Val Schafer, Catalina’s ambassador of happiness

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Val Schafer. Courtesy photo

Val Schafer has never worked for the State Department, but she is an unbelievable ambassador of happiness. So much so that Mayor Anni Marshall nominated her for a prestigious Los Angeles award, which she won, and it doesn’t take long to realize that she has apparently been spreading joy and happiness for most of her life.

Schafer was recently nominated by the City of Avalon and selected by L.A. Supervisor Janice Hahn for the 53rd annual Older American Award, presented to her during a recent awards luncheon in Los Angeles. The “Older American” Award, celebrates Americans who “Engage at any Age.”

As expected, Schafer is taking it all in stride, and, of course, with a smile.

“I’m not influential,” she jokes, “I’m just happy” as she flashes the smile known all around Catalina. She’s always been happy.

According to the city, Schafer is considered by the city as “selfless and loving. “Val is a true blessing to the Avalon community and enriches the lives of those that have gotten to know her.”

Dan Huncke, Avalon’s Director of Community Services, Val is “always ready to greet you with a smile, amongst many other things Val can be seen volunteering for the Art Association at the Art Festivals, with the Friends of the Library and their events, and for the Chamber of Commerce and Catalina Island Conservancy Events.

Val assists in the coordination of the women’s golf league on the island, assists the City of Avalon with some of their special events and always at the ready to help with other functions.”

Shafter spreads her love all over town. She volunteers with several local organizations and projects. From Avalon’s Library to the Catalina Museum, Schafer bounces throughout the city volunteering for most any task. “She has a hand in almost everything,” said Huncke.

For Schafer, there is only one prerequisite. “I have to enjoy what I do; otherwise I won’t do it,” Apparently, there are very few activities on the island that she does not enjoy because she is seemingly everywhere.

Schafer has also been deeply involved in the Catalina Island Film Festival since its inception and keeps up with most everyone, and everything, going on in town.

“My door is always open,” said Val, saying how much she totally loves Catalina Island. Groups that want to thank her for volunteering occasionally will simply leave a bouquet of flowers inside. That’s Catalina.

A former bank teller, Schafer retired from banking and moved to Catalina 13 years ago after a divorce, which, you guessed it, she is happy about. “God protected me,” she said. He moved to Indio and I moved to Catalina. Schafer has three grown children, and one of her daughters had a home in Avalon.

Once, while visiting her daughter’s home on Avalon, Schafer says she bought a mirror that she really liked at a garage sale. Even then, said Val, “I was so sure that I would live here one day that I stored the mirror on the island. “Today, that mirror is hanging in my bedroom,” she said.

“This small town is wonderful,” says Schafer. She loves the beach, the people and the city.

“Every single time I put my toes in the sand, I feel like I’m 16 again, she says smiling. “I’ve been 16 for a very long time.”

“I’d visited her enough to know that I really liked this place and couldn’t wait to move.” As soon as she could, Schafer sold her house in Redondo Beach and bought her home in Avalon and “couldn’t be happier.”

Her daughter, also now divorced, has moved back, buying a home seven doors down from mom.

A resident for nearly a decade and one half, Schafer is also one of the top female golfers on the island, staying active on the course. “I’ve always played golf,” she said, and “I love that too.”

In truth, there’s not much about Catalina that Val Schafer doesn’t love, and it’s obvious that most people on the island who know Val love her back.

For Schafer, the award is simply something else to smile about. More than that, however, it is perhaps reflective and symbolic of so many smiles and much happiness she has generated for others throughout her selfless and “happy” life.

“We thank Val for everything she does to make Avalon a wonderful place to live,” according to a statement from the city.

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