2018 in review

February 1st, 2019

Good for some, bad for others but certainly a year to remember

By Mary Alys Cherry

The year 2018 will be remembered in various ways across the country. A good year for some. But for others, not so good.

Certainly not by the residents of eastern North and South Carolina, or those in Panama City and Mexico Beach, Fla., whose lifestyles were ripped apart by hurricanes; or California residents who lost their homes, cars and most everything they owned to fires. Or in nearby Santa Fe, where 10 lost their lives in a shooting at Santa Fe High.

For the Bay Area, 2018 was a year of change – especially at NASA, which is celebrating its 60th anniversary, along with the 20th anniversary of the International Space Station and plans to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the landing on the moon this coming July.

Added some new faces, too. NASA Headquarters welcomed a new administrator, Jim Bridenstine, a new deputy administrator, Jim Morhard, and a new chief financial officer, Jeff DeWit, in 2018.

The year also brought several changes at NASA’s Johnson Space Center. JSC Director Ellen Ochoa retired in May and Deputy Director Mark Geyer became center director. Soon thereafter, Vanessa Wyche was named deputy director. Six new flight directors also were selected – Allison Bolinger, Adi Boulds, Jose Marcos Flores, Pooja Joshi Jesrani, Paul Konyah III and Rebecca J. Wingfield.


A cheering crowd filled Teague Auditorium to nearly overflowing as JSC Director Geyer and Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana joined the new NASA administrator, who flew down from Washington to introduce the “Commercial Crew” – the nine astronauts who will fly on American-made commercial spacecraft to the International Space Station and return to American soil for the first time since the Space Shuttle was retired.

The nine who will crew Boeing’s Starliner and SpaceX’s Crew Dragon are Sunita Williams, Josh Cassada, Eric Boe, Nicole Mann, Christopher Ferguson, Douglas Hurley, Robert Behnken, Michael Hopkins and Victor Glover.

Then the administrator returned again in the fall with Vice President Pence and the president’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, for a tour of the center.


The year got off on a happy note with Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner named recipient of the Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership’s Quasar Award, followed by retiring Acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot being presented the National Space Trophy by the Rotary National Award for Space Achievement Foundation.

Among the many coming in for honors this past year were two Space Center Rotary past presidents — Scott Rainey, who was elected Rotary District 5890 governor for 2020-2021; and Suzie Howe, a former district governor, who was presented the Distinguished Service Award for raising $3.7 million for Rotary.

Lunar Rendezvous was back for its 53rd annual festival, selecting Gene Hollier as king and Sabrina Curran as queen while volunteers raised $126,000 for college scholarships and help for area non-profits at the festival events.

A few months later, the Clear Creek Education Foundation raised $75,000 at its annual gala, while honoring League City Mayor Pat Hallisey as Citizen of the Year, BAHEP President Bob Mitchell with the George Carlisle Distinguished Service Award and eight others.

And, the American Heart Association raised $220,000 at its annual Go Red for Women Luncheons while the Assistance League of the Bay Area was busy providing new school clothes for 2,725 needy students.


The Clear Creek School District got an A or Exemplary rating from the Texas Education Agency for the school year and tightened up school security even more after the deadly shooting at nearby Santa Fe High.

Work on the rebuild of both Clear Lake High and Clear Creek High was finally completed as Clear Creek ISD made plans to add a new school in League City, Florence Campbell Elementary. Other projects include the $19 million addition of 18 classrooms at Stewart Elementary in Kemah and $16 million in improvements to Clear Lake City Elementary.

The University of Houston-Clear Lake added two new buildings as its enrollment continues to grow, while College of the Mainland passed a $40 million bond to construct new buildings and upgrade others on its Texas City campus.

San Jacinto College is also enlarging its three campuses as it enrolled a record 30,509 students this past school year.


We lost a hospital and gained a hospital.

Our beautiful Bay Area Regional Medical Center in Webster shut down with 900 employees laid off – but quicker than you could blink your eye, UTMB in Galveston stepped in and leased the building for 15 years. The “UTMB-Clear Lake Campus,” as it will be called, is expected to open in a month or two after a year’s absence from the medical scene.

And, it will not be the only hospital getting a name change. The facility, which we used to know as Houston Methodist St. John Hospital, is now called Houston Methodist Clear Lake.

