Five Eagles of Excellence

Honored by Rotary Club 



The Rotary Club of Big Bear Lake hosted the seventeenth-annual Eagle of Excellence Community Service Awards Ceremony and Dinner, Sunday June 8th.

Master of Ceremonies, Walter Con introduced the Eagle of Excellence Community Service Awards Ceremony by explaining the program that began with the Rotary Club of Big Bear in 1998. More than 87 individuals, mostly non-Rotarians, have been honored with the Community Service Awards distinctive pins and commemorative trophies.

Con defined the symbolism of eagles with a few quotes:

Did you know, when a storm is coming, all other birds seek shelter?  The Eagle alone, avoids the storm by flying above it.  My observation for our recipients this evening: They are like the Eagle and accomplish great things by flying above the storm of life. 

  • Eagles come in all shapes and sizes but you will recognize them chiefly by their attitudes.  By E. F. Schumacher.

  • Don’t be a parrot in life, be an Eagle.  A parrot talks way too much and can’t fly high.  An Eagle is silent and has the will power and ability to touch the sky.  Author unknown. 

  • When thou seest an Eagle, thou seest a portion of genius; lift up thy head.  By William Blake


    The dinner and awards ceremony are dedicated to honoring members of the Big Bear Valley, who exhibit a high caliber of professionalism, enthusiasm, work ethic and commitment to service, not only in their vocational field, but also in how they demonstrate excellence in the personal giving of time, energy and influence on others within the community. 

    The Sunday evening program began with the introduction of the 2014 Annual Rotary Scholarship winners: Constance Button, Delaney Warren, Jacob Carson, Danny Zepeda, Austin Saderup, Ryan Florence. See this website:  >


    The Rotarians saluted five Bear Valley residents from a variety of professions.  The 2014 Eagle of Excellence honorees were: Bonnie Shaffer, Jim Applebury, Cindy Caretto, Linda Ricchiuti and Special Recognition and In Memoriam of recently passed Skip Suhay. The Awards program featured a presentation highlighting the accomplishments, career and family of each recipient.  

Bonnie Shaffer -

Gene and Betty Hunter moved to Big Bear Valley in the 1940’s and purchased property in the now known Fox Farm Road area.  The Hunter’s established and operated a Fox Ranch until the early 50’s. Bonnie is the youngest of four children born to the Hunter family. When Bonnie was a young child, they owned and operated Hunter’s Texaco, a local gas station and general store. In the 60’s they sold that business and started Hunter’s Nursery, the first nursery supply store in the mountain community.                             

Bonnie Hunter grew up in Big Bear and attended local schools. Bonnie married Gary Shaffer, her high school sweetheart. As a stay-at-home mom, Bonnie raised the four Shaffer children, Christy, Anna, Amy, and Matthew.  When the children became independent, Bonnie entered the work force as a bookkeeper. She was employed by multiple local small businesses by managing their books. 

In 1999 Bonnie Shaffer became the office manager for a statewide organization, Californian’s For Drug-Free Youth (CADFY).  As she fulfilled her tasks for CADFY, she became passionate about ‘preventing substance abuse’.  As a mom and community member, she began to learn ways to combat the epidemic she saw growing in substance abuse. 

Bonnie Shaffer became a Board Member of Operation Breakthrough for a season, and eventually worked as their bookkeeper until the agency was acquired by another organization in 2008. At that time, Bonnie was offered the position as Prevention Coordinator. She served the agency in that capacity in both their Big Bear Valley and Yucca Valley locations.

Then came the formation of the Breakthrough Task Force, a coalition of community leaders, law enforcement, and members whose interest is to reduce underage access to drugs and alcohol. The Task Force has impacted the community awareness with positive programs and policy changes.

Bonnie has been active in raising community awareness and addressing community needs related to substance abuse. She is also a member of the Coalition Against Sexual Trafficking (C.A.S.T.) to be watchful in our community and raise awareness of any human trafficking activity.

A woman of faith, Bonnie has participated with local spiritual leaders in active prayer movements throughout the community. She sees herself as a connector among people and believes in building relationships that cause every person to see their value and unique gifts that bring benefit to all. Bonne’s work in the field of drugs and alcohol has helped her to become intentional in raising the factors that increase a positive success, and in decreasing the factors that can interrupt each individual’s journey in life.

