The Signal Tribune newspaper

Brayton Avenue knows the value of good neighbors

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good-neighbors.jpgBy Rachael Rifkin

When looking for a place to live, a good neighborhood can be just as important as the number of bedrooms or the size of the kitchen. A good neighbor, on the other hand, isn’t something we seek; it’s something we hope for. Which makes finding a good neighbor somewhat like accidentally unearthing treasure in your own backyard—an unexpected discovery that adds a little more joy into your life.
Brayton Avenue residents Gerald “Gerry” and Deedra “Dee” Leiran have been adding a little extra joy into the lives of their neighbors for more than 30 years. On any given day, you will find them driving neighbors to their medical appointments or moving everyone’s emptied trashcans away from the street. On their early morning walks, they move neighbors’ newspapers from the sidewalk to the front porch.
“Their neighborliness started off quietly. Gerry had a power mower and when he saw my husband with a push mower, he would say, ‘I could just come over and do your lawn’ and he would,” said next-door neighbor Tessie Edlen. “My stand-out memory is of Gerry mowing the lawn and cleaning the front yard for neighbors whose son’s funeral would be bringing many visitors. What a dear man!”
For more than 12 years, neighbor Virginia Griffin has been on the receiving end of their generosity.
“They’re very delightful and helpful people. I’ve had to go to the hospital a couple of times, and they’ve been right there. They’ve taken me to the doctor and to the pharmacy,” said Griffin.
Patty Phoutrides’ parents have known the Leirans for more than 30 years.
“They are just wonderful people. The type of people you just want in your family. They are so giving and thoughtful. They are never imposing, never looking for any kind of thanks. I hope they never, never move,” said Phoutrides.
Gerry and Dee will be celebrating their 62nd anniversary this August and have three daughters. They met in Kansas, when Gerry was stationed at Fort Leavenworth after serving overseas in Seoul, Korea at the end of WWII.
“He was a blind date. I was 17 and my cousin and I were working at the telephone company. Her boyfriend was at the camp with Gerry. He brought Gerry down with him one night, and that was it,” said Dee.
They started off married life as tenant farmers. Gerry had already spent six years working on a farm when he was young. His closest neighbor had been two miles away. Dee was a self-proclaimed city kid.
“I’d never done anything like that before. My mother was sure I was going to get killed because I’d climb around in the hayloft to play with the kittens. I think I would have been happy if we had been farmers because I like to cook and I like canning. I like animals. It was hard work but it was fun,” said Dee.
Seven years, three kids and a grocery and fireman job later, they moved out to California and settled in a house on Los Coyotes Diagonal.
“My dad was out in California and was always talking about how nice it was. So we decided to come out to California. We stayed with my father for awhile and eventually bought a house on Los Coyotes Diagonal,” said Dee.
Gerry went back into the grocery business and Dee found secretarial work at the Long Beach Memorial Hospital. Later on, she worked for the Student Health Services office at Cal State Long Beach and Northrop.
They moved to their current home on a friend’s suggestion.
“My friend had just moved a block away from Brayton Avenue and spotted a house for sale with a dining room. She was always telling us we needed a house with a dining room. So we went to look at the house and decided to buy it right then and there,” said Dee.
Today, the Leirans are retired and Dee volunteers at a senior center. They are just grateful to be a part of such a caring and tight-knit community.
“We’ve been very fortunate on this street. Everybody likes everybody else,” said Gerry.
Dee never thought that their behavior was unusual or special.
“My mom was always good to people and I just figure that’s what neighbors are for. Neighbors should be good to each other and take care of each other. Look out for them. If they’re having a hard time, help them out,” said Dee.
Tessie, however, thinks it is high time that the Leirans were recognized for their dedication to the neighborhood.
“If something good or bad happens, they know about it and are ready to help. And here Dee tells me that everyone does this, but everyone doesn’t,” said Edlen.

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Serving Bixby Knolls, California Heights, Los Cerritos, Wrigley and Signal Hill
Brayton Avenue knows the value of good neighbors