Down in Texas City, Mainland Medical Center completed a $5 million expansion of its Emergency Department, adding 6,200 square feet of space and 13 new private patient rooms.

Damages to John Sealy Hospital in Galveston last January were estimated at $7.8 million – a huge amount when you consider that there was very little fire damage. The damages were from smoke which enveloped the entire multi-story building.


As thousands of area residents continued to recover from the waters of Hurricane Harvey, rebuilding their homes and lives, Gov. Greg Abbott came to visit, bringing $153 million for storm debris removal costs for League City, Friendswood, Dickinson and several other areas hard hit by Hurricane Harvey.

Meanwhile, the Army Corps of Engineers has taken Dr. Bill Merrill’s Ike Dike idea and is currently working on eventually building a Coastal Spine to protect the Galveston Bay area and other parts of the coast. Hearings have been held in Seabrook and Galveston to get residents’ comments and ideas. When the final study is completed in a year or two, the plans will be sent to Congress for funding.

Harris County overwhelmingly passed a massive $2.5 billion flood mitigation bond to help prevent future flooding, while Exploration Green, which had already helped save many Clear Lake City homes from flooding during Hurricane Harvey, had its grand opening April 28 and continued its work.

Both Norman Frede Chevrolet and One Stop Tents and Events celebrated their 50th anniversaries this past year, while South Shore Harbour Resort & Conference Center celebrated its 30th anniversary and The Clothes Horse in League City celebrated its 20th anniversary.

Costco, the world’s second largest company behind Walmart, came to town, opening a large store in Webster.


Sadly, we lost some outstanding citizens. President George H.W. Bush, 94, and his wife, Barbara, 92, who have made Houston their home for many years, died this year, as did Bob McNair, who brought the Texans to town; and four astronauts, including 2 of the 12 men who walked on the moon. Among those “slipping the surly bonds of Earth” were moonwalkers John Young, 87, and Alan Bean, 86; Bruce McCandless II, 80, who died in late December of 2017, still famous for his floating in space photo; and Don Peterson, 84, who made the first spacewalk from the Space Shuttle.

For some, 2018 will be a year they will hope to forget.

Former Republican Congressman Steve Stockman of Clear Lake was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison after being convicted on 23 counts of illegally diverting $1.25 million in campaign donations for his own personal use in a series of illegal acts that prosecutors called “a white-collar crime spree.”

Also, Galveston County Constable Jerry Fisher of League City recently found himself on the wrong end of DWI arrest.

And, amid all the ups and downs of the world and many Bay Area changes, the Webster Presbyterian Church, where two famous astronauts – Buzz Aldrin and Sen. John Glenn — once worshipped, celebrated its 125th anniversary Dec. 2.

Space Center Rotary donating $60,000 for school program

October 1st, 2018

It was quite an excited crowd at Space Center Rotary when President Nancy Anderson presented a check for $20,000 to the Clear Creek Education Foundation for The Leader in Me program at Space Center Intermediate School. Among those taking part in the ceremony were, from left, banker Jim Stewart, realtor Jonathan Cottrell, Rotarians Bob Wren and Nancy Anderson, CCEF President Deborah Laine, Space Center Intermediate student leader Eden Fuentes, and Principal Ann Thorn, Clear Creek ISD Superintendent Dr. Greg Smith with Deputy Superintendent Paul McLarty, both Rotarians, and Dr. Karen Engle, assistant superintendent of secondary education.

By Mary Alys Cherry

In an effort to take education of students in the Clear Creek schools a step higher, Space Center Rotary Club is donating $60,000 over the next three years to the Clear Creek Education Foundation, which is overseeing a highly touted program called The Leader in Me.

The program was initially started locally two years ago at Falcon Pass Elementary in Clear Lake with a $50,000 CCEF grant. With the Rotary dollars, CCEF will now oversee a similar program at nearby Space Center Intermediate, Rotary Club President Nancy Anderson announced at the Aug. 27 club luncheon at Bay Oaks Country Club.

Others taking part in the ceremony were Space Center Intermediate Principal Ann Thorn, student leader Eden Fuentes, who went through the program at Falcon Pass, CCEF President Deborah Laine and a number of CCEF Board members.