Bonne’s first goal, to prevent underage drug and alcohol abuse, has also directed her to address the needs she sees in those already affected by the mis-use of drugs and alcohol. Bonnie’s goal is to touch others through building caring relationships.  A person’s need is in their heart, and when you can touch the heart through relationship, it can bring incredible change to an individual’s life, their family, and ultimately our community. She believes we, each can intentionally change the world around us, one step, one person at a time.


Jim Applebury-

Jim was the third born of three children to Leonard and Joyce Applebury in Orange, CA. The family resided in Midway City in one of the tracts of homes where many of our Veterans of WWII were raising their families after the war. His father returned to the family farm from the Army Air Corp., retiring as a Major after serving our country as a P38 pilot assigned to the 32nd Photo Recon Squadron.               



Jim’s  mother worked in Long Beach for McDonnell Douglas Aircraft to support the war effort here at home. Spending many of his early years on the family farm in Huntington Beach gave him his appreciation of hard work and the sense of accomplishment after a long day at what they referred to as the “ranch”.


The Applebury family found their way to northern Orange County after his father went to work for Hunt’s Foods in the R & D department. Jim attended Troy High School and Fullerton Junior College. He transferred to Goldenwest College where he met his wife Debbie. While Debbie continued her college career at UCI Jim jumped at the chance to become an apprentice carpenter and graduated four years later as a journeyman. Becoming a foreman, then a superintendent was a major accomplishment that helped to give Jim’s family a way to afford their first home in Garden Grove.


 Jim and Debbie became parents of Alyson on Christmas Day 1979 which has shaped their lives ever since. Alyson became a miracle child when the doctors and nurses of CHOC saved her delicate life despite the odds. Debbie has been a full-time caregiver ever since. Without Debbie’s dedication to Alyson, the family would not have been able to survive. Several years later Alyson became a big sister to her little brother Justin.

On June 28th 1992 Jim was busy building a bike for Justin’s 8th birthday when the ground started shaking first from the Lander’s Quake and then the Big Bear Earthquake. Little did he or the family know how this would shape their future. Jim, having recently becoming an estimator for an insurance contractor jumped at the chance to go to Big Bear Valley, to negotiate a settlement with FEMA for the major damage which occurred at the Escape Condos. A $1.6 million settlement was reached so Jim asked if he could relocate the family and oversee the project. Jim knew from the start that this might be his only chance to move to the mountains that he loved to visit as a child.


 The earthquake in Northridge became another catalyst of change for the Applebury family. After spending a year running up and down the mountain to oversee the work in the San Fernando Valley and the effect it had on the family another change was due. Most people who know Jim, know him as the computer guy so how did a construction guy find his way into the technology field? It all started when Debbie needed a PC for the work she was doing with the Newport-Costa Mesa YMCA in 1982. Purchased on a Saturday of a three-day weekend Debbie found Jim asleep on top of the keyboard that Monday. I guess it was probably his destiny.


 A few years after starting his I T business, Abacus with his partner Ernie Apodaca, Jim was asked to join the Rotary Club of Big Bear Lake. Jim has had many mentors including his sponsor Rob Shepherd. He was soon asked to help with the Santa Claus program which he has been privileged to participate in every year since. Jean Brownie asked Jim to help with the EarlyAct program and he enjoyed working with the youngest Rotarians in the Valley. Skip Suhay asked Jim to bring his carpenter skills to the July 4th Fireworks show where Rotarians roll up their sleeves to give Big Bear one of the best shows in Southern California.


Cindy Caretto-

Cindy Bayer was born and raised in Whittier, CA, the only child of Eugene and Jean Bayer.  Her family has traced its roots back to the Mayflower.  She attended local public schools and graduated from Whittier High School, where she met her future husband, Dave Caretto.


Cindy was active in her church, played the saxophone and worked summers in a travel agency.  She attended the University of Redlands and graduated with a degree in history and an elementary teaching credential. Cindy taught primary grades for 24 years in the Rialto, Ocean View and Irvine school districts.  Her favorite grade was kindergarten.  She still maintains friendships with several former students who consider her “my favorite teacher.” 

