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Brian Shea Is Parade Marshal

By Libby Motika, Senior Editor

Palisadian-Post - 2010-07-01

Tall and lean, Brian Shea is the picture of a runner. And while he has never run the Palisades-Will Rogers 10K race on the Fourth of July, he has run the course countless times, and co-founded the race with the late Chris Carlson in 1978.

Honoring Shea's support and hands-on attention to the Will Rogers 5/10K races as director for the past 32 years, the PAPA committee has named him the 2010 parade marshal and he will ride with his family down the parade route on Sunday.

Shea recalls the day in 1977, the moment even, when he and Carlson conceived of the idea of a race. They had just completed the Brentwood 10K and were sitting on the grass on San Vicente waiting for the Brentwood Memorial Day parade to begin.

'We thought, why not have a race in the Palisades?'  

With their running buddy Bill Klein, the Palisades neighbors set about making the race a reality and mapping out the route, which turned out to follow the same route the three men ran every morning up to Will Rogers State Historic Park and back. At the time, Klein protested, suggesting that the course would be too difficult, but he was overruled, which turned out to be a good thing. Over the decades, the race has attracted between 2,500 to 3,000 runners yearly, while contributing over $1 million in profits to the Optimist Youth Homes and Family Services.

'I think that one of the draws of this race, apart from its difficulty [a 1,000-ft. gain with multiple switchbacks], is that it's the only race that still allows runners to register on the day of the race,' Shea says. The registration fee jumps from $35 for pre-registration to $45 on Sunday.

Shea is one of those rare residents of Pacific Palisades who grew up here (his family moved to Ocampo Drive in 1950) and found a way to return early in his career.

One of three children (sister Karen and brother Bill), Brian attended St. Martin of Tours and Villanova High School in Ojai. After graduating from Whittier College, he studied for a master's degree in business at UCLA, but was drafted. The year was 1969, and a cataclysm of events collided at once.

'I was going to be married in June, and I received my notice to report to basic training,' Shea recalls. 'I called one army office after another and found little sympathy. So I called Alphonso Bell's office, talked to the Congressman and told him that I'd go anywhere, anytime for basic training if I could please delay it just for a couple of days. Well, I ended up at Ft. Leonard Wood, Missouri in the heat of the summer.'

But Brian and Pam (nee Ross), who graduated with the first class at Palisades High School, were able to celebrate their wedding as scheduled. Pam is now a retired nurse and active in the Angels Program, a team of 'highly trained' volunteers who assist patients and families that are receiving emergency care at Saint John's Hospital. The couple has three grown daughters: Stacy and Katie Shea and Kelly Taylor.

After beginning his banking career with Security Pacific Bank (he was able to serve in the Army Reserve for six years), Shea was hired by Santa Monica Bank as assistant manager of its Palisades branch in 1972. He became manager in 1978.

A people person, Shea thrived in branch banking and excelled in building the customer base, which depends on establishing relationships, which often evolve into friendships.

A case in point is the assistance provided by several of the Palisades physicians at the Santa Monica Orthopedic and Sports Medicine Group, who have provided medical aid (and sponsorship support) for the Will Rogers races every year since 1978.

Once again, Shea has a strong race committee, many of whom are Ridge   Runners, a local running club that used to meet in front of Bay Pharmacy at 5:30 in the morning. With 32 years of experience, Shea admits that a lot of the details are in his head, but he would like to see younger people take more leadership, especially in coordinating the half-mile Kids Run, which regularly attracts scores of boys and girls.

Shea has served the community not only in his professional capacity but as a volunteer, including the Optimist Club, PAPA (the Palisades Americanism Parade Association), PRIDE and Chamber of Commerce.

Indeed, he is respected by a great number of Palisadians. When Shea assumed the presidency of PRIDE (the community beautification group) in 1998, outgoing president Ron Dean was confident. 'Brian's a leader. He not only handles meetings well, but when he says he'll do something, he actually does it, and gets it done well.'

Officially retired in January from East-West Bank (he left Santa Monica Bank in 1994), Shea nurtures several board positions, including the Will Rogers Ranch Foundation, which seems natural for a man who for years enjoyed running up to this treasured property from his home in the Huntington Palisades. His aim now is to solve the parking dilemma at the state park, which pivots on the $12 entry fee. Park visitors who don't wish to pay the fee are parking on streets in the adjacent neighborhood.

Shea and the Foundation board are planning to host a town hall meeting at the ranch where they can discuss the issue with neighbors and brainstorm other ideas to encourage more park participation.

With a lifetime of running behind him (he ran 15 marathons), Shea has switched from running to yoga, which he does twice a week with a group of friends. On the Fourth of July, he'll be monitoring the early- morning races and then settling down that afternoon in a horse-drawn carriage with his whole family. He is especially looking forward to sharing the ride with his 18-month-old granddaughter, appropriately named Shea.