The program utilizes Stephen Covey’s timeless “7 Habits of Highly Effective People:”

  • Be proactive
  • Begin with the end in mind
  • Put first things first
  • Think win-win
  • Seek first to understand, then to be understood
  • Synergize
  • Sharpen the saw

Over 3,000 Leader in Me Schools in 50 countries are embracing this new paradigm and discovering answers to the most challenging issues that educators face today.

The City of Webster plans to sponsor the program at McWhirter Elementary there and Seabrook Rotary is looking into sponsoring Leader in Me at Bay Elementary in Seabrook.

Former CCEF Executive Director Kaci Hanson saw the program as “a great investment we will be able to assess with the hopes of expanding it across the district for a larger impact…With dynamic programs like The Leader in Me, CCEF is fulfilling its mission of providing a world class education in CCISD.”

Falcon Pass Coach Rachel Holcomb thinks the program helps educators empower their students to become “game changers” in their education, health, community and in their relationships with others.

“It’s about kids recognizing that everyone has something to bring to the table and their potential is endless,” she added.

Space Center Rotary already sponsors the Early Act First Knight program at Whitcomb Elementary to help young children learn high ethical standards — honesty, discipline, responsibility, tolerance, confidence, perseverance and compassion.

 CCISD Teachers of the Year honored

June 1st, 2018

The Clear Creek ISD Teachers of the Year for 2018 are congratulated by Superintendent Dr. Greg Smith at a luncheon hosted by Bay Area Rotary Clubs at South Shore Harbour Resort May 21. They are, Secondary Teacher of the Year Anita Lewis of Westbrook Intermediate, left, and Elementary Teacher of the Year Crystal Starke of Mossman Elementary. CCISD Photo by Kirk Swann

The Rotary Clubs of Space Center, Seabrook and League City honored the Clear Creek Independent School District’s 44 campus Teachers of the Year at a luncheon at South Shore Habour Resort May 21.

During the luncheon, the 2018 CCISD Elementary and Secondary Teachers of the Year were announced from a field of six finalists. This year’s winners are Crystal Stake of Mossman Elementary School and Anita Lewis of Westbrook Intermediate.

Beyond educating students, the following teachers have also been identified as a leader on their campus, working collaboratively with co-workers to improve the school culture. CCISD congratulates the 2018 campus Teachers of the Year:

Armand Bayou Elementary
Alexia Scott

Bauerschlag Elementary
Danielle Derouen

Bay Elementary
Jordan Barber

Brookwood Elementary
Kirsten Clason

Clear Lake City Elementary
Valerie Strickland

Falcon Pass Elementary
Ashley Bedell

Ferguson Elementary
Laura Pearson

Gilmore Elementary
Katharine Wright

Goforth Elementary
Samantha Smith

Greene Elementary
Christin Anderson

Hall Elementary
Archon Auzenne

Hyde Elementary
Amy Etzel

Landolt Elementary
Liliana Martinez

League City Elementary
Sara Jones

McWhirter Elementary
Leena Elmore

Mossman Elementary
Crystal Starke

North Pointe Elementary
Shara Mills

Parr Elementary
Anna Lowery

Robinson Elementary
Julie Mills

Ross Elementary
Heather Sandoval

Stewart Elementary
Sarah Vining

Ward Elementary
Melissa Roe

Weber Elementary
Kelly Nerada

Wedgewood Elementary
Alyssa Markowski

Whitcomb Elementary
Melinda Bujnoch

White Elementary
Brenda Magee

Bayside Intermediate
Lauren Douglas

Brookside Intermediate
Shelley Koehler

Clear Creek Intermediate
Janet Hawes

Clear Lake Intermediate
Anastacia Cooper

Creekside Intermediate
Amanda Ripple

League City Intermediate
Paige Hassmann

Seabrook Intermediate
Erin Lusk

Space Center Intermediate
Kelly Francis

Victory Lakes Intermediate
Kathleen Bucher

Westbrook Intermediate
Anita Lewis

Clear Brook High School
Ann Daley

Clear Creek High School
Kylie Kunefke

Clear Falls High School
Debbie Bacon

Clear Horizons High School
Valerie Foskit

Clear Lake High School
Jodieth Seeger

Clear Path High School
Marcia Gschwind

Clear Springs High School
Kristin Pena

Clear View High School
Kimberly Hart

Movers & Shakers: Ralph Kramer

February 1st, 2018

Name: Ralph Kramer

Occupation: Senior credit officer for Icon Bank of Texas and president of Space Center Rotary

