Services Held at Hillside on Wednesday


October 29, 2015

Photo Courtesy Mike Cohen

Syd Kronenthal

It's no surprise that Culver City possesses a park named after Syd Kronenthal. His name has come to be synonymous with parks as he worked for the Parks and Recreation Department of Culver City for 52 years and his legacy includes the establishment of 14 parks around the city.

Syd Kronenthal passed away on October 18 at the age of 92.

Kronenthal's career with Parks and Rec began at the end of World War II and ended at a time when the city was redeveloping itself, designing a new downtown area and refurbishing its parks. By that time he was "Uncle Syd," a beloved figure in Culver City, a relentless worker who was said to never take a vacation and who truly loved his job.

"I just never wanted to leave," Kronenthal was quoted as saying. "Every morning, I just couldn't wait to get to the office, to see what I could get accomplished that day."

Syd Kronenthal was born in Chicago, and originally planned to become a doctor. He began medical studies but interrupted them to serve in the Army Air Corps during World War II. After serving, he was going to resume his medical training but instead accepted a position as assistant parks director in Culver City. He briefly left to work with the Veterans Administration as Rehabilitation Supervisor but returned to Culver City and the Parks and Rec department.

He virtually developed the department. "At that time the City Administrator was a man named Mike Tellefson," Kronenthal explained in a 1996 video interview. "He was probably my role model. He wanted to develop a Park and Recreation system. He asked me if I could do it.

"We built an Olympic swimming pool. We built the Civic Auditorium. We built the two recreation centers-brand new-and we converted the pistol range into a recreation center-and we equipped it all."

Kronenthal never married and never owned a house, preferring to live in a rented bungalow. He once told the Los Angeles Times: "I've just never been able to figure out how to divorce my life from the city's life. The city is my family. Really, it's something I'd die for."

Kronenthal's achievements included obtaining voter approval for a recreation bond issue which enabled Culver City to build the Veteran's Memorial Building, the public swimming pool, and the recreation buildings in Culver West and McManus Parks. (McManus Park was later renamed for Kronenthal in 1992).

Kronenthal also developed the city's Youth and Community Center and converted the former county library into the Culver City Senior Center.

In addition to his work with parks, Kronenthal volunteered regularly at the Therapeutic Center for the Blind and at the Culver City Senior Center, and taught a public administration class at USC. He also served on the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games Citizens Advisory Committee.

Some of Kronenthal's other achievements (there is a very long list) include: president of the Culver City Employees Association 1953-1954, founder of the Culver City Credit Union, Culver City Chamber of Commerce "Man of the Year" in 1964, and founder of the Culver City Sister Cities Program.

In 1996, two years before he retired from the city, Kronenthal was saluted by the city in a City Hall ceremony. Then-Mayor Steven Gourley spoke about Kronenthal and his comments included the following:

"Some people wonder why Syd Kronenthal never gets any older. The answer is simple. Fifty years ago, when the city of Culver City gave Syd a job where he could build parks and pools and work with kids, seniors, and the disabled every day of his life, he thought he'd died and gone to heaven. As a result, he's not gotten a day older.

"Syd gets up every morning, thinks of all the people he's helped, and say 'I can't believe they actually pay me to do this job.'"

Gourley also called Kronenthal "the heart, the soul, and the conscience of Culver City."

"Voice of Culver City" Mike Cohen said of Kronenthal:

"People he touched have contributed profoundly to their communities and constituencies, because each of them have taken some of Syd with them. He mentored people from all walks of life, gave us freedom to blossom and to make mistakes along the way. He had faith in us. He protected us. We continue to pay Syd forward.

"We see his footprint throughout this community. He developed lasting relationships until the day he died.

"His local, regional, state, national and international affiliations and awards illustrate an amazing legacy that touched the lives of millions. Each of us has a Syd story--an anecdote that defines him and in many ways has defined us.

"I'm going to leave a bedroom light on until 11p.m. in recognition of the long hours he would put in hunched over his desk late into the evening."

At Kronenthal's funeral, which took place October 21 at Hillside Memorial Park, former mayor Culver City Paul Jacobs remembered "Uncle Syd:"

"I met Syd in 1973-I had just been appointed to the Planning Comm .; in 1976 I was elected to the City Council and for the next 16 years I was privileged to serve on the Council and as Mayor on four separate years. In that capacity I had the opportunity to meet and work with many men and women who were very good at what they did.... but there was no one that brought to his job the passion and intensity then Syd.

'The organizational chart said that Syd was supposed to take his direction from me; in practice I always felt like I was working for Syd-- kept me busy promoting all of his special projects and community events that he so loved so much, recruiting me to work on the food line every Thanksgiving lunch at the senior center, doling out food. Syd was passionate about helping people who needed assistance and did not hesitate to use whatever city resources where available, including a councilmember, a Mayor, or a Chief Administrative Officer. He was not a person you could easily say no to.

"Sunday, Culver City lost a man that truly personified what our City is about-a man who devoted 50 years of his life , 24/7, exclusively to our city serving our community and those people in the community who most needed our attention. His wife, his family, was Culver City."

Jacobs summed it up best at the end of his eulogy with, "We will miss uncle Syd. But you don't have to come to his grave site to find him. Look into the bright eyes and smile of any child playing in a park; -and you will find Syd Kronenthal."

Syd Kronenthal visiting the Observer Offices in October 2014

For Syd, that's all the epithet he needed.


Reader Comments(1)

scoopersmith writes:

He was a wonderful man whom I had the pleasure of meeting several years ago, very gracious and kind. What an asset he was to Culver City! He will be tremendously missed.


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