Children and adults wrote letters of appreciation to veterans on Dec. 6 in the lobby of the Lincoln Theater when the Transcendence Theater Company brought its Holiday Spectacular to Yountville.
The letter writing to veterans also took place there on Dec. 7, on the 77th anniversary of the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, which led the United States to enter World War II.
Jim and Von Hurson, owners of Valiance Wines and sponsors of the holiday show, supervised the letter-writing table prior to the show and during intermission.
As some elementary school girls used the available crayons to decorate their letters with Christmas trees during intermission, Von Hurson smiled and said, “The veterans are going to love getting these letters.”
After Kim Marshall wrote his letter, he talked near the letter-writing table.
“I am retired from the army. My wife and I came here to the holiday show tonight on a bus with 62 people, mostly retired military,” Marshall said. “We’re all residents of the Paradise Valley Estates. Paradise Valley Estates is a 76-acre, nonprofit community that was founded by military officers in 1997. It is open to people age 60 and older from all walks of life.
“We saw the hand of God during the Camp Fire – it came right up to our property line and then the wind changed direction and it went the other way,” Marshall said. “About 60 percent of our Paradise Valley Estates community are retired military. Some of the other estate residents came on their own tonight, not on the bus. We’re all heavily involved with the Transcendence people.”
Valiance Wines, established in 2017, is known for its tribute and dedication wine labels. Each bottle of Valiance Wines features a photo or graphic design with a special tribute or dedication related to a veteran or military group.
The couple said they are committed to donating 100 percent of their wine sales profits, after taxes, to programs that support and benefit veterans and their families.
“The vets have done far more for us than we can ever do for them,” Jim Hurson said. Hurson is an Air Force veteran who flew Airvac missions during the Vietnam War. Von worked for Pan Am and traveled frequently to the Vietnam War zone, flying young servicemen on the R&Rs.
The couple said they enjoyed visiting with the letter writers who wanted to talk but they didn’t read the letters.
“It’s a privacy thing,” Hurson said. “We just put them in the mailbox.”
According to Stephan Stubbins, the Transcendence Theater Company’s co-executive director, the letters will arrive at the Veterans Home in Yountville before Christmas.
During the show, Stubbins let the audience know how the cast feels about veterans.
“Veterans are our heroes,” Stubbins said. “They are people who have put their lives on the line so that our lives can be better and so that our dreams can be possible.”
After the uplifting show, Stubbins said that he has fond memories of veterans. Both of his grandfathers were veterans of World War II.
He said he will never forget the connection he felt with residents at the Veterans Home in Yountville or their enthusiasm when he did a solo performance for “about 100 veterans” there a few years ago.
Stubbins played piano and guitar as he performed selections from the 1920s, ‘30s, ‘40s and ‘50s for them. One of his favorite moments from that performance was getting the veterans to sing along with him “full voice” to “Oh What a Beautiful Morning” from Oklahoma. “You should have heard the energy in that room,” Stubbins said.
“After I finished singing, I remember a group of them staying afterward to talk with me,” Stubbins said. “It really touched me that they were so impacted by the music and the experience of connecting with it together.”
“The letter writing to veterans with our shows wasn’t intentionally connected with the Pearl Harbor anniversary. But once we discovered that serendipitous coincidence, it was even more meaningful to us,” he added.
“We love the idea of bringing great groups of people to make a difference together,” Stubbins said. “It was so special to get to partner with Lincoln Theater for the show and Valiance Wines for the letter writing, especially knowing there would be veterans from the home in the audience.”
Many veterans from the nearby Veterans Home as well as other veterans from Northern California attended the show.
“Knowing that Transcendence would be doing our first show at Lincoln Theater and performing on the campus of the Veterans Home was significant to us,” Stubbins said.
In addition to the letter writing at the Lincoln Theater, Transcendence also had their audience write letters to veterans at Luther Burbank Center for the Arts at their Dec. 2 performance.
“Our community partner that day was the North Bay Veterans Resource Center, and they took with them the letters that our audience wrote to distribute them to the Veterans they serve,” Stubbins said.
“Transcendence has a deep commitment to serving the communities it touches,” Stubbins said. “Whether that is helping to save Jack London State Historic Park from closure in 2012, giving away tickets to nonprofits or working with boys and girls clubs throughout the North Bay. We knew that this letter-writing project would be an impactful way to make a difference in the Yountville community and bring awareness and thoughtfulness to the veterans during this meaningful time of year.”