Hometown: Dallas

Current home: Pearland

Family: I have been married to my wife, Lori, for 29 wonderful years. Our daughter, Madison, has a B.S. in Visualization (Digital Animation/3-D Art) from Texas A&M (Class of ’16), and is currently working on her Masters at Texas A&M in the same field. Our son, Sam, a sophomore at San Jacinto College, plans to transfer to UHCL next year to study Information Technology. My parents, Bob and Janice Kramer, are retired and still live in the Dallas area

My favorite writer is: George R. R. Martin

Someone I’d like to meet: Tom Hanks

If I could switch places with someone for just one day, I’d choose: Geddy Lee (bass player for Rush) so I could see what is was like to play in front of 15,000 screaming fans.

My favorite performers are: Rush, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Eric Johnson, Marc Broussard, Mingo Fishtrap, The Steel Woods, Blackberry Smoke, The Eagles, The Police

I like to spend my leisure time: With my family, DIY projects and playing my bass guitar

If I could travel any place, I’d go to: New Zealand

My favorite meal is: Filet Mignon at Killen’s Steakhouse, with cream corn, sautéed mushrooms, and bread pudding.

As a youngster, I wanted to grow up to be: A musician

You’ll never catch me: Breaking 90 in a round of golf (unless you are only counting the front nine)

The thing that bugs me the most is: Inconsiderate people

My favorite movie is: I couldn’t single out one, but three favorite movies I will always watch if they are on (in no particular order) are That Thing You Do, Shawshank Redemption and Dances with Wolves.

Few people know: I learned how to “eat fire” as part of my role in the musical “Forever Plaid” at College of the Mainland.

Clear Lake Chatter

October 1st, 2017

Karen Reed, from left, goes over plans for the Bay Oaks Women’s Association style show with Sandy Carney and Dorinda Corbett of The Clotheshorse in League City as the crowd begins arriving at the country club.

Style show becomes a fundraiser

EACH YEAR the Bay Oaks Women’s Association begins the new season with a fashion show luncheon, so members can catch up on all their friends’ summer news and be up to date on the latest fall fashions.

This year, however, board members considered canceling it, wondering if it would be appropriate with so much suffering in nearby communities because of Hurricane Harvey. While debating it, they learned that several country club employees were among Harvey’s victims, and decided to turn it into a fundraiser to help those employees get back on their feet.

And, afterward, most seemed happy to get some normalcy back in their lives.

President Jodi Schnabel, who brought Tori Bogle as her guest, was there to greet the arriving crowd that included Jackie Daley, Sandy Lantz, Emmeline Dodd, Marilyn Lunney, Gloria Cruz, Susan McCoy, Angela Swint, Sue Broughton, Cindy Zook, Janine Hoefnagles, and Darla McKitrick.
Followed shortly thereafter by Sharon Dillard, Amy Roppolo, Ruth Beecher, Dee Wolfe, Lynn Stovall, Glenna Crist, Debbie Roan, Sue Laabs, Karen Reed, Linda Fincher, Beverly Braden and Pam Clary.

Kathy Braeuer, from left, visits with Gloria Cruz, Angela Swint and Sandi Wiemer during the Bay Oaks Women’s Association Fall Fashion Show Luncheon to launch BOWA’s fall season.

Before long, it was time for the fashion show that featured the latest styles from The Clotheshorse in League City introduced by Sandy Carney and Dorinda Corbett and modeled by Judie Ferguson, Dee Wolfe, Mary Colombo, Jodi Schnabel, Chris Howland, Melissa McKinnie, Priscilla Ennis and Kathryn Robinson – much to the delight of Trisha Gunn, Bobby Moutz, Susan Franklin, Lisa Kaczmarek, Ann Dooley, Laura Jardine, Linda Herzfeld, Jane Dannecker and Marie Counts Bradley.

Mary Alyce Hall brought Janet Atteberry as her guest and Lynn Brannan had Barbara Kimball as her guest while Priscilla Ennis arrived with Sandi Widmer, Lisa Maki, Jan Elsperman, Betsey Ennis, Kay Nute and Kathy Braeuer and Carlene Langford, brought Cindy Woodall and Roemehl Dewey as her guests,

Still others bringing guests were Karen Gandy with Jennifer Carlisle, Lynn Brannnan with Barbara Kimball, Mary Smith with Donna Jerz, Mary Russell with Beverly Stroud, Virginia Hosea with Carrie Lee and Mary Ellen Vail, and Bridgid McVaugh, who had Cornelia Kiessling as her guest.

