Sally Carlson Was A Mainstay At The Norco HS Chet Nicholson Relays

By Jerry Soifer
Featured Contributor /

Sally Carlson spent much of her adult life helping disadvantaged people cope with poverty and homelessness, but for about 20 years, she worked a Saturday afternoon each spring helping conduct the Chet Nicholson Relays for gifted runners, hurdlers, jumpers and throwers.

Retired Norco track coach and athletic director Ben Gonzalez said Carlson helped make the Chet Nicholson Relays a viable event.

She ran the snack bar that not only raised funds to pay for the officials, it also fed the adults working at the event which was a track meet for athletes from around Southern California.

Gonzalez said Carlson was a meticulous accountant for snack bar and gate receipts. Carlson, a hero to the Corona-Norco community for her tireless work to help the disadvantaged, was honored Saturday, Oct. 2, at a celebration of life at the Corona United Methodist Church.


Carlson died on Aug. 12. She was 81. Nearly 200 attended the event.

Twice she was honored by the Corona Chamber of Commerce, once as citizen of the year and once with a lifetime achievement award. Carlson was the chairman of the Corona-Norco Settlement House which provided food, supplies and clothing to the disadvantaged.

She lived in Norco, but her work affected thousands in Western Riverside County.

“We had Mother Teresa in Corona,” said Sal Morano, one of the featured speakers. “She touched thousands of lives.”

Carlson is survived by her husband, Richard, her children, Mike Carlson, Dana Czubakowski and David Carson, and six grandchildren.

Czubakowski said Carlson’s favorite events were “Empty Bowls” and the children’s shopping spree at area department stores that preceded the opening of schools. “Empty Bowls” was a fund-raiser for Corona-Norco Settlement House.

Local restaurants donated gallons of soup to be served by civic and business officials at a church in Corona or more recently Norco. The empty bowls symbolized hunger in the world. Attendees got to keep their painted bowls.

The children’s shopping spree enabled the disadvantaged to get clothes and backpacks for the coming school year.

Carlson was a memorable person to Corona City Councilman Jim Steiner. He said by email, “Sally held court at this rickety old table at the Settlement House, and this court truly was for anyone. The struggling, the lost, the hungry, the searching. She made a place for everyone of them. These were her people, and she was their hope. She listened, she offered counsel, gave diapers, toothbrushes, deodorant, food and clothing, made phone calls on their behalf, sat on hold with them. She helped. When you got up from that table, you were better off. We all miss that Court.”

Norco Mayor Kevin Bash worked as a server at the Empty Bowls event in Norco. He said, “We ran into each other frequently through charity work. She was just flat out a wonderful person who really cared about others – particularly children. Her view was she had so much, she needed to pass on what she could and give back. A truly one of a kind human being. We need more of her in this crazy world.”

Carlson was honored by the Corona Chamber of Commerce with a Citizen of the Year honor in the 1990s. The chamber came back to give her a Lifetime Achievement Award for 2015, along with businessmen John Downs, Bob Hemborg and Herb Spiegel. 

Chamber President Bobby Spiegel said, “That night was very magical – honoring each of these icons for their contributions to the community. Sally was the only female, and the only one who worked full time in a non-profit, Corona-Norco Settlement House. The other three recognized, were business owners and contributed financial support as well volunteered with several non-profits – all for the betterment of our community.

“Sally really wasn’t one for the limelight. She was very humbled and gracious, citing her contributions to the Settlement House as a product of her love for others. She constantly was the face of the Settlement House. Her determination to provide for the less fortunate was evident by her daily work ethic and outreach to the community. She was an amazing individual,” Spiegel said 

Mary Helen Ybarra, a trustee on the Corona-Norco Unified School District board, said, “Sally was a lady with a heart of gold. I remember her as the wonderful lady who ran the Settlement House. She was an asset to our community, always making sure the needy in the community were served. As past president of evening Kiwanis Sally was truly an Angel of Service.”


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