In 1978 she reconnected with her high school friend, Dave Caretto.  They were later married in 1980, bought their first home in Irvine and lived there for 26 years.  Son Peter arrived in 1983, followed by brother Nick in 1986. Cindy loved serving as a “Soccer Mom” and a Cub Scout leader for many years.  Peter is a graduate of West Point and now an Army Captain (soon to be Major) in charge of a Special Forces HALO Team.  He is an Iraq and Afghanistan war veteran.  Nick, also an Army Iraq war veteran, is currently a legal assistant for a law firm in Orange County.                   


Cindy retired from teaching in 2004.  A year later Dave also retired from Public Administration, and they moved to their remodeled Big Bear Lake cabin. When she’s not volunteering, Cindy’s hobbies include scrapbooking, card making, reading and Sudoku.

Soon after relocating, Cindy became active in the community.  She first joined AAUW, where she became the coordinator for Tech Trek, a position she is dedicated to.  This program sends 8th grade girls to a summer camp for science, technology, engineering and math.  Cindy is delighted that the Tech Trek program exposes young girls to the possibility of a college education and careers in the STEM fields. Besides AAUW, Cindy volunteers for the following organizations and committees: 

Soroptimist International of Big Bear Valley--various Board positions; Chair of the Program Committee; Chair of the Holiday Auction; Chair of the Soroptimist Home Tour; Rookie of the Year in 2010; Soroptimist of the Year in 2013.  Also assists with S* Team, food drives, Easter egg hunt and other activities.

Big Bear Cowboy Gathering--past volunteer for four years for the Cowboy music and poetry festival, including decorations, ranch dinner, gift baskets, and hospitality.

Big Bear Library Literacy Coalition--current Chair. The purpose is to provide free tutoring and materials to individuals and families who are improving their basic reading, writing, spelling and math skills.  The program achieves this goal by recruiting, training and monitoring volunteer tutors to provide such services and by providing tutors and learners with educational materials, resources and training.

Big Bear Middle School Positive School Climate Committee--represents AAUW and Soroptimist in this group made up of students, parents, staff and community members who work continuously to create a positive, safe, and supportive atmosphere at the Middle School.

Hospital Foundation--past member of this organization, which raises funds for the Bear Valley Community Hospital.  Assisted with Golden Balls, other fundraisers, and the recent Rotary/Foundation Valentine Ball.

Bear Valley Unified School District LCAP Committee--participates as a public member of this committee to help draft the Local Control Accountability Plan.  She is a firm believer in and an enthusiastic supporter of public education.

Amgen Tour of California & Tour de Big Bear--hospitality, decorations, registration.

Cindy loves this community and all of the wonderful people she has met along the way.  She believes it is a very caring, special community, and she is proud and humble to receive the Eagle of Excellence Award from Rotary.


Linda Ricchiuti-

Fast forward has always been Linda Ricchiuti’s speed!  Off to kindergarten just after her fourth birthday, Linda hit school running and never looked back.  Linda grew up in Sherman Oaks, California in the San Fernando Valley and yes was one of the original Valley Girls.  The youngest of three children, Linda grew up enjoying home cooked Italian food, reading, movies, art and working on cars with her dad and brother.

Finishing high school at sixteen by implementing all the advanced placement courses available, Linda began college as a sophomore at the University of California, Riverside.  With English as her major and as a Journalism minor, Linda graduated, earned her teaching credential and went on to earn an MA in Curriculum and Instruction.  In the classroom, Linda-the-teacher was barely older than her students in her position as a high school teacher.   


In 1991, Linda was interviewed for a position by Mr. Phil Hamilton, Principal of Big Bear High School. Although she was not truly interested in the job, she viewed the interview as experience. She was also curious to visit Big Bear Lake again after her first encounter as a child.  Linda fell in love with the area and the people during that one visit even though it had just survived a major earthquake.  Later, Linda met Kent Stalcup, the son of fellow English teacher, Ed Stalcup, and decided that Big Bear was a perfect place to settle down and raise a family.  Linda and Kent were married in 1996. Daughters, Quinn, arrived in 2001 and Jessee in 2006. 

A little later, Linda worked as a Curriculum Coordinator for San Bernardino County Schools and began 14 years of daily commuting, off-the-hill. When a 6.5 million dollar grant from NASA was awarded to the county, Linda became co-coordinator of the program and worked with NASA scientists and astronauts to develop cutting edge web-based curriculum and professional development materials.


