Julia Morgan's original drawings for our Clubhouse, Courtesy of Cal Poly Archives

Member Spotlight

Articles to share more about our amazing members!
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  • March 17, 2017 9:56 AM | Linda Wilson (Administrator)

    “Well hello there!” These three simple words broke through the silence of my walk down Andrews Court that August morning. It was my first week of living in San Luis Obispo and I was walking my dog - hoping to find the bridge that I had remembered from childhood when playing in the creek on visits to grandparent’s home. I looked up to see a petite woman with soft dark curls and a lovely red-rose colored smile. She wore high gardening gloves and beside her was a bucket heaped with freshly pulled weeds. She was alone but stood surrounded by the blooming flowers, as if framed in a painting or the set of a stage.

    We struck up a conversation, beginning with my dog (her daughter had the same breed), then on to gardening (it was her passion), and finally to the Monday Club (I shared that my Grandmother had been a member). Within minutes I felt a connection to this woman, whose inner strength I sensed immediately and whose kindness to me, a stranger just passing by, turned a lonely morning into one full of light and the possibility of future friendship. That voice from the garden belonged to Joy Hanson.

    Joy was born Joy McPherrin to parents of Scottish descent in Evanston, Illinois. She was raised in a family that was both artistic and industrious. Joy attributes her love of floral arranging and gardening to her mother and grandmother who were both artistically talented and accomplished horticulturalists. Her grandfather was a well-known Chicago builder and her father, an “Ad Man” whose most famous client was Bob Hope during the height of his very popular Bob Hope Radio Show years.

    Joy attended Principia college, a small Liberal Arts college in Southern Illinois where she studied Art History and was especially fond of Impressionists. While engrossed in her chosen subject during her Freshman year she learned that her father had been offered a new job. He was chosen to work as an editor in New York by none other than Mr. Hearst and was assigned to work on one of his many magazines. The family moved to the heart of the New York City where Joy made it a habit to visit often. Her trips were filled with as many visits to the theater and museums as she could fit in.

    After college Joy joined the American Red Cross as a Recreation Club Staff Member. In those post War Years she was sent to the Philippines and Okinawa where she met and married an Army officer and Engineer. They began a family and Joy lived her first years as a wife and mother in Arizona and New Mexico. In 1953 her husband was transferred to Camp San Luis Obispo and the family lived for several years on the Mainini Ranch property. A wonderful coincidence for Joy occurred in 1959 when she found that Florence Mesler, her neighbor from her days at the ranch, would again be her neighbor at her second home. The stately Colonial on Mill Street, where Joy still lives today, was the perfect fit to accommodate the family that had grown to include five children. With a traditional central staircase and formal dining room, the home had enough bedrooms and bathrooms for the children and reminded Joy of homes where she’d grown up on the East Coast. Neighbors again, Florence and Joy were great friends sharing life’s ups and downs. When Joy and her first husband parted, she never considered her new life as a single mother to be challenging. Instead, she says, “I knew I just needed to concentrate on the children and raise them to be good, honest citizens”. 

    Joy decided when her youngest child was four that she would go to work. Beginning as a mail clerk and working her way up to a management position, Joy supervised a team of 8 men developing training programs for Cal Trans. Over her 30-year career Joy said she loved the people she worked with because they were all “extremely devoted to their work.” If you have ever had the good fortune to work alongside Joy on a committee, you know what an asset she is to her team.

    It was at a square dance where Joy met her current husband of over 40 years, Ralph Hanson. Ralph was another talented local contractor and builder and he and Joy found they shared many interests. The pair enjoyed a special love of the theatre, which lead the couple to volunteer for 20 years with the San Luis Obispo Little Theatre. A true artistic partnership, Ralph built the sets, and Joy decorated them. Joy attributes their long and happy marriage to their “mutual respect for one another”.

