Retired Employees Association of the California Teachers Association
Member to Member
Susan Popovich - 1948-2017

Message from Dawn Murray and Robin Rose:  In addition to the Memorial Celebration of Life for Susan on Labor Day in Santa Fe, there will be a larger Celebration of Life that her niece Amy and her close friends are planning.  The date is Friday, Nov 3, 2017 in the evening in Santa Fe. Details on time and location will be posted as soon as they are available. Information will also be available on the REACTA Facebook page.

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Tony Leon - 1935-2017 (as shared by Bill Ribblett)

Tony Leon was born September 1, 1935 and passed into eternity July 4, 2017 at the age of 81 and was one of my dearest friends. I came to California in the summer of 1976, hired by Orange Unified Education Association/CTA/NEA as their Executive Director. I met Tony at Asilomar, CTA’s training camp for new teacher leaders and presidents in Monterey, CA. I was doing a training, teaching how to do demographics for political campaigns using a technique “Political Charette” that I had developed in Virginia. I would not have recognized this new president except that he raved about how this was just what he needed for changing the conditions for the teachers in his local association. This is what I remember about that encounter with Tony, who became my best friend. He wanted to make things better for teachers. I found that Tony was drafted by a group of teachers to be their President and he claimed he never volunteered and that he knew nothing about CTA or teacher advocacy. After all he was a football coach and PE teacher! Tony was a natural organizer. He saw the talents in others and put these talents and skills together to develop a winning team for anything he wanted to accomplish. He was the master! During the early days of his teaching in Capistrano Unified school District, Tony decided that the conditions of teaching and the pay in Capo were poor and he would do something about it. He talked to his “Heroes”, the CTA Executives in Orange County to get ideas. A few days later he was taking teachers out on strike to make the point that he meant business. We CTA staff were all called in to save what might have been a daring venture in those early days of collective bargaining in California. Tony was the hero. The teachers got a huge raise and a better contract with benefits that continue to this day, almost 40 years later. At the time Tony didn’t think that he might be fired for walking out the way he did. It didn’t matter to him. He just had to get the job done and he put the right people, made up of teacher leaders and CTA staff, on the team to make it happen.
Tony later quit teaching, turning the Capo Association over to the leaders he developed during the crisis and went to Long Beach to be an Associate Executive under the training and leadership of the great Shirley Guy, then Long Beach’s Executive Director. He excelled as a CTA staffer there and was later hired by CTA to go to Victorville to open an office in this “High Desert” community. I am reminded of a great story about Tony. ( He never acted or thought of himself of Mexican decent). Tony was a man’s man in every sense of the word. He opened the new CTA office with nothing- No equipment, no Associate Staff. So he had CTA hire a brilliant Associate Staff, Sue Beck and then he heard that a CTA office in San Diego was moving and had a lot of used equipment that could be used to open his new office. So he called his CTA boss, John Lepp who said “Go for it”. So one Sunday he jumped in his “Taco Wagon” (his name for his van) and headed for San Diego. He loaded up all the equipment the San Diego office would spare and headed back to the high desert office. However Tony had to go through the Border Check point on Route 15, just north of Escondido. You can guess what happened. Tony was of Mexican color, dressed in “moving” clothes, driving a loaded “taco wagon” and he had no receipt for any of the equipment! What to do!!! There were no cell phones in those days. 
Long story shortened: Tony convinced the border guard to call a phone number he remembered (belonging to John Lepp) who he couldn’t remember the name because of all the stress of the situation. Not thinking HE was being profiled. Later he said what else could the guard do. “I was Mexican, in a loaded van with no receipts in a Taco wagon! I would have done the same.” This was Tony! He saw the reality in most situations and handled things when they would be trying for most. 
Tony could talk his way out of anything. When John Lepp refused some expenses on his Staff reimbursements on a request to be reimbursed for some boots he had to buy when his shoes were destroyed marching on a picket line, (questionable costs), no problem, Tony would disguise expenses on his next submission with a note, “Find the Boots”. This became the laughing motto for every staff’s later cuts by management for cost reimbursement.
Tony was always searching for ways to help teachers. Like his President days in Capo, he wanted to see results. Thus he brainstormed constantly with other staff and leaders more ways to help teachers in their classrooms. Thus “Survive and Thrive”, "I Can Do it", State-line High Desert Leadership training, San Bernardino County Coalition and many other teacher training programs and assistance programs were born. He picked the right staff and leaders who could write the curriculums as well as teach the curriculums of these programs that CTA later endorsed and provided to teachers. NEA even took “I Can Do It” nationwide. Tony had the talent of seeing the best in people as well as their talents and he took advantage of this in putting together teams to serve California’s Teachers. I was fortunate to serve in most of those teams. Tony never took credit but bragged about the team’s results.
So later in my career when teachers in Needles were about fed up with managements unethical behavior in bargaining and were going to go out on strike, who better for me to choose than my friend, Tony to put together a team to make this a success. He did and the Needles teachers will always remember the strike that got a contract that made teaching tolerable in this hot desert community. Tony brought the best of the best staff and leaders in to assist the Needles teachers in victory.
There are many stories I could share. I have just scratched the surface of Tony’s ability, personality and love of his work. I celebrate a great man, a man’s man, my best friend, Tony Leon (1935-2017).

Below:  Tony, Dan Saling and Bill Ribblett
Right:    Jill (wife), Tony and Susan Popovich


Tony, Jill, Susan and Linda Young (across from Tony)

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REACTA Scholarship Program 2018

REACTA is pleased to announce that we will offer a Scholarship Program for 2018. The details will be posted soon.

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