Published : Monday, September 23, 2019 | 5:12 AM
It was an afternoon of praise and accolades for longtime Pasadena-area activist Dale Gronemeier Saturday as more than a hundred friends and community leaders, the most active of local activists among them, honored him at the Neighborhood Unitarian Church for his 60 years of championing civil rights.
Gronemeier, who formerly practiced law in Eagle Rock, resided in Sierra Madre, and fought many court battles in Pasadena, retired and left the region last year for San Antonio, Texas, to “live in a home with a view of the lake,” he said.
At the lifetime achievement award ceremony organized by Pasadenans Organizing for Progress (POP!), Congresswoman Judy Chu called Gronemeier “a force of nature” for his long history.
“Dale has been one of the most steadfast leaders in the community,” said Councilmember John Kennedy, “representing those who are underserved or underrepresented, and his voice has been consistent, whether its been fighting for a livable wage or overturning the discriminatory election that existed in City of Pasadena.”
A host of local leaders attended the event. State Senator Anthony Portantino, former Pasadena Mayor Rick Cole and current Mayor Terry Tornek, Councilmembers Kennedy and Andy Wilson, and a slew of faces often seen at Council meetings over the years.
“They say, ‘Find a good fight and get into it,” said Portantino, “and that’s what Dale did. He is strong and sophisticated, and he makes us all do better.”
Retired Judge Leonard Edwards recalled an evening in Mississippi in 1964, when he and a young Gronemeier stayed up late in the home of legendary civil rights activist Fanny Lou Hamer. Her life had been threatened with assassination by the KKK. Gronemeier and Edwards had joined up with Hamer in the Mississippi Freedom summer trying to register African American voters.
“Dale had this shotgun,” he said, “and he told me, “We will defend ourselves with this.” Leonard smiled as he remembered, “I asked him if I could just hide behind the couch as he manned the front line.”
Fortunately, there was no use for the weapon as Hamer was safely escorted out of town the next morning.
But many noted that the incident was indicative of Gronemeier’s eagerness to man the front lines of any battle.
Gronemeier moved to Pasadena in 1975. He joined the American Civil Liberties Union legal team that challenged at-large elections, which led, eventually, to a successful overturning of the discriminatory practice at the ballot box.
In the late 1980s, he went after restrictive regulations at Plaza Pasadena and in the 1990s targeted racial discrimination at King’s Villages.
Most recently he worked on the livable wage movement which resulted in the passage of Pasadena’s minimum wage ordinance, and on police reforms in Pasadena, calling for an independent police auditor.
“I’m overwhelmed,” said an emotional Gronemeier, once he took the dais. “I love you all.”