients were tourists staying at the Oriental Hotel, which she visited while in Thailand.

“I think about the consumer more than myself,” she said. “I don’t answer the question, ‘Does this look good on me?’ I answer back, ‘Do YOU like it.”

With a little knack, Gordon said, one can turn five or six items into 20 pieces.

“It’s good for the consumer to express themselves by picking their own pieces and putting them together,” she said. “I love wearing jewelry and my work not only helps me to help others pick out jewelry that they love but it’s enabled me to give a portion of my sales to charities. It gives me great pleasure to help charities because charities need money.”

WENDY PESKY recounted how she and her husband Alan Pesky walked the New York City Marathon a few months earlier to raise money for the Lee Pesky Learning Center that the couple started 21 years ago.

They founded the organization for children with learning differences in memory of their son Lee who also struggled with learning differences before passing away of a brain tumor in his 20s.

Eight members of the Lee Pesky Learning Center, including Wood River Valley residents Rick Delgado and Erin Finnegan, either ran or walked the 26-miles, becoming the first nonprofit organization from Idaho to be represented in the New York City Marathon.

“I went from a five mile walk to a hundred,” Pesky said, as she described her training regimen. “I wanted to do it for my daughter and my husband, who is a very passionate man. It’s one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had. Now, when I want to take the short route home, I don’t. I take the long way, instead.”

Though intended for women the gathering impressed the husband-waiters serving them.

“This is a great gathering,” said Buzz Coe. “When you stop to think about it, women are really the backbone of any community.”

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