Posted by: amymoellering | February 5, 2016

Around Pleasanton: 70 Years of Marriage

Courtesy of the Mincks FamilyIleana and Earl Mincks appear on their wedding day, Jan. 17, 1946.

Courtesy of the Mincks Family Ileana and Earl Mincks appear on their wedding day, Jan. 17, 1946. (Courtesy of the Mincks Family)

The wedding was planned in 15 days, the marriage has lasted 70 years, and 39 of those years have been spent in Pleasanton. The love story of Earl and Ileana Mincks is inspiring, not simply because of its longevity, but because, as they and their family attest, of its happiness.

In 1943, in Phoenix, Arizona, 16-year-old Earl Mincks decided to ask the girl he’d been eyeing in church, Ileana Parker, to the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus. They began dating, and by the time the Junior/Senior Ball rolled around, Ileana had an engagement ring on her finger.

Courtesy of the Mincks FamilyIleana and Earl Mincks appear on their 70th anniversary, Jan. 17, 2016.

Courtesy of the Mincks Family Ileana and Earl Mincks appear on their 70th anniversary, Jan. 17, 2016. (Courtesy of the Mincks Family)

“The attitude then,” she said, “was ‘live for today’ because no one knew what was going to happen tomorrow.” Many of their classmates were drafted into the service before finishing high school. Earl, a distinguished cadet and colonel of his school’s ROTC program, joined the Army reserves. He was able to get his degree, but after basic training he deployed to Italy with the 3rd Infantry Division in 1944 as part of Patton’s army.

“It was difficult,” said Ileana. “We had no idea when he was coming back.” When Earl did return on a 30-day pass, they wanted to get married immediately. Although their parents were apprehensive (Earl was still 18 and needed a permission note from his mother), Ileana recalls her mother in-law saying, “if the government thinks he’s old enough to fight, then he’s old enough to know if he should get married.”

Their minister shared the advice that although a man may think he knows his bride, she’ll change many times over the years. Earl disagrees. “Ileana was a marvelous woman when I fell in love with her, and she still is marvelous. … I fall in love with her every day.”

The Mincks tried to pay the $5 wedding charge, but the minister insisted they keep it. And they still have that bill.

The Mincks moved to Pleasanton in 1976, where Earl managed and owned several tire businesses; he also invented a protective tire shield called the Tire Guard. Ileana said their move here was like “this little town opened its arms and hugged me.” Their Kottinger Drive home bordered cattle ranches, and they would watch the cows from their upstairs window. With two children, two grandchildren and two great grandchildren, their home has always had an open door for family members moving in and out. “It was and is where all important family celebrations take place and a place where anyone is welcome,” said daughter Cheri Puls.

What is the Minck’s secret for a happy marriage? “It hasn’t all been easy,” Earl said, “but we went through the rough times because we loved each other.” Their anchors have been their faith in God and their devotion to each other.”I wish I had something profound to say,” said Ileana, “but I’m just a woman who has loved her husband for 70 years.” Perhaps those are the best kind of love stories.

Contact Amy Moellering at

Posted by: amymoellering | January 26, 2016

Around Pleasanton: Baby Boot Camp

Several mornings a week, in the hours before opening, strollers take over Stoneridge Mall. I witnessed this recently, drawn in by the brigade lined up on the lower floor, little legs sticking out from brightly colored prams while moms in workout clothes stood a short distance away.

 At the instructor’s command, the smiling moms sprinted toward the babies, squeezed their feet, elicited squeals and laughter, and sprinted back. Music was playing and it was such a joyous scene, I had to investigate.
 Lillian Lee, the instructor and owner of Baby Boot Camp, explained that she holds classes five mornings a week, three at the mall and two at Emerald Glen Park in Dublin.

More than just another exercise program, Baby Boot Camp also is a support group. After class, many stroll to the playground or get a cup of coffee and share experiences on teething, potty training, and allergies, combating the isolation many new moms experience. Lee, in addition to designing varied workouts, plans moms’ night outs, potlucks, and even exchanges –for kids’ clothing, toys, books and recipes.



