At 85, Patricia Allen Dreizler is a scary lady. Her mind is so nimble that she can dredge up short- and long-term memories of Redondo Beach—whether social, economic or political—faster than one can blink.
It’s why her phone still rings with people, including community officials she’s mentored over the years, asking her advice or wanting her to serve on some board or other.
But Dreizler’s 30-year career in public service—she rose from a part-time recreation leader to become the first female department head in the city’s history—is only a small part of why she was selected as a Patch Greatest Person.
Close friend and real estate broker Gentil Smith nominated the former director of community resources because Dreizler pioneered so many organizations during the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s while raising six children, the majority of the time as a single-working parent.
Smith, like so many others, is blown away by how Dreizler continues to impact the city in areas ranging from healthcare to at-risk youth after her retirement in 1989.
“Pat is a compassionate and vital senior citizen, still active and just a phone call away for any questions I ever have about all things Redondo,” Smith said.
If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a week to read Dreizler’s resume.
Just a sampling of the more than 35 nonprofit entities and hundreds of organizations and groups she headed, facilitated or created include the Juvenile Diversion Project; Redondo Beach Historical Museum; Beach Cities Committee on Aging; South Bay Drug Abuse Coalition Board; South Bay Coalition for Alternatives to Domestic Violence; the RB Round Table; and the Healthways-Blue Zones Vitality City initiative, among others.
Redondo Beach Councilman , who has worked with Dreizler on numerous projects, upped the ante: “Pat Dreizler should probably be the Greatest Person of the Century!”
“I was blessed at one time with a great deal of energy,” Dreizler said during an interview in her cozy home off the Esplanade.
As for her energy nowadays, the white-haired great-grandmother may move around less quickly, but the dynamism that characterized her working life—like the agile mind that never forgets a name or a face—is always apparent.
Describing her children as her “greatest joy,” Dreizler reeled off the names and occupations of her four sons and two daughters, the names of each “wonderful daughter and son-in-law,” her 12 grandchildren and three great grandchildren, where they live and who inherited her blue eyes—all with barely a pause.
Her children, she said, were “my reason for working so hard.”
Son Bob Dreizler, 63, a financial consultant in Sacramento, praised his mother as a parent and a professional. “She did an amazing job raising six kids while working at an innovative, high-pressure job,” he said.
Dreizler succeeded as a single parent, she said, because her work allowed her to make her own hours and “be where my children were in a non-supervisorial way." As a playground supervisor, she had access to every school playground in the district, "so I got to know all the staff,” she said.
It set Dreizler on a path that would ultimately put her on a first-name basis with school district and health personnel, police and city officials, social workers and ministers—not only in Redondo, but in other South Bay cities as well.
Divorced for more than 40 years, she will tell you, flirtatious blue eyes alight, that though she’s single, she’s hardly lacking in male friendship—specifically that of a certain tennis pro, Jeff Abbey, who “taught tennis for 73 years” and now lives in a retirement home.
Son Carl Dreizler, 56, a Redondo travel agency owner, said that although his mother and Abbey lived apart, “Jeff was like a stepdad to all of us, and we consider him part of the family.”
Born and raised in Independence, MO, Dreizler, who collects Southwestern art, turquoise jewelry and can talk sports with any man, attended the William Rockhill Nelson Gallery of Art, the University of Kansas and El Camino College.
Although young Patty Allen wanted to be a commercial artist, her mother dissuaded her, suggesting that a general education—including typing and shorthand—would be more practical.
Dreizler rolls her eyes at the implication.
Her philanthropic drive, however, may be a product of growing up as a Southern Baptist in a Depression-era environment. “I always went to church; everybody always helped everybody else,” she said. “We didn’t know we didn’t have any money.”
Married with three children by age 30, Dreizler moved reluctantly from Ft. Wayne, IN to California in 1956 with then-husband, Bob Dreizler, who had accepted a job at TRW.
She hated uprooting her kids and leaving her friends.
“We landed in a motel up on Imperial, and I started looking at houses, because Bob had to work every day,” she said.
She had three rules.
