29 Sep Senior in Action – Valeri Peters Wagner
Marilee Marrero Stefenhagen
Former County of LA Public Library Administrator is having the time of her life as a retiree; meeting fascinating people who are active seniors, and volunteering for Soroptimist International of Norwalk and other women’s groups.
Re: photo taken in front of the waterfall:
The waterfall picture was taken at Mendenhall Lake in Alaska when we took our boat up
Senior in Action – Valeri Peters Wagner
as told to Marilee Marrero Stefenhagen
Valeri, who turned 65 in June 2023, is a native Californian who grew up in the San Gabriel Valley of Los Angeles County. She grew up with younger brother Greg, but her parents had two sets of rules, one for girls and one for boys. Her youthful dreams were often squelched. Valeri determined when she became a parent, that situation would not be repeated.
In high school, Valeri thought she might become a fashion designer. She chose patterns, fabrics and sewed her own clothes after her grandmother taught her to use a sewing machine. By the time she started college, she considered becoming a lawyer, and took paralegal classes at Rio Hondo College with plans to transfer to Cal State Los Angeles for a law degree.
At Rio Hondo College, Valeri worked in Financial Aid. The office was shared with a job placement team including women from the California Employment Development Department. They mentored Valeri, and repeatedly told her she was a courageous, capable young lady until she believed them. At the time of graduation with her Associate’s degree, Valeri was working full time to pay for school. After considering the expense of transferring to Cal State LA, and the reality of the courseload, she decided that studying law was not the path for her.
Valeri moved into her first apartment in Temple City at age 20. Over the following years, Valeri worked with small companies that allowed her to use all the accounting and business classes she had mastered in school and her knowledge of legal systems. From imports/exports, distribution, manufacturing to government contracts, managing financial decisions and building businesses became her specialty.
To utilize her creative side in the left-brain world, studying Interior Design at Citrus College and jewelry design at Mt. San Antonio College became a welcome outlet. Valeri shared, “I consider myself a Renaissance woman, and a life-long learner. I try to learn something new every day, and if something needs to get done, I can usually figure out a way to do it by watching a YouTube video or searching on the Internet.”
As a way to deal with premature wrinkles from time spent in tanning booths, Valeri became an Aloutte skin care consultant in 1985. She still believes wholeheartedly in the Aloette skin care line, and will gladly share her personal success with their products. You can follow her Facebook page @Valeri’s Aloette. Attending Aloette conventions has provided Valeri the opportunity to travel with friends to cities including Atlanta, Toronto, New Orleans, Philadelphia and Seattle.
In November of 1990, Valeri married Bruce Wagner. More than three years prior, they met at a two-step and swing dance class, and she swept him off his feet. Their only child was born in 1991, a son named Garrett. Diagnosed with autism as a young boy, he was bounced around from school to school, in various types of educational settings. Valeri needed a change from working at the Naval Weapons Station when the 9/11 attacks occurred, and was discouraged by the “less than optimal” education opportunities for her son, so she ran for office as a Trustee for School Board in the Cypress Elementary School District. She served three terms as school board member from 2002 to 2014 and completed the California School Boards Association Masters in Governance Program. In the role of a Trustee, her mission was to ensure every student was afforded the opportunities to reach their full potential, not just her son.
After observing her savvy skills on the school board, the community nonprofit Soroptimist International of Cypress invited Valeri to become a member in 2008. Valeri willingly shares her leadership talents at fundraisers and programs which support the Soroptimist mission of helping women and girls achieve their dreams of social and economic empowerment through access to education.
Valeri: “My son Garrett is almost 32 years old now, an adult but with limited intellectual skills. Some days are more challenging than others. Money management is his biggest hurdle. He’s in his last semester at community college in the continuing educational program. My husband, son and golden retriever dogs are my biggest time consumers. My husband cooks for the dogs. When I tired of being a short order family cook, we bought annual Knott’s Berry Farm passes with food and drink options that allow us to buy two daily meals at any of the park restaurants. It’s cheaper and easier than shopping, prepping, and slaving over a hot stove!”
The Wagners own three golden retrievers; one is a show dog named Dory Belle, aka Seasons Sipping the Giggle Juice. Their family belongs to the Golden Retriever Club of Greater L.A. and spend many weekends at dog shows. Valeri has trained golden retrievers as service dogs, and Garrett receives a great deal of comfort and support from his service dog Ghloe. At nine years old, Ghloe is still the first one panting at the front door when it’s time to go.
Valeri admits to two personal obsessions; 1) sharing God’s love and forgiveness with women, and 2) family genealogy. Since the pandemic, she has been watching Andy Stanley, and Levi Lusco online, and joined Stonecroft, a group of Christian women in Buena Park. Valeri says, “They help me stay connected 24/7 with the God who created us.“ Valeri is currently creating a devotional that blends scripture with contemporary music for an immersive experience of spiritual reading and listening. Regarding her pursuit of family genealogy, Valeri values all she has learned through the website Ancestry.com about geography and world history simply by being curious about the relatives on her family tree.
If you are interested in learning more about Stonecroft Christian women’s groups, visit their website at https://www.stonecroft.org/
To study your family tree, visit https://www.ancestry.com/