Lee’s journey with Baby Boot Camp began in 2005 when her son was three months old and she had stopped working in the health care field. “My friends were all working full time and I was searching for something,” said Lee. “My sister-in-law found a Baby Boot Camp in Concord and told me to look for one here. I tried my first class, eventually became an instructor and then bought the franchise in 2010.”

“The biggest draw,” explained Lee, “is moms get to keep their babies with them. If they need to stop and nurse, they do; if they need to tend to a toddler, they do.” The children stay in their strollers for most of the class and then get out at the end for mat work and the cool down. “We keep the class moving so the kids don’t get restless,” said Lee.

Carita Williams found the program on-line when she moved here a couple years ago. She said the camaraderie of the classes was key in helping her adjust to the area. Currently pregnant and due in April, she attends with her two year-old, Alana. “It’s a chance for her to see other kids and for me to talk to other moms and stay in shape,” said Williams.

Komal Sarang agrees. With three children, Sarang is an eight-year veteran of Baby Boot Camp. “A morning workout refreshes me for the entire day. Lillian adapts the exercises for where you are — whether that’s pregnancy, or post pregnancy. It’s like having a personal trainer.”

Maureen Glennon, who held her six week-old newborn on her lap while she did crunches, said she began when she was on maternity leave with her first child; she’s back with the second and understands how challenging it can be to return to pre-pregnancy shape.

“We all understand because we’ve been there,” said Lee.

Photo: Carita Williams & Alana


Posted by: amymoellering | January 8, 2016

Around Pleasanton: The 5 P’s for the Long, Long Run

“The limitations we place on ourselves, whether personal or in our careers, are often only in our head and should be challenged,” says Bryan Gillette, an ultra-endurance athlete and founder of consulting firm the Summiting Group. He knows a thing or two about goal setting and resolutions, a common activity this time of year.

Gillette has biked 300 miles in 24 hours and run 100- and 200-mile races, including his most recent accomplishment this past September, the Tahoe Endurance Run. The numbers tell it all: 205.5 miles around Lake Tahoe with a 40,000-foot elevation gain, 76. 5 hours with 1.5 hours of sleep, and an 11th place finish. To put this in perspective, that’s running eight marathons in a row!


The lessons Gillette has learned about making and reaching audacious endurance goals can be applied to something as simple as a personal New Year’s resolution or as complex as a company’s direction. He admits that he was apprehensive at times about the race, but as he says, living life fully is about pushing limits and getting outside one’s comfort zone. He calls his formula for success the Five Ps: Ponder a goal, Plan a path to get there, Prepare as fully as possible and then Perform and Persevere.

Another important component, Gillette acknowledges, is support from family and friends. For the first 62 miles of the Tahoe Endurance Run, racers are required to run alone, but after that distance they are allowed to have pacers run with them and a crew to fortify them along the route, much like a pit crew in an auto race.

Gillette’s pacers, Bruce Sinclair, Andy Frey, Jeff Durban, Ron Rel and Steve Sherman, are all competitive endurance athletes who each ran 25 to 30 miles with him. His crew included wife Audrey, Dan and Diann Boyle and Jan Sherman. They were well prepared for whatever scenario Gillette might face with a binder of instructions; this exercise mentally prepared him as well.

“I’m the one who got to cross the finish line and wear the T-shirt. The crew and pacers had the tougher job of making me laugh when I wanted to cry, running (or walking) behind me on the dusty trail, washing my feet at different rest points and so many unusual requests. It’s a team effort to accomplish something like this,” said Gillette.

The Gillettes have lived in Pleasanton since 1995 and do most of their training runs up on the ridge. What’s next? Audrey, also an endurance athlete, will train for an Ironman competition next year with Bryan as her crew chief.

After that … traveling around the world with their two kids. To learn more

Posted by: amymoellering | December 24, 2015


 Around Pleasanton: Old Friendships
 I met Rose Marie Harris through church-I visit her every couple weeks and bring her communion. Our little twosome has grown to six or seven ladies each time and I’ve come to love these visits. Somewhere I read that to keep perspective you should spend time with people under 7 and over 70. I would add that a fully mature 70 year old has a childlike heart of wonder and joy. These visits are full of stories, laughter, and wisdom. 

