People in Your Neighborhood: Meet La Jolla Woman’s Club President Tona Macken

Editor’s Note: La Jolla Light’s “People in Your Neighborhood” series spotlights notable locals we all wish we knew more about! Light staff is out on the town talking to familiar, friendly faces to bring you their stories. If you know someone you’d like us to profile, send the lead via e-mail to or call us at (858) 875-5950.

New president of the La Jolla Woman’s Club, Tona Macken, has lived in La Jolla for the past three years — enough time to make an impact on the 116-year-old woman’s organization. On Monday, June 12, the Club had a member appreciation event with a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the newly restored arbors that had to be replaced after more than 100 years on the patio of the building.

How did you end up in La Jolla?

“I was in San Diego the last years of high school, and then I went to San Diego State (University). My husband is Canadian, so we moved to Vancouver for about 12 years. Next, we moved to Northern California, Marin County, for about 25 years, and then we retired and moved to New Mexico for about 10 years.

Because my father-in-law was sick, we were coming back and forth a lot between our house in New Mexico and La Jolla. After he passed, we moved into his house. Then finally, it got too much going back and forth all the time, so we just moved to La Jolla.”

What did you do for a living?

“I finished university in Vancouver and taught school in Canada, and then in Northern California. I taught the primary grades, second and third, where the students stay with the teacher all day long in the one classroom. It was fun.”

How many years did you teach?

“I taught for 34 years, and it was only at two schools.”

Do you have any lessons for parents?

“I say to parents just to back off and let your kids have some freedom to make mistakes, because that’s the way they’re going to learn. If you do everything for them, you’re really not helping them, you’re making it harder for them to get along with other people and to solve problems. All kids like to have a bit of autonomy and independence, so that would be my advice, try not to help your kids so much.”

Why did you get involved with La Jolla Woman’s Club?

“I was president of our Woman’s Club in New Mexico and that’s why I got involved here. Actually, I think it was your newspaper ... once I was visiting and La Jolla Light had an article about the Woman’s Club, and you had a phone number that turned out to be one of the board members I’ve befriended. I called her and came to a couple of meetings, then joined.

I really got into it when they had their building’s 100th anniversary with the big party and the celebration. I helped out on that, and the next year I became the vice-president for programs. This year, when the elections came up, they asked me to run for president, so I did. And got elected (laughs).”

Tell me about Club activities.

“The biggest responsibility we have is maintaining this building. It’s really old and the money for it was provided by Ellen Browning Scripps. It was designed by the famous architect Irving Gill. We try to keep it in good repair ... restoring it.

The other thing we do is host the ‘Women in Leadership’ speaker series. This year’s theme is ‘Women in the Military.’ We also have monthly luncheons and speakers. What I’ve tried to do with the speakers is bring in people who’ve done things for the community. Of course, we have entertainment and a fashion show, but we’re trying to move more toward community service, to do things to make not only La Jolla, but greater San Diego, a better place for everybody.”

Is that your plan for the Club?

“Yeah, I’m hoping we go more that way because the club I belonged to in New Mexico, that was its main focus. We also had a historic building and a lot of our resources went into that, but we did all kinds of things, like blood drives, and in fact, we were responsible for paving the roads, adding sidewalks, putting in sewers … it was a very poor town.”

Do you have kids?

“No, it’s just my husband and I. We travel a lot, we ski a lot, and, of course, we still sail, he was a sailmaker. I’ve traveled all over the world to Europe and Greece and the Middle East. I’d say that’s probably our hobby.”

Please describe your upbringing.

“I come from a big family and my dad was in the Navy, that’s how we ended up in San Diego when I was just a little child, in kindergarten, I think. Then, we traveled all over the country because my father would get transferred. When he retired, we came back to San Diego. He started working at General Atomics.”

Are there things you miss?

“I miss New Mexico a lot. Among all the places in the world I’ve traveled, New Mexico is the most beautiful. A lot of people think it looks like Arizona, but New Mexico is nothing like Arizona. The sky, the air, the horizon is endless and you can see hundreds of miles. At night, you see millions and millions of millions of stars. I guess that’s what I miss because we don’t get that out here ... or not very often.”

What’s your hope for the future?

“For me, personally, just to continue to do things to make my community and the world a better place. I wish I was younger because then I would get involved in politics. Now is the time when people need to get involved (laughs).”

What’s you favorite color?

“Blue or turquoise.”

What’s your fashion style?

“When I lived in New Mexico, it was the Southwest look — boots, jeans, a lot of jewelry, silver … I’m not too fashionable. But I like to shop. Actually, that’s one nice thing about living here. Where we were (in New Mexico) there were no stores, no gas stations, everything was hours away. Here, it’s nice that I can walk everywhere. I can get my hair done, nails done, go shopping, go to the grocery store, the bank … to me, that’s a real treat.

You may say, ‘Puff, big deal.’ But when you’ve lived out in the country and had to make a six-hour round-trip to Albuquerque, which was the closest place for big stuff, and a one hour round-trip to get gas or groceries … you have to really plan things ahead. The other thing is here, if you’re sick you go to the doctor. If you live in a rural area, there are no doctors nor dentists.”

What’s the secret to being married 50 years?

“That’s easy, just pick the right guy right at the beginning. In fact, don’t pick someone you think you’re going to change, because you can’t. It’s kind of like, if you buy a pair of shoes, if you try them on and they’re not comfortable, don’t buy them, no matter how they look. I sort of see marriage like that.

It’s almost like you must treat your guy the same way you treat children — don’t try to change them and don’t be disappointed in them. Keep remembering why you were so in love with them at the beginning, the first rush of first love. Mind you, my husband is so mellow, I think anybody could stay married to him.”

What are La Jolla’s pros and cons?

“My favorite things are the ocean and the weather. My least favorite things are the crowds, the traffic — especially during holidays.”

— La Jolla Woman’s Club is at 7791 Draper Ave. For membership information, call (858) 454-2354, e-mail or visit