When the parade committee decided this year’s South Pasadena July 4th parade theme, the grand marshals were a “no-brainer.”
“When we decided to have our theme to be about education, the two people we selected were pretty easy to choose,” said Parade Chairman Joe Payne during a telephone interview Monday morning.
The two grand marshals for the July 4th Parade are Chris Bengford, 51, the longest tenured teacher at Holy Family School, a private Catholic school, and Jill Reddy, who has been named Teacher of the Year for the South Pasadena Unified School District.
“It is a great honor to be selected,” Bengford said Monday during a telephone interview where he reflected back to his life-long love affair with South Pasadena and the parade. “I remember going to the parade as long as I can remember, back when I was in diapers.” Bengford’s South Pasadena home where he grew up is still in the family. He graduated from South Pas High. He coached the defensive backs for high school varsity football for seven years. He has four brothers and a sister, all raised in South Pasadena. He’s been a teacher at Holy Family for 25 years.
“I really love the place,” Bengford said. “It was a great place to grow up. A lot of people do really good things here.” Begford is married to Katie and they have one son, 12-year-old Bradley.
His co-Grand Marshal, Jill Reddy, also has a distinguished career in education. Reddy has taught nearly every grade at the public school elementary level. She taught third-grade for a decade, then fourth and fifth grades for about five years and then for the last four years, she’s been teaching kindergartners. She spent nearly two years prior to that teaching in Alhambra. Reddy is married to Ramesh for the past 32 years. The marriage has produced two grown children.
“It’s really quite an honor and what a surprise,” Reddy said this week. “I’m so grateful that this year’s parade ties into reading, which is so important for our children.”
Reddy also said education is the foundation for a productive life.
“We want our children to be engaged citizens,” Reddy said. “We want them to be active and make informed decisions. But this is really about all teachers, not just us, but all of us.”
Reddy also had a more personal reason for her excitement about the parade, saying that everyone goes to it.
“I’m looking forward to seeing everybody at the parade,” Reddy said.
Payne said education has been the parade’s theme in the past, but it was time to honor the local public and private schools again.
“We just thought it was the right time,” Payne said. “Whenever you ask families why they moved to South Pasadena, it’s because of the schools. Always.”