Acquaintances we meet, enjoy and can easily leave behind, but friendship grows deep roots.  — H. Jackson Brown Jr.

Rose Marie Harris and Margaret Bartlett moved with their families to Pleasanton just a year apart from one another in 1969 and 1970. Both were young mothers whose husbands served in the Navy. Over the years, their lives intersected because of their involvement with St. Augustine Catholic Church, but it wasn’t until years later that they became friends.

Luckily for me, I’ve had the chance to get to know them, and I love their stories about Pleasanton’s earlier days.

“This place was the wild, wild West,” says Harris, 88. “We were living in Oakland when my husband came home one day and announced we were moving out to the farms.” They bought one of six new homes on Mohr Avenue for $24,500. Harris recalls how jackrabbits would gather in her yard, as if they were wondering who had moved onto their turf.

At that time, there were less than 8,000 people in Pleasanton. “lt was just a cow-town with lots of farmland, dirt roads and no stoplights,” says Bartlett, 87. Her family relocated from Southern California and bought a four-bedroom home for $28,500 in the new subdivision called Valle Vista.


Hunts Tomato Co. cultivated the fields behind their house — not far from where Lucky’s supermarket stands today. The trucks would roll by on the dirt roads to irrigate the tomatoes, and her boys would take off to fish in the channel nearby.

 Donlon Elementary opened that year, and the Bartlett kids were among the school’s first students. Many of the classrooms were still in portables, and that was a rainy year, so Bartlett remembers the mud the kids would track home.

“We moved in two weeks before Christmas,” recalls Bartlett. “It was our first Christmas together in a long time.” Her husband, a Navy sailor, had spent many holidays at sea.

That Christmas was the second year of St. Augustine’s Catholic Church, and Bartlett remembers the priest recruited her son to altar service when her family was walking into Mass because the assigned server hadn’t shown up. The family became involved after that; Bartlett, a stay-at-home mom, taught catechism classes at her house.

Harris, on the other hand, worked full-time as a registered nurse in Oakland. She shakes her head when she recalls how hectic those years were.

Many years later, Harris and Bartlett recognized each other in the Valley Care Hospital parking lot. They struck up a conversation that was mainly focused on their husbands’ care. In the months that followed, they continued to cross paths at the hospital.

In 2005, Harris, now widowed, was the first to move into her building at Ironwood. It was her daughter who recognized the “woman from church with the lovely white hair,” moving into the neighboring apartment. “Our friendship deepened after that and continues to grow,” says Harris. “We talk all the time about our families, the Navy and our lives back then.”

Contact Amy Moellering at


Posted by: amymoellering | December 1, 2015

Around Pleasanton: 4H Chapter fits right for the Wrights

Andre and Trooper 4H Show-1

Andre (12) with his horse, Trooper. Photo Credit: Melissa Wright

Every morning, 9-year-old Aaliyah Wright and her 12-year-old brother, Andre, feed and water their chickens, tortoises and dogs, adhering to their family’s motto that “the animals get fed before we do.”

Competitive equestrians, they train their horses several hours during the week and travel to horse shows that can last up to five days. If it’s spring, they raise dairy goats and pigs, caring for them twice a day in preparation for the summer auction at the county fair.

These kids don’t live in rural California; they live in a typical Pleasanton neighborhood. Their mom, Melissa, grew up in Campbell with llamas, goats and horses and was a member of Future Farmers of America. With her husband, Andre, they have created an atypical education for their kids with nontraditional schooling and 4-H.

“4-H is an amazing organization where the kids learn public speaking, leadership and record keeping; they also perform a ton of community service,” said Melissa Wright, who leads the poultry project while her husband leads archery for Pleasanton’s Abbie 4-H chapter.

4-H began here in 1912 with several clubs forming over the years that were named after areas of town; today’s chapter is named for Abbie Street. Currently there are 85 members, aged 5-19, who meet monthly and work on projects. According to Karen Harper, a community leader, animal husbandry, specifically swine, is the most popular project, but there are many more, including archery, baking, mythology, chess, nail art and photography.


“Our biggest challenge is finding places that will house animals and be receptive to kids visiting twice a day to feed, water, exercise and train them,” said Harper.

