Celebrating July 4, Thanks to Michele K.

Roberto Vazquez

Bob Thomas stood in the morning light and inhaled the crisp morning air, a satisfied smile spread across his face.

He looked around Whaley Park at the dozens of people, many dressed in red, white and blue, as they gathered for the Independence Day Parade and reflected, “It’s really nice, a nice touch,” then added, “That small-town, middle America feel, you don’t find that in California anymore and she kinda brought that back.”

Thomas, a lifelong resident of Long Beach and retired engineer with the Los Angeles County Fire Department, was referring to Michele Kreinheder, or “Michele K.,” as she’s widely known in the real estate community.

He added, “She’s kinda like the girl next door type of person.”

Kreinheder is also known as the woman who took a little parade which started on Lave Avenue eight years ago and turned it into a special event for the entire surrounding neighborhood.

A Special Sort of Place

Kreinheder, a native of New Jersey, has been in California for more than 30 years, long enough to raise a family and create a successful career as a realtor while also being active within her community and neighborhood.

“I’m so happy I ended up in Long Beach. I just love where I ended up,” adding, “There’s just so many areas of Long Beach that are lovely, that are beautiful.”

However, ever the realtor, Kreinheder knows better than most why the Whaley Park neighborhood is so charming.

“I think we sort of have a little bit of a college vibe, we’re close to the beach, we get good air quality, even the location, it’s the first affordable neighborhood away from the beach,” then added, “I mean it really is a sort of special place, still close enough to that water and air to enjoy it.”

Next Generation of Families

As some volunteers set up tables, Kreinheder asked out loud about the parade’s start time, to no one in particular, “I should wait a little longer, right?”

Just before the parade began, Kreinheder explained, “Tom Burke and Tony Hernandez, these two gentlemen on Lave Avenue would play the drums. In the morning, kids would follow them with their bikes, so it would start their day for them.”

Once the two men moved away, Kreinheder made the decision to invite the Wilson High Drum Corps and move the parade to Whaley Park for both safety and convenience.

Kreinheder stated, “It’s a small, big event for the neighborhood… oh my gosh, that little baby is sooo cute!”

And Kreinheder was off, pressing the flesh, greeting everyone as they arrived.

The donuts, sourced from Simone’s, had been plated for the hungry guests, including a couple dozen kids, the Wilson High Drum Corps and a bunch of adults, many pushing strollers, such as Greg and Emma Van Meter, Long Beach residents using a large cart to haul their growing family, which included Oliver, Reece and Griffin, ages 6, 3, and 11 months, respectively.

Emma Van Meter said, “We love it, just the community coming together and it’s fun to see everybody out and about, together, celebrating,” then added, “And then of course, there’s the donuts!”

Proud of Their Neighborhood

Kreinheder confided, “It makes me nervous. I get anxious about it,” then added, “It’s like throwing a big party. Is anybody going to come? Is it going to go off?”

Whaley Park is located on Atherton, just east of Bellflower Boulevard, and touches Chatwin, Los Santos and San Anseline, respectively. It’s an area that still looks largely the same as it did decades ago and just as important, it’s still somewhat affordable for dual-income, blue-collar families, including Liz and Josh Harris.

Mrs. Harris explained why they’ve chosen the Whaley Park neighborhood to raise their family, “My husband is an electrician. They’re all working families in this neighborhood. That’s why we love it,” then added, “As expensive as it is, my husband and I don’t want to leave because we want our kids to grow up in a diverse place, and not just the color of your skin, but diverse ideas and different opinions.”

Harris finished with, “We want that for our kids so that they understand what the real world is like, and we think Long Beach represents that, we really do.”

United in Celebration

The day has ended.

Bob Thomas stands alone now, sharing the wisdom of a life spent serving the community as a first responder.

During his career, Thomas shared, the fire department policy was, “You don’t talk about politics, you don’t talk about religion. We’re a team.”

These days,, Thomas believes the nation is moving in the wrong direction. “I think part of the problem is we’re so divided. Get rid of that division.”

Then, Thomas shares a story about Kreinheder, one full of meaning.

Apparently, Kreinheder found large letters in many of the attics of homes.

No one knew what they were for until Kreinheder realized, put together, the letters were a celebration of Christmas and New Year. Thomas stated, “Michele realized that, so she kind of got that going again.”

There’s hope for the Whaley Park neighborhood, however, as a new generation of families establish the bonds of community and foster a resurgent pride in the United States, just like every generation before them.

Bob Thomas stood, arms crossed, and declared, “You watch people in the 4th of July celebrations. It brings everybody together.

You watch when they’re singing. They’re not divided.” Then, he added, “Look at everybody here. There’s no politics here. We’re all out here celebrating the 4th of July, thanks to Michele.”


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