PICO NEIGHBORHOOD — RoseMary Regalbuto worked with Meals on Wheels West for 27 years, thousands of days, but one of her most memorable was her third.
She retired from her position as president and CEO last week.
“After three days in the office I felt ready to go on a delivery route,” she told City Council. “And the first apartment we went to the client had taken a bath on Saturday and was unable to get out of the tub so she drained the water and she stayed there until Monday at 11:15 when we went.”
After that, she was hooked.
“It impacted me so much and I realized how important Meals on Wheels is,” he said.
She started as a part-time employee before the program was even called Meals on Wheels West. Then, it was a home delivery program based out of kitchens in Saint John’s Health Center and UCLA Medical Center, Santa Monica.
There were only 54 clients, she said. Last year, Meals on Wheels West served nearly 80,000 meals.
Linda “Tish” Tisherman, the incoming board chair for Meals On Wheels West, said that filling Regalbuto’s role will be one of their biggest challenges.
“RoseMary is Meals on Wheels,” she said, flatly. “I personally didn’t know anything about Meals on Wheels until I met RoseMary in 2002.”
The 150-person turnout to Regalbuto’s party this week says a lot about how well-liked she is, Tisherman said, with guests ranging from Assemblymember Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica) to people she’s served meals to.
A defining moment for Tisherman was seeing Regalbuto trudging along in the torrential downpour of the 2011 L.A. Marathon.
“There was RoseMary walking her half marathon for Meals on Wheels,” she said. “In the pouring rain. Everyone in Santa Monica knows what that day was like but there was RoseMary, hoofing it in the rain. You may start out with a partner but you don’t end up with one in a marathon, but that didn’t stop her.”
At the Fourth of July parades Regalbuto walks, always with her dogs, Tisherman said, and the crowds screams, “Yay, Meals on Wheels. Thank you, RoseMary!”
“It’s really amazing to see just how recognizable she is,” she said.
Councilmember Bob Holbrook lauded Regalbuto when she spoke before council last week.
“We’re not supposed to respond to public comments, but I’d just like to say what a wonderful person you’ve been the entire 27 years and how much the community and council thanks you,” he said.
She officially left her post, fittingly, the day after serving hundreds on Thanksgiving.
“It’s been an amazing 27 years,” she said.