A member since childhood, Harper noted that many former members return as leaders. Harper’s own daughter, Cheyenne, a college freshman, leads a personal management project to help prepare kids for college because she saw the need for one. “4-H kids are so used to being organized that they tend to have good grades,” said Harper.

The Wrights balance their animal commitments with school by enrolling the kids in Connections Academy, a public online school that features accredited teachers and an approved set curriculum that can be accomplished at the student’s pace. “I knew I could never home-school,” said Wright, “but our family needs the flexibility of a nontraditional school. We love the online classrooms, videos and individual attention.” Wright keeps Aaliyah and Andre on task. “The downside (and upside) is I am with them all day facilitating,” said Wright. “Once we had a worm dissection on the kitchen table for a science lesson,”With school- sponsored field trips, Catholic Youth Organization basketball and dance lessons, the Wrights feel their kids are getting plenty of social interaction with their education. And 4-H helps: “The kids who raise animals as a project learn empathy, responsibility, money management and a work ethic that I feel can’t be taught in school,” said Wright.


Posted by: amymoellering | November 12, 2015

Around Pleasanton: A City that Supports its Veterans

As the child of a Vietnam veteran, a military spouse for more than a decade and now the mom of an Army officer, I can’t get through a Veterans Day parade without shedding a few proud, emotional tears.

Pleasanton’s parade Nov. 1 was full of stirring moments — a trolley car of World War II Veterans, Las Positas College student veterans, Pleasanton police veterans and many more — all traveling down Main Street to an appreciative crowd. Regardless of what these veterans are doing now — and some are still in the military — for that moment they were recognized for their shared history of serving their country.

“We think our parade is one of the largest veterans’ celebrations in Northern California,” said Paul Siedschlag, the finance officer of the Pleasanton chapter (Post 237) of the American Legion. World War I veterans established this group in 1920 and also supported the building of the beautiful Memorial Hall. Today there are 164 registered members, and they are busy, especially at this time of year.

Besides the parade, which they co-sponsor with the Veterans of Foreign Wars, they hand out red poppies outside stores, team up with Girl Scout troops to put on a holiday party for local foster kids and present programs with flag folding demonstrations at elementary schools. Their current project is to build a Vietnam memorial in the Pioneer Cemetery. The City Council recently gave its approval, and fundraising efforts are underway.

“Our town is so patriotic; it’s incredible,” said Siedschlag.

Pat Frizzell, chair of Pleasanton Military Families, agrees that the town is supportive. This organization began in 2003 when troops started leaving for Operation Iraqi Freedom. Chris Miller, who served in the U.S. Army as a helicopter pilot in Vietnam, was determined that returning soldiers would receive a warmer homecoming than he experienced and began the group to support the families left behind. Mothers, fathers, girlfriends and anyone connected to the military could find a place in this group to express worry, frustration and joy.

“At that first meeting,” recalls Frizzell, “the house was completely packed with people.”

Over time, as the troops came home, the group expanded to service projects — holiday packages for soldiers serving overseas, yellow ribbons on the lamp posts on Main Street, homecomings for soldiers and aid to returning veterans. Their annual pancake breakfast in June raises funds to pay postage for the holiday packages. This year they are preparing packages for 14 local soldiers who are serving overseas.

“When we started, we weren’t sure how long we’d last or what our direction would be,” said Frizzell. “But people stay, and new families are constantly joining because they see the good work in it and the close friendships that form. We’ve evolved to what we call ‘support through service.’ ”

To donate to this year’s holiday packages for the troops, visit the suggested donation list Bring items to the Veterans Memorial Hall from 4 to 6:30 p.m. Nov. 20. To learn more about the American Legion and support the proposed veterans memorial, visit

Posted by: amymoellering | October 29, 2015

Around Pleasanton: The Things that Cemeteries can Tell us!

When I sat down with Dolores Bengtson over a cup of coffee to talk to her about her upcoming tour of the cemetery on Halloween, I was amazed by her energy, enthusiasm and knowledge of local history. She told me how she loves the outdoors and that she used to lead hikes through our regional parks. Just today, learned that she is 83 years old– Wow, I never would I have guessed that! 