    Over the years Joy found herself attending many Monday Club special events as a guest of her friend Florence, whose daughter Peggy Mesler happens to be a current Monday Club member. Florence worked on the Scholastic Achievement Scholarship committee, and Joy became increasingly drawn to helping in that capacity. In 1995, 3 years after Joy retired, Florence asked Joy, “Don’t you think it’s time you joined the Monday Club?” Thankfully, Joy said yes, and in her typical fashion Joy dove right in. She served as Treasurer for four years and even President in 2001. Soon after joining she served on, and then chaired, the Tri-Awards Committee, now the Fine Arts Awards. If this was not enough, Joy also answered the call to help from two other members, joining forces to get the back garden into shape. Joy’s devotion to both then Tri-Awards Scholarship Committee and her beloved Monday Club Garden ended up spanning over two decades and her efforts in both will be enjoyed by club members and the community for years to come.

    Looking up at Joy at the end of our visit in the sitting room of her lovely Mill Street home, I realized that even indoors, Joy, is surrounded by objects of life and natural beauty. From the exotic orchids behind her, the floral pattern of her arm chair, and the magical collection of porcelain birds artfully displayed on the shelves beside her fireplace, one can see the room is carefully curated and filled with art and nature. It struck me in this wonderful backdrop that Joy created to raise her family and welcomes her nine grandchildren and five great grandchildren at Christmastime, that Joy has crafted and tended her life in the same way she approaches her garden or a work of floral design. From her use of both artistry and great devotion beauty and life seem to flourish around her. 

    When asked about her “secret to happiness” Joy replied: “For me it is digging in the dirt, gardening, floral arranging.  Whatever you do – especially those about to retire – don’t sit on the porch and do nothing. Keep going…find something you love and do it.”

  • February 16, 2016 1:06 PM | Linda Wilson (Administrator)

    Sandi Funk, toddlerSandi Funk was born in Waupaca, Wisconsin, the oldest of three children. At age five the family moved to California. There was no room in the kindergarten classroom, so they put her in first grade, and thereafter through school, Sandi was the youngest and tallest in each class. In 1958 Sandi’s family settled in Los Osos, and in 1962 she was proud to be in the first graduating class at the brand new Morro Bay High School campus – and valedictorian! Sandi recalled some favorite pets from her youth, among them Tippy Tim, a black dog, Jamie the parakeet, and an assortment of unnamed stray cats.

    Sandi attended Robert Long’s Business College in Santa Barbara. Her first job was at the San Luis Obispo County Schools office and later the Ford Foundation. She loved that job: her boss was gone a lot! Her three roommates were Jehovah’s Witnesses and Sandi was a Lutheran, but they all got along well and had a lot of fun. Sandi’s mother was a homemaker who also sold “fashion frocks” as a Beeline fashion representative. She remembers a catalog where sample fabrics were included. Later her mother worked at Cal Poly in Food Service. Her father was a welder and enjoyed restoring cars. Sandi treasures the memories of helping him to remove the tape from the chrome on cars after a repainting job. Sometimes he’d take a break, walk over to the upright piano in the corner of the garage, and play “The Third Man” theme song, Sandi’s favorite. He also was employed by the Atascadero Hospital as a technician, and enjoyed helping the patients. Tragically, while flying as a passenger in a 1934 antique bi-plane during Cal Poly’s 34th annual Poly Royal air show, her father was killed along with three others when the plane crashed. The airstrip was closed permanently shortly thereafter.

    Sandi and Ron on their wedding day!In 1965 when Sandi was almost twenty, her boss was promoted and offered to take her along as his secretary to New York City. Ultimately he became head of the U.S. Department of Education. Sandi had just been introduced to Ron by her sister and she knew “he was the one.” She turned down the job and transfer opportunity, and she and Ron were married less than two months later. Ron was almost thirty, owned a coin shop and taught business at Morro Bay High School. Sandi has always been grateful to the late Dr. Edison French, who hired her as a secretary at the French Clinic.

