Growing up in the last century, it was not always easy being outside of the box.  In most cultures and countries, one followed a certain path- go to school, work an 8 hour job, get married, have kids, etc. For those of us who didn’t follow all or part of the path, we were mostly accepted, but with questions. For that reason, I have always admired humans –especially women- who lived their lives by their own rules and beliefs.  A good example of someone who has lived both a life of adventure and service is Fern Platt Hall. She is a good example of a kind, but no nonsense, adventurous spirit.

Jeff, Fern and Chico

Fern was born in Chicago and lived in Illinois until she was 22. After graduating from Southern Illinois University, she moved to Australia to be a high school art and geography teacher for ten years.  In her 30’s she became a tour director and specialized in Asia and the South Pacific, guiding tourists around. At that time, her home base was Hong Kong. She lived in Hong Kong for five years.

She then moved to to be close to her mom. In San Diego, her life took another turn as she went on a blind date with Dr. Jeff Hall, an optometrist who had his practice in La Mesa. At 41, Fern married for the first time and she got a “package deal” as Jeff’s children from a previous marriage lived with him. Fortunately, they all embraced Fern with open arms and she and Jeff have been happily married for 26 years and are proud grandparents. Before they both retired, Fern worked part-time as a tour director for Globus Tours and part-time as Jeff’s office manager.

Fern picking fruit

One important value that both Jeff and Fern firmly believe in is giving back. Tikkun Olam is important to both of them.  They want to share in their success.  For years, they led tours to Guatemala to provide eye care and eye glasses.

They are also active members of the La Mesa Sunrise Rotary Club.  In fact back in 1986, Jeff was one of the founding members of the club. Today the club has a very diverse membership with actually more women than men. This club’s personality is also very much about giving back to the community and the majority of the members participate in different and numerous charitable projects. They have also been helpful with other people’s projects and donated items to the Bus Station Project when it was active.

They are also practical.  With this pandemic, food banks need more help than ever and fresh fruit is always welcome.  For that reason, both Fern and Jeff spearheaded what I call, The Fruit Project. This came about when Peggy Davis, the community service director for the club, informed everyone that her small orchard had more fruit that she could use. Janet Castanos joined in and suggested they donate to food banks. All of them together decided to spread the word in County to see who had backyard fruit that could be picked and donated. Through an article in the Union Tribune [Thank you to Karen Pearlman], Next Door, and word of mouth, members of this Rotary Club have gone to more than 25 homes so far and picked fruit for 15 different food banks!

Bonnie Baron, Jeff, Ivan Alba [behind Jeff], Fern, and some young college Rotarians.
Another ongoing project that the club has worked on is raising money for scholarships for students from the three Learn4Life schools in East County, including Diego Hills. Their next project is to help create a Library of Diversity at the Harriet Tubman Charter School, a very timely project.

Fern Platt hall has not only lived an unusual life, she has created what I call, Good Karma, with more positive things to come, quite an accomplishment for this very unassuming woman.


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Miriam [Mimi] Pollack was born in Chicago, but moved to Mexico City when she was five years old. She lived and worked in Mexico for over 20 years. She currently resides in San Diego and worked as an ESL instructor at Grossmont College and San Diego Community College Continuing Education until June 2018. She writes for various local publications.