“I didn’t want an older home, a Spanish-style home or anything near the beach,” she said, explaining that she thought it was all too expensive. But the two-story, four-bedroom home on Avenue F, for which the Dreizlers paid $24,000, was just too perfect to pass up.
“I ended up breaking every one of my rules,” she said, laughing.
By the time the Dreizlers divorced in 1970 and her youngest three children were ages 7, 9 and 10, Pat had been promoted to the City Manager’s Office.
Then-City Manager Francis Hopkins wanted to create “an image” for the city, said Dreizler, who was Hopkins’ “go-to” person when it came to identifying issues and groups.
As a “facilitator,” she was able to coordinate all sorts of programs so no two were duplicated and so those in need could get help, whether they were drug abusers, the homeless or the aging.
“It was a time when social agencies were emerging; partnerships were being developed; … and everyone was working together,” Dreizler said. As for her function within the city, she described it as “pollinating.” Like a bee going from flower to flower, Dreizler gathered honey.
Her ability to match people and groups culminated in a Redondo directory now called The Book. “In the beginning it was a pamphlet for resources for drug abuse,” she explained.
Dreizler occupied prime real estate in the foyer of , and her ability to remember names, faces, and relationships was an invaluable tool. “I do have a presence that is different than those who can’t remember things,” she said.
Just as valuable was her habit of filing away photos, programs, fliers and memorabilia that would become the foundation for the .
“I became a little packrat for historical things,” said Dreizler, who first found a home for the museum at the old South School on Pacific Coast Highway, and later in the yellow Queen Anne house on Flagler Lane.
After she retired, Dreizler and writer Mary Ann Keating, with the help of the city’s Historical Commission, collaborated on Redondo Beach 1880-1930, a book that illustrates the city’s history via old postcards. Pictures include such long-gone landmarks as the elegant , built in 1890 on the site of what is now .
“How many times I’ve fantasized sitting on the front porch of Hotel Redondo,” said Dreizler, who “never tires” of looking at the old postcards.
With characteristic humor, she maintains that the only reason she became the head of the Department of Community Resources (now the ), which she created in 1975 with the blessings of then-City Manager Bob Riley, was “because nobody knew what I did.”
More likely, nobody knew how to do what she did.
With her new offices in the old South School building, she had come full circle. “I had started there, then went to City Hall, and then my offices moved back to the very spot where my kids went to school,” she said.
Retirement in 1989 didn’t stop Dreizler, who continued serving on boards and winning awards. Named Woman of the Year by the Los Angeles County Commission for Women in 2007, she has won a dozen such awards, including the ’s Woman of the Year twice.
If you ask Dreizler what she is most proud of—second to her six children and their families, that is—she points to her work on the Board and the South Bay Hospital, which changed focus in 1994.
As interested in prevention as she was critical care, Dreizler said she was thinking primarily of seniors when the board set out to rehabilitate the ailing hospital.
“My thought was, ‘We have a lot of senior citizens who are going to need extra help when they get older,’” she said, pausing to laugh. “I didn’t ever think I would be one, but that was my concern.”
Among the programs Dreizler helped create was one that provides access to healthcare for families.
“The health district board brought [the hospital] into what it is today—a vibrant, multilevel facility with many, many programs,” Dreizler said, rattling off the names of support groups, classes, activity centers, children’s and prevention programs and a fitness center that serves the three Beach Cities.
"Without the help, commitment and dedication of so many people in the South Bay, these programs would not have been developed,” said Dreizler, who scrupulously avoids taking too much credit.
Carl Dreizler may have described his mother best. “She always had time for those who needed her help in the South Bay,” he said. “She gave unselfishly of her heart and her time, yet she was and is always there for her kids, grandkids and great-grandkids and their families. To this day I still don't know how she does it.”
Others in the family are said to echo the same sentiments, including Loch, 53, a facilities manager for Port San Luis Harbor District in Avila Beach; Robin, 52, director of Outreach and School Relations at El Camino College; and recently married Sarah Cummings, 49, a licensed massage therapist in Utah.
Daughter Gayle Bailey, 60, who owns a business support firm in Redondo, is still amazed at how her mother managed to keep pace with a demanding job and her children’s activities. “She was always at every event we had, which is a task in itself with six very active children,” Bailey said.