    Sandi and Ron have two children: Shelly and John. Shelly is now a USAF Lieutenant Colonel flying tankers. She is married with two children, Ryan, 8 and Shanna, 4. John attended the University of Oregon, majoring in Asian Studies. He teaches and does public relations for a private Buddhist high school in Japan. He is married to Marikka, who is Finnish. They have two children, Cole, 4 and Chelsea, 9.

    Over the years Sandi and Ron have enjoyed attending many coin shows. Ron still has his coin shop begun in 1962. They often housed exchange students and developed many close and continuing friendships from these experiences. One student from Israel even returned for a visit on his honeymoon. Sandi shared fond memories volunteering at the Quintana Elementary School Carnival, now Bishop’s Peak School, and working in the school library with close friend Tammy Kelly.

    In 1974 Florence Williamson sponsored Sandi for membership in The Monday Club. Over the years she has held several Board positions: Corresponding Secretary, Recording Secretary, and Membership Chair. She always enjoyed helping with fundraisers and Club events. She has happy recollections of rehearsing and performing Hi Jinx shows, often directed by Dorothy Burkhardt.

    Sandi said that she and Ron have been together so long (50 years last August) they have their own language just between them. At interview end, she offered: “Life is good and we try to keep it simple.”

  • January 19, 2016 1:39 PM | Linda Wilson (Administrator)

    Those who have been lucky enough to know Mary Lu appreciate her love for her Irish heritage and remember her white and green china, hallways filled with photographs and Irish mementos, fondness for ceramic leprechauns, and love of a good party!

    Mary Lu was an only child, born in San Luis Obispo on May 12, 1914, where she lived happily for 98 years until moving to the Bayside Care Center in Morro Bay.  At the age of one she moved into her grandfather’s home on Palm Street (otherwise known as the Righetti House), living there with her parents Joseph C. and Lyda Welsh until she was married at the age of 23 to Harry Borah.  She and Harry raised two sons, and in 1955, Mary Lu earned an AA degree and worked for several years as a secretary for both high school and elementary school districts in San Luis Obispo.

    In 1968, Mary Lu and Harry founded Borah’s Trophy Store, and although no longer in the family, it is still operating today as Borah’s Awards.

    Ever active and involved in her community, in 1955, Mary Lu joined The Monday Club of San Luis Obispo.  Her mother, Lyda, had been an early member of the Club, but it was long after her mother died that she became a member herself.  Mary Lu left the Club for a time and was reinstated in 1981.  According to her son, Nixson Borah, “My mother greatly enjoyed participating in the activities and meetings.  Her favorite times were when she and others could perform skits on stage in crazy costumes.  She loves SLO history and enjoyed participating in the Club’s architectural tours, especially when she could wear her mother’s clothes.  Her 90th birthday was celebrated at The Monday Club.”

    According to her son, Mary Lu has always been a positive person.  Her health as a young adult was poor and she learned the importance of keeping an optimistic outlook.  After losing her husband Harry, Mary Lu, at 81 years of age, met artist Erling Hendrickson, then 90, on the Madonna Inn dance floor and they had the gift of ten years together.  Our member, Gerry Johnson, remembers seeing the couple on the dance floor and being introduced to Erling by a flushed and happy Mary Lu!

    As an only child, Nixson believes his mother was sometimes lonely, and this helped to create her capacity to be sociable and make friends with most everyone she meets.  According to Nixson, “Even though her stroke has ultimately made it rare for her to manage speech, she still has a winning smile that endears her to everyone in the nursing home.  Her optimistic attitude seems to be serving her well to this day.”

    It is with honor and gratitude that The Monday Club recognizes Mary Lu Hendrickson as a Life Member for her 35 consecutive years of service and dedication to The Monday Club of San Luis Obispo.  Mary Lu, we love you!

  • November 24, 2015 10:51 AM | Linda Wilson (Administrator)

    My first encounter with Barbara was through her artistic creations made for a Monday Club fundraiser: intricate knitted animals and exquisite lavender sachets. Years later we served together on the Club’s Bylaws Committee. Always gracious and professional, she helped move the Committee toward updated Articles of Incorporation, as well as reorganized and coherent Bylaws consistent with the California Nonprofit Corporation Law.