Retired Johnson Space Center Director Mike Coats, center, gets a warm welcome from Rotary President Ralph Kramer and Rotarians Kippy Caraway, far left, and Mary Alys Cherry as he arrives at Bay Oaks Country Club to address the club.

Space Center Rotary off to a lively start

SPACE CENTER ROTARY is off to a great start to its new club year with two well known speakers and a new set of officers.

Banker Ralph Kramer is the club’s new president, following aerospace executive Daryl Smith, who passed the gavel at the beginning of the new Rotary year. Other officers are President-elect Nancy Anderson, Secretary Michael Porterfield, Treasurer Raymond Moore and Sgt.-at-Arms Michael Thomas.

Mike Coats, the retired Johnson Space Center director, was the first to address the Rotarians as they began a new year, marveling at all the work done by astronauts and cosmonauts on the International Space Station. “What’s fascinating are the long stays in space,” he said.

“There is a tremendous amount of research done on the space station. At any one time, astronauts are conducting 150 different experiments,” he said, noting that the ISS had been designated a national laboratory by Congress.

Before Harvey, we were all enjoying life. Here, Bay Oaks Country Club General Manager Stephen Morris, second from the left, welcomes, from left, Yvonne Perrin, Perry Laabs, Zack Seiberling and Megan Napoli to the Margaritaville new member mixer the club hosted during the summer.

But while he is fascinated with the work on the ISS, he was equally frustrated at all we have to pay the Russians to carry astronauts into space – “$80 million a flight. Half a billion a year!” And, he added, “I’m excited that next year sometime we’ll have two spacecraft flying (from the U.S.) at a cost of about $200,000 per flight to the ISS.” He also expressed hope the Space Council, revived by President Trump, will provide a clear direction for NASA.

Santiago Mendoza, the senior vice president of Bay Area Regional Medical Center, brought the Rotarians back to Earth the next week as he described the hospital’s work and accomplishments as it focuses on healness and wellness, and continues to expand and grow.

After giving a rundown of the hospital’s various attributes – 191 beds, 8 operating suites, 4 cardiac cath labs, a full service emergency room, 23 treatment rooms, 4 trauma rooms, plus a new women’s center, he pointed out that its just-opened Heart and Vascular Center is one of only five in Texas, and it recently was awarded a Certificate of Excellence in Surgery.

And soon, he told the crowd, the new Women’s Center will start delivering “little miracles, providing exceptional care for both moms and babies with a family centered approach.” And for those with weight problems, the hospital has the Metabolic Weight Loss Institute

Rotarians to mark 50th anniversary

August 1st, 2014

Rotary District Governor Lisa Massey, center, congratulates new Space Center Rotary President Scott Rainey and immediate Past President Sheryl Berg on the club’s 50th anniversary.

Rotary District Governor Lisa Massey, center, congratulates new Space Center Rotary President Scott Rainey and immediate Past President Sheryl Berg on the club’s 50th anniversary.

Space Center Rotary will mark its 50th anniversary Wednesday, Aug. 6, when current and former members gather for a big celebration at Space Center Houston.

Bankers Marilyn Musial and Ralph Kramer are serving as co-chairmen of the celebration, which will include a filet mignon dinner and an address by Rotary International Trustee Noel Bajat.

Rotarians will begin the evening with a 7 p.m. reception, followed by dinner and the program at 8:15. Parking is free and there will be an open bar.

Tickets are $64 each and Rotarians may reserve seats by mailing a check to Space Center Rotary, P.O. Box 58862, Houston, TX 77258-8862. For information, contact Kramer at [email protected]

Chartered on Aug. 6, 1964, Space Center Rotary has an outstanding community service history due to its diversified members, all with a passion for

“Service Above Self.” Not only this, but the club shares a national heritage in that it grew alongside the manned space program at NASA’s Johnson Space Center.

The bond between the club and the Johnson Space Center and the friendship that has developed is one of the club’s enduring values along with a rich heritage.

With honor, the club carries the name “Space Center,” and its banner reflects the manned space program. Many of the former and current members were pioneers in the manned space program, and several of the earlier astronauts were honorary members of the club.

Bay Area Houston Magazine