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The Cerritos Senior Center at Pat Nixon Park celebrates its 25th anniversary on January 29.  

Since 1994, the Cerritos Senior Center at Pat Nixon Park has provided a space for Cerritos seniors to socialize, participate in educational programs, receive social services and enjoy recreational activities. 

In an effort to serve those citizens who had first settled in the City’s new subdivisions and were now over the age of 50, the City opened the $3.5 million, 22,500-square-foot Senior Center on January 29, 1994. Prior to that, the City’s Dial-A-Ride service, a food program at St. John Lutheran Church and the Gadabouts social club were offered to this important group, however, seniors lacked a dedicated City facility.

The City selected Pat Nixon Park as the location for the Senior Center, as it was an attractive site and centrally located. Wolff, Lang, Christopher Architects Inc. was chosen to design the facility, which featured a craftsman-style lodge appearance with natural river rock and wood trellises around the exterior, and detailed wood framework on the windows and doors. 

Inside, the facility offered two comfortable lounges and ample space for classes, arts and crafts, billiards, computers and other activities. There was room for art and special exhibits, and a large multipurpose area with a stage and kitchen.

A park for outdoor activities surrounded the building and included a patio with barbecue area, pond and grass activity area. 

Near that was a planter filled with rosebushes, which was once the foundation of the house where First Lady Pat Nixon lived during her youth.

Nixon is one of the City’s most famous one-time residents, and the site of her childhood home and her family’s truck farm was the perfect location for the Cerritos Senior Center. In 1975, the City honored Nixon by dedicating the Pat Nixon Home and Museum at 12364 South Street. The five-room house was restored and authentically decorated, set on four acres of rolling lawns at Pat Nixon Park.

The home Nixon lived in from 1914 to 1931 was situated on the corner of South Street and Ely Avenue. Pat Ryan (the future First Lady) spent her childhood in Dairy Valley, walking the dirt roads to school, carrying out neighborhood babysitting duties and making friends. Among her closest friends were Myrtle Franz (née Raine) and Louise Raine, and they became known as “the Three Musketeers.” 

The Raine family was another early Dairy Valley clan who owned 10 acres near today’s Cerritos Senior Center. Myrtle Franz spent the majority of her life in Cerritos, remaining active in the City and at the Senior Center through her 90s. Before her passing in 2012 at the age of 96, Myrtle Raine commented, “This city has changed so much, you wouldn’t realize it’s the same place. I tell people I live in Cerritos, and they’re so impressed. It’s grown into a beautiful city. I’m very proud of it.”

The City of Cerritos bought the Nixon property from the family in 1967, but the home was destroyed by fire in 1978. In April 1996, the Cerritos City Council approved installing a “life-size, full-body” bronze statue of Pat Nixon in the rose garden of the Cerritos Senior Center. Artist Ivan Schwartz, who had sculpted statues of 10 world leaders for the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum in Yorba Linda, was selected as the statue’s sculptor. The statue was dedicated on March 1, 1997. The bricks used in the existing memorial at the site are from the original home’s fireplace and chimney.

As a gift to the community for the City’s 50th Anniversary, a 5,000-square-foot expansion of the Senior Center was completed in 2006, which included a new wellness/fitness center designed specifically with the community’s active seniors in mind. The $2.4 million project included cardiovascular and weight training equipment, a conference room for wellness and health screenings, a public counter, locker rooms and restrooms.

Today, services provided at the now 27,500-square-foot Cerritos Senior Center include health screenings, exercise classes, tax and legal assistance, health and fitness workshops, a fitness center, excursions and special events. This past year, the façade at the Senior Center was enhanced with the completion of maintenance to the wood features. 

Since the Cerritos Center opened in 1994: 

• Approximately 527,000 nutritional lunches have been served.

• More than 287,000 home delivered meals have been provided to homebound seniors.

• Nearly 54,000 information and referral questions have been answered.

• Approximately 22,500 seniors have attended special event dances.

• More than 1 million seniors have attended exercise classes.

• Over 512,000 workout visits have occurred since the completion of the Fitness Center expansion.

• Senior Center volunteers have contributed close to 216,000 hours of service.

• The interior and outdoor areas of the Senior Center have been the site of approximately 3,000 private weekend reservations, hosting more than 470,000 guests. These events have included wedding ceremonies/receptions, anniversary celebrations and milestone birthday festivities.

Designed to meet the special needs of the City’s growing senior population, the Cerritos Senior Center continues to provide a focal point for their community involvement. The City looks forward to many more years of serving the senior community of Cerritos.

Cerritos residents can receive a free subscription to the quarterly “Senior Connection” newsletter by calling the Senior Center at (562) 916-8550. Non-residents can receive the newsletter for $8 a year by subscribing and paying in person at the Senior Center. The newsletter is mailed directly to homes.

The Senior Center, located on 12340 South Street, is open 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays and 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Fridays. 

  • jas says:

    Shortly after we moved into Cerritos, the old Mrs. Nixon’s home burned in the park where the senior center is located today. We watched that house go up in fire, we could see it from our Second Story windows, since the Regional Park landscape was very small, so we could see all over the city. It was huge fire, almost as big as the Santa Ana Wind wild fires, which we were accustomed in seeing to the east.

    It was a very horrible tragedy that night. During the era, it was debated whether to replace or rebuild that home, at that time the Cerritos council was more frugal. Many residents and councils, think that was a mistake, to not rebuild the birthplace museum, it is part of History, if we like it or not, and that home is a museum, and it should be rebuilt one of these times.

    Lot of pocket money is flowing into Yorba Linda, ( Presidential Library), and we’re missing out on a golden egg by not replacing Mrs. Nixon’s birthplace home. I also think it’s a tragedy that that Rose Garden is not kept up better, it has improved over time, but it’s not the Rose Garden it once was.

    Looking to future, hope the museum could be rebuilt, plus expand on the programs at the senior center, since we have minimum reciprocation with other counties. Now that I am retired, and the city is aprox 50% seniors, think it is time, we reduce some of our park and recreation programs, reduce the budget to the CCPA, plus start working on growing the programs at center for life-long seniors.

    My mom and others, who are locals and almost centurions, pray the CCC work on creating more reciprocating senior programs, so we can communicate and learn from many other cities SENIOR PROGRAMS in both LA/OC.


  • jas says:

    Pat Nixon, ( First Lady ) was also a student and graduate of Excelsior high school, Norwalk, California. There are always many attempts to sell off , that said property at that location on the corner of Pioneer and Alondra Boulevard. In those days, when she attended, it was the only high school in many miles around. People from Artesia, Bellflower what we now know as Cerritos, Norwalk, La Mirada, Santa Fe Springs, and parts of South Whittier; went to high school at Excelsior high school. Cerritos ignores that fact because the school is located in what now is considered Norwalk. And not Cerritos.