In 2001, Linda formed an educational technology company with partners. With her knowledge of education, Linda assisted in developing a market leading data and assessment warehouse called DataDirector.  DataDirector became a statewide success and was quickly observed by the renowned publishers, Houghton-Mifflin-Harcourt.  The company was sold to HMH and Linda left the educational technology business in 2007 to return full time to her home and family in Big Bear Lake.

Boredom shortly entered the retirement.  Talking with Kent, she wondered, “If I could make money by just hanging out in my kitchen all day - that would be amazing!” and immediately the idea of the Copper Q was born.  The Copper Q was formed around the concept of families and friends sitting around a table together, cooking and eating and sharing life. It was Linda’s remembrance of growing up in an Italian family and that which is lacking in today’s fast-paced world.  

Linda and Kent looked for a suitable building and decided to purchase a “fixer upper” in the heart of the Big Bear Lake Village. The major renovation of this building provided a lift to the Village and gave hope to struggling businesses during the depths of the recession.

Both Kent and Linda had served on the board of DOVES.  Linda enjoys and believes in volunteer work to better a community from within.  She serves on the Village Business Association Board, is the Chair of the Economic Development Committee for the Chamber of Commerce as well as an active member of the Big Bear Valley Education Trust by coordinating the educational programs and services the Trust provides to the Valley.


Special Recognition--Skip Suhay In Memoriam

Frank Louis Suhay Jr. was the first born to Frank Louis Suhay, Sr. and Rhea Jane (Sprickman) Suhay on October 17, 1945.  He was born and raised in the San Fernando Valley.  He moved to Big Bear Lake in the spring of 1979, and he started his carpet cleaning business, Bear Valley Carpet Cleaning which he operated successfully until his death. 


‘Skip’ Suhay passed away in the early hours of May 5, 2014, after a long and valiant bout with cancer, in the presence of his loving wife Karen, son Andy, brothers Gary and Ed and their wives, Linda and Robben.  He is also survived by his daughters Jeanette Suhay and Denice Cody, her husband Travis and their two sons, Jesse and Jason and step-son Matthew Youngman, his wife Elaine and their son Tyler.  Skip was a fixture in the community and a long time Rotarian who will be missed greatly by all who knew him.


Skip’s early enjoyment of snow skiing and the mountains helped develop his dedication to the community in many forms, including his membership in the Rotary Club of Big Bear Lake.  He served in many official positions with Rotary, including as President of the Club twice.  His illness caused him to resign his second term as President earlier this year.  Skip was honored to receive the Eagle of Excellence Award from the Rotary Club in June of 2006.


If you have enjoyed any of the Rotary Club sponsored July 4th fireworks displays on the lake over the last 30 years, you have experienced one of Skip’s many contributions to the community.  He was the man in charge during this entire time and took great pride in the show each year.


Through the Rotary Club, Skip was also a fixture at the Big Bear Lake Oktoberfest for three decades, dressing in the traditional German lederhosen and leading attendees in dances and many of the contests.  He and Karen always had new and different outfits to wear and they cherished their participation in this annual event.


Skip was also generous with his time and efforts in support of the community, including his participation in the Soroptimist “Man About Town” campaign fundraiser in 1997.  He enthusiastically supported this annual campaign.


Skip has also served on the MWD Board of Directors since 1999.  He served as President of the Board in 2003, 2006 and 2011.  He knew that Big Bear is dependent on its lake and the water level, and he wanted to do his part to ensure its water supply for recreation and enjoyment of residents and visitors alike.  He always cherished the beauty of the lake and was proud of his efforts on behalf of MWD.


Those who were lucky enough to get to know Skip were blessed by his zeal and enjoyment of life in every facet.  He loved to dance; he always kept things light and fun, and he seemed to have endless one-liners.  Skip was a veteran, proudly serving in the United States Navy during the early years of the Vietnam conflict.  His love for this country was expressed in many ways but none more evident than his work with the annual July 4th fireworks displays.


The Rotary Club of Big Bear Lake honors the memory of our dear friend and colleague Frank Louis (Skip) Suhay.  We will miss him greatly and remember him always, and we will proudly carry on the Rotary Fireworks program in his honor.


The Rotary Club of Big Bear Lake Eagle of Excellence Community Service Awards Ceremony and Dinner held at the Bear Cave Event Center concluded the evening program with approximately 110 in attendance. The Rotarians’ look forward to awarding more honorees in 2015.

Special thanks to Rotarian Alan B. Clark for the photography.