VIP Spotlight – Peter Lee Tancredi

Setareh Nouriboshehri, Community Volunteer Ambassador (CVA)

It’s somehow June, and nothing fights off the gloom like learning more about our volunteers! This week, we get to hear from VIP Peter Lee. If you’ve visited Cabrillo National Monument and driven through the Entrance Station, chances are you’ve seen Peter Lee’s friendly face welcoming you into the park. For the VIP Spotlight, we’ve sent our questions to Peter Lee ahead of time and he’s taken the time to type out his responses. Let’s see what Peter Lee has to say!*

VIP Peter Lee peering out of the Entrance Station at Cabrillo National Monument to say hello!

Setareh: Tell us how you first heard about Cabrillo National Monument!

Peter Lee: I had attended a funeral at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery, and at the conclusion of the service, I thought I’d follow the road to its end. It was quite a relaxing moment to then find peace at the park. From then on, I was sold. I knew I wanted to spend more time there. I started at the Visitors Center under the tutorage of so many great, friendly, and knowledgeable volunteers, including Sandy Woodhouse, whom you recently interviewed. She is THE expert when it comes to the Visitor Center desk operations.

  • SN: Are there any other organizations you volunteer with?
  • PL: I volunteered doing administrative work at the San Diego Humane Society for many years and most recently with my wife, Susan, at the Veterans Resource Center at the Central Library. The latter program is a federal grant through the state libraries geared to help veterans. We had some interesting success cases with getting VA benefits for someone to finish his B.A. degree, and one on Christmas Eve who came back to share with us he was ready to commit suicide if we hadn’t spoken with him. The San Diego Union Tribune wrote a half-page story on us. The vast majority were homeless, and those were the most difficult cases. We were commemorated for the City of San Diego Mayor’s award a few years back.
  • SN: What’s been your proudest moment at the park?
  • PL: Being able to volunteer with so many talented rangers and volunteers, as well as developing the Employee & Volunteer Recognition Program with Superintendent Andrea Compton. To date, we have had over 400 submissions from visitors commenting on outstanding performance.
  • SN: Do you have a favorite memory at the park?
  • PL: Seeing the sunset. 
  • SN: Where in the park do you like visiting the most?
  • PL: I really enjoy sitting on the bench leading up to the lighthouse. It’s such a relaxing view looking over the water.
  • SN: Ok, you get to be park’s Superintendent for the day. What’s your first and last action item?
  • PL: I’d gather the staff and volunteers on duty, find out how they were personally doing, see what projects they had planned for the day, and ask how I might assist them. The old management tool MBWA (Management By Walking Around) might follow. Last thing would check with Ralph’s law enforcement rangers to be sure the part was secured for the evening.
  • SN: Can you walk us through a typical day of volunteering for you?
  • PL: I report to the Entrance Station, about 20 minutes before my shift, and check with the rangers on any new developments or changes. Ranger Andrew has made a number of changes to be sure we’re fully in compliance with park service regulations. I then count the passes for which I will be responsible for, sign a log, and make sure there are enough of them to last during my time at the window. Then when the shift begins, it’s scratching my head to remember my password for the register, and then it’s off and running. I always keep in mind that for each visitor, it’s an initial contact with the park where for me it is just one of many. So, I try to stay cheerful with each one of them. End of shift I sign out on the register, organize the money, and place it in the safe. If it is a real busy day, I “walk the line” outside of the entrance booth to allow visitors to come into the park who have a variety of passes to move the line of cars more quickly.
  • SN: What do you miss most about the park?
  • PL: Being with the rangers and volunteers. 
  • SN: Since you’ve started volunteering at the park, what changes have you seen?
  • PL: The park is a lot more “spiffy” with all the new signs and facilities improvements Jay has accomplished.
  • SN: What about you?
  • PL: I realize although I am a city boy, there is nothing like the out of doors if one really wants to enjoy life.
  • SN: Hypothetically, What if you could publish a book about Cabrillo National Monument?
  • PL: I’d write a good ghost story of a haunted lighthouse, especially when the fog comes in, by one of the previous keepers. Someone would see the ghost in the various rooms, and he’d share something profound in his past that nobody else is aware of. Then, the people who saw his apparition and heard his stories would have to go out and convince everyone else of what they experienced.
  • SN: Peter Lee, can you think of your earliest memory with nature?
  • PL: Planting little seedlings in paper cups and watching them grow.
  • SN: What’s something people don’t typically know about you that you wouldn’t mind sharing?
  • PL: I was a hospital administrator in Vietnam, managed an ambulance company responsible for transporting patients among the US hospitals in Germany, was Aide to the Surgeon General and Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense (with 11 years at the Pentagon), and finished active duty as the Inspector General of the medical center at the Presidio of San Francisco. The Presidio is now part of the National Park Service. Then, in San Diego, I was the Assistant Medical Administrator with the County Sheriff and then the Financial and Contracting Supervisor with the federal court. 
  • SN: If you could be a pro or semi-pro at anything, what would it be?
  • PL: Probably golf. I stopped playing when I realized the divot was going farther than the ball. The greenskeepers were never friendly to me. 
  • SN: Who would say has been the most influential person in your life?
  • PL: My wife. She was an Army Nurse Practitioner. It is indeed true that behind every successful person stands their spouse. She has always managed to volunteer wherever we were from the Smithsonian to now teaching students to improve reading skills.
  • SN: If you could tell your high school self anything, what would you tell her?
  • PL: Take it slow, and make as many friends along the way, because all that matters in the end are those relationships.
  • SN: What would you share with a large crowd of people if you had the chance?
  • PL: I would tell them about my experience as a medical courier from the Pentagon to the White House. I got to personally meet three Presidents and families on several occasions.
  • SN: Alright, lightning round! Ideal temperature?
  • PL: About 72 degrees. 
  • SN: Sunrise or sunset.
  • PL: Sunset. I love those vivid colors in the sky.
  • SN: Digital or paper calendar?
  • PL: I fear I am tied to paper as it helps to see the entire month easier. 
  • SN: Cake or pie?
  • PL: Cherry and Boston Cream Pie.
  • SN: Would you rather be able to speak every language in the world or be able to speak to animals?
  • PL: Definitely animals. I always wonder what’s really going in my dog’s head when he’s looking at me, and it would sure be nice to know exactly what may be wrong when he isn’t feeling good. 
  • SN: Favorite childhood book?
  • PL: Any of the Grimm Brothers fairy tales.
  • SN: Least favorite color?
  • PL: White. Boring. 
  • SN: If you could live in any movie, which movie would you pick?
  • PL: Chinatown.

-End of Interview-

*some text has been altered during editing.

Ranger Dave (left) and VIP Peter Lee (right) posing in front of the Juan Rodriquez Cabrillo Statue. 

Thank you for who you are and for the way you love this park, Peter Lee!

Would you like to be interviewed for a VIP Spotlight, too? Let us know by emailing us at cabr_volunteers@nps.gov. We’d love to hear from you!

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