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February 6, 2023
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Parade’s grand marshals are community icons

Henry Reyes, George Shannon to lead off Dec. 3 celebration

Wearing his trademark Stetson hat, George Shannon grabs a doughnut in the Billy Jones “Wildcat” Railroad workroom, jawing with the many volunteers who keep the Oak Meadow Park attraction safe for children.

Shannon says he’s been a railroad volunteer for 20 years but people who know him well say it’s way more than that. No matter—the 85-year-old Shannon is a railroad regular who says, “We’re just a bunch of guys who are interested in trains. We re-built all the trucks that are under each rail car, which took several years, and we built the No. 6 car from scratch.”

A Los Gatos resident since 1964, Shannon describes himself as a “new-timer,” who became interested in the railroad because his kids used to ride the train when it was at Billy Jones’s ranch on Winchester Boulevard.

In recognition of their longstanding service to the community, Shannon and Los Gatos High School Girls Field Hockey Coach Henry Reyes were named the Grand Marshals for the Los Gatos Children’s Christmas/Holidays Parade on Dec. 3.

Shannon’s long-time friend Johnny Hannegan said, “George has done so many wonderful things for people that most people don’t know about. Great family in the community, as well.”  

And what a large family it is: Shannon has six children and 16 grandchildren, most of whom attended St. Mary’s School. That explains why, for 20 years or so, Shannon always volunteered to cook at the annual St. Mary’s Pancake Breakfast. He also helped with the cooking at the Lions Club Cioppino Dinner and was a fixture at the Los Gatos High School Snack Shack that’s also run by the Lions.

“We raise money for the Lions Club at the snack shack and the club gives most of it back to the school,” he said.

Shannon joined the Lions Club in 1980.

“We’re a working club,” he said. “It’s harder to get people to work than it is to raise money.”

The Lions are co-sponsors of the Children’s Christmas/Holidays Parade, too, with most members volunteering to help shepherd the parade through town.

“My kids volunteer, too,” he said. “The reason I volunteer is it makes me feel satisfied and I believe we have a responsibility to give back to our community.”

Coach Henry Reyes’s life is all about kids

The major criteria to being named a Grand Marshal of the Los Gatos Children’s Christmas/Holidays Parade is a dedication to the town’s youth.

Los Gatos High School Girls Field Hockey Coach Henry Reyes easily meets that criteria: he’s just completed his 32nd year as the team’s legendary head coach, who led the Wildcats to 24 Central Coast Section semi-finals, winning 16 championships.

“Coach Henry has helped me become a better player and person on and off the field,” said 2022 varsity player Alexa Musser. “He’s led me on my journey to love the game, and the hard work he puts into his players, team and the overall program is admirable.“

Interestingly, Alexa’s mom was coached by Reyes when he led the team to its first CCS championship in 1994.

Reyes first learned about field hockey when he attended San Jose State.

“I saw a couple of guys on the field and they let me join their practices, so in the late 1970s and early ‘80s I played in the men’s development program,” Reyes said.

He believes that “sports give kids an opportunity to develop responsibility, accountability, time management skills and teamwork. It helps them set short-term goals to achieve long-term goals. I think those are things that help them really grow into adulthood.”

He went on to say, “The thing that’s really important is sports helps kids see everyone as equals. You have to rely on and trust other people.”

Professionally, Reyes is the district director for the Boy Scouts.

“One thing I do is work with Scout Reach, which takes inner city kids hiking, camping and to museums—all good, healthy activities,” he said. “My job is to give kids and volunteers the tools they need to succeed.”

As a long-time coach, Reyes re-evaluates his interactions with kids to make sure his message stays relevant.  

“The most interesting challenge today is social media. I tell the kids they shouldn’t find validation there,” he said.

Which helps explain why the field hockey team T-shirts read, “Our greatest strength is the person standing next to you.”

Los Gatos Lions, LGS Recreation and Los Gatos High School present the 66th Annual Los Gatos Children’s Christmas/Holidays Parade on Dec. 3 at 11am in downtown. For information, visit lgsrecreation.org/parade.

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