A row of unmarked graves covers a swath of land in the back corner of Pioneer Cemetery. “No man’s land” is what Dolores Bengtson calls it, and for her, it’s just another mystery to discover about Pleasanton’s past.

A resident since 1968 and well-known for her service to the community (the eponymous aquatic center), Bengtson has researched not only our town’s cemetery, but also ones in Arizona, Utah and Colorado. For her, cemeteries are “windows into history.” Combining her extensive knowledge of local lore with vivid storytelling skills, she creates a captivating experience. This Halloween she will lead a walk through Pioneer Cemetery, giving participants a peek into Pleasanton’s sometimes lurid past.

“When you walk through our cemetery, it gives you a feeling of the evolution of Pleasanton as well as other American cities,” says Bengtson. “It’s a history of immigrants who brought their talents here and made progress possible.” She explains how tombstones over a hundred years old can reveal a lot of information about a person: the country of origin, age, and cause of death. The cemetery dates back to 1850, with the most immigrants buried there from Germany, followed by Denmark, the Azores, and then 69 other places. There’s even a separate Swedish Corner.

Old gravestones also may include the cause of death, revealing the struggles and hardships of the past. Over 40% of the 23 recorded deaths in Pioneer Cemetery were of children who died from diseases that are treatable today—cholera, diphtheria, typhoid and consumption.

Diseases weren’t the only malady afflicting Pleasanton’s early residents. Like any town, it also had its share of criminals. Bengtson, relays the tale of Albert McDonald, a trainer for trotting horses, who in 1906, stormed out to the pub after a quarrel with Lillie, his young bride of five months. She ended up in the arms of the 24 year old plumber Joseph Mello—whether by choice or coercion we’ll never know. Mr. McDonald discovered them, shot Mello, and was eventually acquitted of the crime.

A few years later, in 1909, an unsolved murder took place in Sunol when hoodlums, hoping to steal the fortune of vineyard owner William Winslow ransacked his house and murdered him with an ax. Unfortunately for the hoodlums, they could only find a single $20 gold piece as the wise Mr. Winslow had safely secured his $3,000 in the bank.

One of my favorite stories that Bengtson recounts is of the admirable Mrs. Garthwaite who lived in Happy Valley in the 1870’s. When bandits Juan Soto and two companions barged into her home and demanded she cook breakfast for them, she took advantage of the fact that they had laid their guns on the table, grabbed them and sent them running– without guns or breakfast. Way to demand good manners, Mrs. Garthwaite!

Happy Halloween…

Michelle Suski Dolores Bengston will guide a tour Halloween morning of Pleasanton's Pioneer Cemetery. The cemetery, seen here, dates back to 1850, with most immigrants buried there from Germany, followed by Denmark, the Azores and then 69 other places, mainly from Europe.

Photo Credits:Michelle Suski

Sometimes, in spite of my best efforts, an article doesn’t come together right away and that’s what happened with this one. To make my deadline I submitted a version but I was unhappy with the intro and the conclusion. I woke up early, rewrote it, and resubmitted it, but unfortunately the earlier one ended up getting printed. Bummer! Thanks to this blog, I can print the one I wanted (plus the awesome photo which also didn’t make it.)  Just in case you’re interested, I submitted the link to the printed version at the end. These middle school runners and their coach are truly amazing and deserve the extra attention. Thanks for reading! 

Around Pleasanton

Fall, for me, has meant cross-country season ever since the seventh grade when I got my first pair of Pegasus Nikes and joined my school team in upstate New York. A good dirt trail combined with the autumnal nip in the air and a kaleidoscope of colors makes for running bliss. Although my racing days are long behind me, I still get nostalgic when I see the teams running through the streets of town, long limbs flying and ponytails swinging.

As Hart Middle School’s coach for the past three years, Erika Schmitz has seen her team balloon from 29 to 57 students. A former UC Davis runner, Schmitz is the only middle school parent head coach, and she has found her calling working with this age group.

“Middle School can be awkward. Cross-country is a safe place for kids to build friendships,” said Schmitz. Whereas most sports have separate teams for boys and girls, swimming and running are two sports where they’re together. In those years of rapid growth, when girls typically grow faster than boys, it’s not uncommon for the girls to pull in faster times. “This can be a humbling experience for some boys when the girls beat them, but they also learn admiration and respect,” explained Schmitz. “By the same token, the girls gain confidence, so when they go through the slings and arrows of high school, they’re up to the challenge.”