    Barbara on far right with childhood friendsBarbara’s journey to San Luis Obispo began years ago. She was born and raised as an only child in Melbourne, Australia. Some of her childhood companions have remained close, lifelong friends.

    During WWII Barbara was living at home with her Mother and still in school. Everyone had to register and serve in the war effort in one way or another. Her Mother was assigned to office work while Barbara and her schoolmates knitted socks for the soldiers and performed other small tasks. Her father entered the military service and was shipped overseas to India, and later to Greece. While in Greece he was listed as Missing in Action, which caused tremendous stress on the family at home in Australia. Barbara at 16He did survive, and, after a five year absence, returned home a full Colonel.

    In her early 20’s Barbara moved to Washington D.C. She was employed by the Australian Consulate as a secretary and “Girl Friday” – a life chapter she enjoyed very much.

    Barbara married Dick Ormsby, an Australian military officer she had corresponded with during the war. He got a job with Dow Chemical and they moved about the U.S. over the years as his career progressed. They became American citizens in the 50’s, and had two sons, Lee, now deceased, and Alan.

    When Dick retired they returned to California. Barbara had enjoyed working with a travel agency while living in Michigan, and she opened a new chapter in the travel industry, exploring the World, including Europe, the Middle East, Caribbean, Alaska, Japan and South America.

    When her husband passed away Barbara and her son Alan travelled to Australia for an extended six-week visit. Returning to California, they decided to purchase a cocker spaniel puppy, intending to just enjoy him as a lovely pet. To their surprise, the puppy grew to qualify as a Grand Champion! The World of dog shows opened a renewed interest in travel and meeting new people. As Barbara puts it, “another new chapter begins.”

    Barbara in 1947

    Barbara is also an enthusiastic reader and enjoys a variety of subjects with selections from the Arroyo Grande library. Last Christmas she had a bad fall while delivering cookies to welcome a new neighbor. She had a long and painful recuperation to heal broken bones, which now limits her ability to drive.

    Barbara strives to keep pace with son Alan, while enjoying her home and many activities. As I left our interview visit, I was treated to a sweeping view from her hilltop of the Pismo Coast far below. I wonder if the panorama reminds Barbara of her Australian home?

  • October 15, 2015 12:59 PM | Linda Wilson (Administrator)

    Gerry Johnson has been a Monday Club member since 1963. Born and raised in San Jose, California, she is the child of immigrants from a small Croatian island off the Dalmatian Coast. Her father died when Gerry was only five years old.

    In grade school Gerry distinguished herself winning elocution prizes and starring in the St. Joseph’s school play Cinderella. At Notre Dame High School she was a class treasurer, athletic director and vice-president. Early jobs included baby-sitting and cutting apricots. Gerry lied about her age, and at fourteen she was employed at Sears Roebuck in ‘Hosiery and Handbags.’ Wage: 47 ½ cents per hour. After one year of college she was promoted to the Store Manager’s Secretary; at twenty, again promoted to Personnel Manager. Honesty and hard work served her well.

    Gerry met Fred Johnson at Sears. They married and had three children: Becky, Joe and Susie. When Fred was drafted during the Korean Conflict he was stationed for a time at Camp Roberts and they lived in Paso Robles. In 1961 the family moved to San Luis Obispo where Fred became Assistant Manager of the local Sears. He was later transferred and the family moved to Escondido. But their hearts belonged to San Luis Obispo. Back they came and opened their own store, the legendary ‘Johnson’s for Children.’ Gerry had been a “stay-at-home” mom until the store opened.

    They opened the store, starting small and expanding over the years. With their combined retail experience, ‘Johnson’s for Children’ became the finest children’s retail store in the county. First located at 840 Monterey Street, renting from Mabel Dunklee, they later moved across the street and rented at 837 Monterey Street (at Chorro) from Jay Stream and Wayne Newton. The Johnsons also opened a second store in Bakersfield. All three children worked in the stores.

