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Tenacity Triumphs in Westridge
November, 2007 - Issue #37
It's easy to presume that anyone in possession of a 4,000-square-feet, six-bedroom, three-floored home in the plush neighborhood of Westridge is literally living on Easy Street. That kind of bounty, most of us would guess, could only come at the hands of Lady Luck, or, since this is Santa Clarita - at least a cozy spot near the top of a successful business's organizational chart.

But Martin Avila and Fredye Gonzales did not gain their luxurious Spanish-style home by chance or by traditional corporate toil. The pair earned it, tile by tile, side by side, against odds that would be considered insurmountable by many.

Avila's family immigrated from Mexico. A first-generation American, he knows first-hand the power of resources, and the stress that comes from never having enough for even the simplest necessities. But he also intimately knows the power of family, of the strength that comes from a supportive base, from a dad whose guidance was paramount and who earned respect from all who knew him. This year, he will know what it feels like, sadly, to celebrate the family's first Thanksgiving without their father present.

But there is still much to be grateful for. Each Sunday, the Avila and Gonzales family gathers at the Westridge home for Soul Food Sundays. Dozens of hands work in unison to jointly prepare a meal that is then shared simultaneously over weekly updates, informal debates and, always, laughter.

Yes, this home, gilded with custom draperies, fine furniture and sometimes-opulent accessories, is a direct representation of what Avila and Gonzales have obtained after decades of hard work, but it is more so a display of what they value: the people - and not the products - that fill the space.

"We do most of our family's entertaining, and we wanted a home that was inviting, open, stylish and eclectic - just like us. I think it really embraces guests during their stay with us; it's a friendly space, and it's well-suited for our purposes," says Gonzales.

Says Avila, "There's a different ambience in each room, but even though each has its own feeling and a distinct setting, nothing strays away from the original design. The result is a flow to the space that makes it comfortable."

The couple, who've lived in the home for three years after moving from their Stevenson Ranch house they occupied since 1997, has managed to communicate a sense of belonging much due to a neutral color palate demarcated by occasional bursts of chocolate, rust and gold. It's a balanced combination of shades that takes full advantage of natural light for a figurative and literal warmth that carries through the multiple floors and rooms.

Of course, there are exceptions to every rule. Over 240 fabric, ceramic, plastic and glass Winnie the Pooh figurines and stuffed animals call a guest bedroom home. The couple has collected the bears for 20 years and from as far away as Hong Kong, Chile and Brazil.

Gonzales, a nurse by trade, is the mastermind behind much of the home's interior decor and design. While not a professional decorator, he skillfully provided a "wow factor" that has earned him kudos from friends and family. "I do it for fun, but the people around me say that I have an eye for it," he says.

The home of Martin Avila and Fredye Gonzales, while beautiful in pictures, should be witnessed in person by all fans of finery and domestic composition.

Lucky you - here's your chance.

On Saturday, December 1, the home - along with two other Westridge estates - will be on display for Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital's 27th-annual Holiday Home Tour. Guests will be awed by a 15-foot angel-themed tree, Old World curios, a life-size Santa and much more.

Hosted by volunteers comprising the Home Tour League, the tour is part of a time-honored Santa Clarita holiday tradition that draws thousands of people each year. Attendees not only gain early holiday decorating ideas, they support their community hospital in the process; funds raised by the Holiday Home tour will benefit Women's Services at Henry Mayo.

The Home Tour will be open to all adults and children over 12 years of age between 9:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Tour tickets are $25 if purchased in advance and $30 if purchased at the Boutique or at any of the featured homes on the day of the Home Tour.

An annual Holiday Boutique will take place in conjunction with the tour at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church Assembly Hall in Newhall on December 2 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The sale will include clothing, handcrafted artwork, holiday decor, toffee and gift items. Complimentary refreshments will be served in the hospitality room adjacent to the boutique as Henry Mayo's way of thanking the community for its support throughout the year. Proceeds from the Gala and Boutique will also benefit the hospital's Women's Services Unit.

A kick-off Holiday Preview Gala at the Tournament Players Club in Westridge on the evening of Friday, November 30 is a $100-per-person, black-tie optional event open to the community. The Gala will offer attendees a preview of the homes to be featured on the Home Tour the following day. Other homes on the tour include that of David and Terri Slone and Michael and Molly Serrao. The Slone's Mediterranean-style home will be decorated by Lisa Duncan, with a theme of "A Holiday to Remember," while the traditional Tuscan residence of the Serraos will be decorated by Billie Hubbard in "A Bella Christmas."

Avila and Gonzales are looking forward to decorating their "It's a Wonderful Life"-themed estate for the tour. "Martin used to travel out of the country extensively, and unfortunately became gravely ill from exposure to tainted food on one of the trips. He spent over a month as a patient at the Henry Mayo hospital and received exceptional care. This is our chance to say 'thank you' to the fine staff who brought him back to health," says Gonzales, who is no stranger to the industry of care. A nurse by trade, he worked with developmentally-delayed children for seven years.

For more information, please visit www.henrymayo.com or contact the hospital Foundation at 253-8082.
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