Valley Voices

Christmas without her love was a downer – so last year, Pasadena changed everything

Don and Pat La Mont had a lifelong love. He died near Christmastime on 2014, leaving his wife broken-hearted over the holidays. She had to find some way to go on.
Don and Pat La Mont had a lifelong love. He died near Christmastime on 2014, leaving his wife broken-hearted over the holidays. She had to find some way to go on. Special to The Bee

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade – and last Christmas, that’s exactly what Pat La Mont did.

Pat lost her husband, Don, in early December 2014, and she barely made it through the holiday season even though friends and family were very kind. In 2015, she decided the holidays were going to be different.

Pat’s journey to lemonade-maker extraordinaire began in 1966 when she met Don La Mont in Albany, N.Y. He was taken with the sassy redhead; however, it took Pat a little longer to come around. But come around she did, and they married in 1968.

Don and Pat decided California would be a great place to plant roots, so with Don in broadcasting, they chose Los Angeles. While Pat worked for the Braille Institute, Don sent résumés out and KMJ-TV in Fresno made Don an offer. They settled in Fresno, where he worked for KMJ and Pat worked for Lisle Funeral Home.

Don took classes and received a master’s degree in mass communications from Fresno State. When the job at KMJ came to an end, he taught journalism at Fresno City College and Fresno State.

After retirement, they traveled, Don became a Master Gardener, and they both got involved with the senior citizen variety show, “New Wrinkles.”

Then came the day in December 2014, when Pat’s life changed drastically and Don passed away. He had been sick for a while, but a wife of 47 years is not prepared for the void that comes with losing a longtime spouse.

The first Christmas without Don was difficult because Christmas was Don’s favorite holiday and he made the season all the merrier. She missed him desperately.

In 2015 Pat began making lemonade. She had wondered how the floats of the Rose Parade were created and thought maybe they needed volunteers. In August she went online and searched “decorating Rose Parade floats.” Pat chose the “Petal-Pushers” and was off and running.

She signed up to work every other day from Dec. 26 until New Year’s Eve, and booked a hotel room on Colorado Boulevard. On Christmas Day, she packed her car and drove to Pasadena. There was snow forecast over the Grapevine, so Pat took the coastal route and stopped by Morro Rock, a favorite getaway during her marriage. She had a good cry, then put the pedal to the metal toward a new adventure.

On the morning after Christmas, Pat signed in at her designated warehouse, entered and was in awe of the enormity of it all. She was assigned to the State Farm float. It featured many of the places she and Don had enjoyed during their marriage like the Statue of Liberty and Route 66, plus it had succulents and Don had been very involved with the Cactus and Succulent Society. She knew he was right there with her.

Each part of the float was painted different colors to match the colors of the flowers to be used. There were volunteers who cut up flowers and put them in a blender making a fine sugary-type product. People who glued, people on scaffolding, people attaching seeds one by one, people going to the airport for more flowers sent from all over the world – hundreds of people from throughout the country volunteering for a few hours of visual beauty on one day a year.

Pat went to the parade on New Year’s Day and backed into the parking place to make a quick getaway to beat the traffic.

When Pat got home she was exhausted and exhilarated.

It was a Christmas to remember.

And that, my friends, is how you make lemonade.

Leslie Sheets Cunning of Fresno is a freelance writer and a professional volunteer. Write to her at