SEAL BEACH — Fred Fenton received a bomb threat after marching with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in Montgomery, Ala., in March of 1965.
Just a couple of weeks earlier, Donald Koepke wondered if anyone would shoot at him as he took a 24-hour bus ride from Maywood, Ill., to Selma, Ala., to hear King speak.
So, the Leisure World board of directors’ 12-4 vote on Tuesday, July 25, to observe MLK Day was special for both residents.
“Leisure World is … living up to our creed and (celebrating) a man who enabled us to live up to our creed,” Koepke said.
Tuesday’s vote did not come easy for the gated retirement community of about 9,600 residents, which make up more than one-third of the Seal Beach population.
Senior Patriots for Peace, a peace and social justice group in Leisure World, tried twice — in 2010 and 2013 — to have the holiday observed, but those efforts failed in the community’s executive committee.
The nonprofit Golden Rain Foundation operates Leisure World through its 18-member board of directors and several standing and ad-hoc committees.
“To save shareholders’ money, the Golden Rain Foundation did not wish to create and pay for another holiday,” wrote former executive committee chairwoman Shirley K. Reimers in 2010, in a letter responding to Senior Patriots for Peace’s request. Reimers added in the letter that Leisure World employees had declined to give up one of their holidays to observe MLK Day.
But members of Senior Patriots for Peace said they thought the cost — estimated this year at $15,000 to $16,000 to pay for security officers and others to work holiday shifts — is relatively minor.
“$15,000 is peanuts,” said Lucille Martin, president of Senior Patriots for Peace and the leader behind the movement to observe the day.
President Ronald Reagan in 1983 signed a law establishing MLK Day on the third Monday of January. The holiday was first observed in 1986, but it took until 1999 for the last state, New Hampshire,…