The team practices four days a week, beginning with a mile, working up to three and participating in four meets. It’s a lot of running for kids who never thought of running as a sport. This past season a seventh grader approached Schmitz and said, “Coach, I’m going to have to quit. This is not what I thought it was.”

“I’m sorry,” responded Schmitz. “What did you expect?”

“I thought it was going to be Cross-Country Skiing, but now I realize it’s just running.”

“That’s true. It’s all running.”

“Yea, I wondered how you were going to get the snow!”

Fun is a large part of the sport as Schmitz builds camaraderie with games, runs to Jamba Juice, and nicknames for every runner. Shelley Casey, parent of Allie, aka “Energizer Bunny,” said Coach Schmitz “finds a way to connect with the kids and motivate them to reach their potential.”

“My goal is that they come out of cross-country feeling good about themselves with a love for running,” said Schmitz. “All they need is a trail and a pair of shoes to enjoy this lifetime sport.”

Across town, Foothill’s Art teacher and grandmother of two, Trish Fenton, couldn’t agree more. At 53, she started running this past March to cope with life’s changes and found there’s nothing like running outside to provide a new perspective. As her mileage increased, her older brother noticed and suggested they train for the New York City Marathon, but with a purpose, to support the Pat Tillman Foundation. This organization grants educational scholarships to veterans and their spouses. “Their focus on education and leadership inspires me,” said Fenton, who will also get inspiration from her students. They are writing her encouraging notes to read during the race— I bet many of them are runners, too.

Contra Costa Times Around Pleasanton



Contact Amy

Posted by: amymoellering | October 6, 2015

Around Pleasanton: Heritage Homes

I’ve been fortunate to live in two old homes in my life, both in West Point, New York, a place laden with history and tradition. The first was a regal brick duplex built for officers in the 1830’s — stone chimneys, wood paneling, and squeaky stairs (I knew exactly which ones to step over when  sneaking in past curfew!) The second was a colonial farmhouse–a bit crooked in spots but nothing was as peaceful as sitting in the front room with its wooden beams and watching snow fall. I always had the sense that those homes were rich with stories and deserved respect. This article allowed me to get a glimpse into two Pleasanton homes that also have that sort of history.

This is the tale of two homes whose origins in Pleasanton are as old as some of our town’s massive oak trees. Thanks to their owners’ care, they still exude the charms of the past and recently received awards from the Pleasanton Heritage Association (PHA). This organization was formed in 2008 to protect heritage homes from destruction or remodeling beyond recognition.

“A heritage home is one built between 1870 and 1940 in an American vernacular style, such as Queen Anne Victorian, California Bungalow and Midwest Prairie style,” said PHA Board Member John Ribovich.

The Queen Anne home of former Mayor Tom Pico and his wife, Karen, fits that bill. Originally built in 1903 amid a row of palm trees on Main Street, the home was owned by the town’s wagon makers at a time when Pleasanton was a burgeoning community with one bank, three hotels and dairy farms. Later, the structure became a World War II boardinghouse before ending up in Birdie Bianchi’s possession in the 1950s. By then, the house had been relocated to Railroad Avenue, where it sits on a busy corner today.

Pico recalls how Bianchi called him when her health was failing, insisting he save the house, which had fallen into severe disrepair. When the Picos bought it in 1999, they knew the home’s former glory existed under layers of dry rot, pigeon guano and dilapidated roofing.

“One of the first things we did was spray primer on the house to make it look like there was pride of ownership,” said Pico.

Pico’s brother, Rod, a skilled contractor, postponed his plan to sail around the world to take on the project. For the next four years they worked, revamping the upstairs apartments, fortifying the roof and reconfiguring rooms.

“We didn’t try to bring it back to its original (state), but we preserved as much as we could,” said Pico. The PHA recognized their success with the Heritage Preservation Award.

Across Main Street from the Picos live Erin and Steve Iversen, lovers of architecture and old homes. For 15 years the Iversens had admired the Elsnab home, which housed the town midwife at the turn of the 20th century, so when it came on the market in 2005, they bought it “as is.”

“Our contractor told us paint was the only thing holding the house together,” said Steve Iversen.

They accepted bids from six architects before settling on the perfect plan from Dublin architect Mark Molinar.

“Our premise was to construct something for our family, but build something that would last for another 100 years,” said Iversen. By choosing trim work, moldings, a cast iron sink and other details from colonial farmhouses, they recreated its character.

Three years later, after 20 months of construction, including three months living in a hotel with their three kids, the Iversens moved into their “new” heritage home. They, too, won an award from the PHA, the New Construction Award.

“It was great to get this award”, said Iversen, “because at one point I told the PHA and the city, ‘You’re going to have to trust us regarding the details.’ We are glad it paid off,” said Iverson.

For all of us who appreciate Pleasanton’s beautiful historic homes, so are we.

IversonPHA Award Winners for 2015 Pico PHA Award for 2015

Posted by: amymoellering | September 17, 2015

Around Pleasanton: AAUW has come a long way, keeps going

This column was a fun one to write. I met with six long-time members of the AAUW at our local Sweet & Savory Coffee Shop. They all had so much to share about what it was like to be young mothers in our valley in the 1960’s and ’70’s…the sense of isolation, the hunger for intellectual stimulation, and the need to connect with other women. Then came the ’70’s with women and mothers entering the workforce and the concerns about the effects upon the family. They lived through it all, supporting women’s education and rights every step of the way. And they are still doing it, even though all of them are now retired; it just means that now they can fit in rounds of bridge and read more books! 

By Amy Moellering Columnist

POSTED:   09/15/2015 01:46:17 PM PDT
Although there are many organizations in our valley, there is one that has directly impacted the lives of women and offered opportunities to make a difference for more than 60 years.
“When I moved to this area 50 years ago, I thought there was nothing for women,” said Dawn Gordner, “and then I discovered AAUW (the American Association of University Women). “If I hadn’t joined, I wouldn’t have done half the things I’ve done in my life.” For Gordner, that list includes researching the effects of working mothers on the family in the ’70s, hosting a weekly community TV show and presiding over the local chapter.
The AAUW, a nationwide organization with 1,000 branches, was founded in 1881. Although the issues have changed from when women were just getting the right to vote and entering the work force, the mission is the same: to advance equity of women and girls through advocacy, education, philanthropy and research.

Our local AAUW branch, covering Livermore, Dublin and Pleasanton, began in 1952 and remains just as relevant and active as it was when it began. “Our main thrust is education,” said current President Chris Alesso. She means this literally, as the group annually awards thousands of scholarship dollars.

Middle school students can apply for scholarships to attend Stanford University ‘s Tech Trek Camp, a weeklong program that exposes girls to technology and science.

“There’s nothing more inspirational than hearing these girls say that they’ve found their people,” said past President Dorothy Bishop. “We want to assure them it’s great to be smart scientists.”

At the college level, the AAUW recently initiated a mentorship program with Las Positas College that will connect students with professionals. In addition, college juniors and seniors can apply for scholarships designed to help women complete their degrees. Graduate students can apply for research funds from a national program that once funded Marie Curie.

In addition to education, AAUW is concerned with legislation. Roz Wright, director of the public policy interest group, explained that members research current bills in Sacramento. The group then votes on a focus issue, and each member follows and advocates for a specific bill. This year’s focus is legislation that will affect women economically.”I’m following a scheduling equity bill which will provide fairness and consistency to people with shift work,” said Wright.

This group also likes to have fun. For its 117 members, they offer three book clubs, two bridge groups, dining and travel clubs; the newest group is “Money Talks.” The AAUW regularly offers presentations to the community, from talks on Rosie the Riveter to guests like Ellen Tauscher and Eric Swalwell.

“This is an organization that’s well respected and makes a difference,” said Wright. Much has been done, but with issues like pay equity, sex trafficking and gender bias in the workplace, there’s much more to do. New members can help steer the direction of the AAUW into the future. To learn more, attend the informational tea this Saturday.

Contact Amy Moellering at

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