    Gerry recalls fondly the buying trips to Los Angeles, taking each of her children as special “one-on-one” adventures, attending the theatre, ball games, and exploring the city when the buying was done. The family special trips continue and include frequent reunions. 

    After more than 27 successful business years, Gerry sold the store at 837 Monterey Street Moondoggies Surf Shop now occupies the space. The beautiful exterior tiles commissioned by Gerry and created by local artist Bob Nichols, serve as an important link to Gerry, her family and ‘Johnsons for Children,’ and some will be used again in the new Chinatown Project.

    In 1992 Sam Mosunic entered Gerry’s life. She was introduced to Sam by her brother at the Croatian Club in San Francisco, and their special relationship grew from their first dance. Dance, golf, sports events and travel are important parts of their lives.

    Gerry joined TMC at the insistence of her first landlady, Mabel Dunklee. There she made many life-long friends, among them, Jean Ferrini, Joan Petersen, Eileen Lewis and Jean Seitz.  She has served on its Board of Directors as Corresponding Secretary, on numerous committees, and chaired the Bridge Section for decades. Her community service includes many volunteer hours on the Women’s Shelter board, the Jack House Committee, the Parks and Recreation Commission, the Downtown Association, and the San Luis Obispo Republican Women’s Club.Wedding Portrai

    Reflecting back on her career, especially the years when the store was new and her children small, Gerry says that she couldn’t have done it without the help of her mother, who lovingly stepped in to care for her grandchildren.  Ask Gerry about her life, health and kids: good, good and great! She enjoys her TMC membership and is thrilled with membership growth. Gerry has worked hard and created a wonderful life. 

  • September 22, 2015 11:38 AM | Linda Wilson (Administrator)

    Donna Barkdull was an only child, born in 1925 in a little town called Pecan Gap, Texas.  Her grandfather was a traveling gospel preacher who eventually bought a family farm in Texas and settled down with his wife and 17 children.  When her grandfather died at the age of 81, her grandmother sold the farm and took a greyhound bus to personally deliver all of the children’s share of the farm proceeds and their inheritance.  Donna’s mother was quite a remarkable person, and was the first of her family to attend college.  She enjoyed a successful career as an Insurance Actuary Agent.

    In 1935, at the urging of her fiancé, Donna’s mother and 10 year old Donna hopped on a Greyhound bus and traveled from Dallas to Los Angeles, to begin their new life.  The new family of three lived for a while with Donna’s aunt and two cousins, and even though the kids in school teased her a bit for her Texas accent, she still had lots of fun and remembers her house being the one where everyone gathered: “the kids all came and played in our grassy side yard and under the house to keep cool, until we found the black widow spiders…”

    Donna’s Aunt Inez, industrious and hard-working, purchased a night club in Dallas, fixed it up and added a restaurant, which became quite a success out on the strip.  Donna remembers these days fondly as there was a little house connected to the night club, where she and her four cousins would stay during the summers while their mothers helped out the business.  Amazingly enough, the notorious Bonnie and Clyde often frequented the restaurant, and Donna remembers them to be “fun and friendly”, and said “they would always come and go in a hurry!” 


    In Texas, Donna had attended a one room schoolhouse with one teacher for all the grades.  After the move to California, she worked hard and was a straight “A” student. Donna was also a notorious animal catcher – rabbits, mice, anything small and furry – she would bring them home, feed them and set them free again. She had thoughts of attending college, as her mother had done, and even interviewed at Pepperdine University, but at 16 Donna married her first husband.


    Donna's husband left to fight in the Second World War, right after Donna discovered she was pregnant with their daughter Sandra.  Tragically, he was shot down and held as a German prisoner for four long years.  She sent letters and care packages to him in prison, which the whole family pitched in to fill. The conditions were atrocious and when he was finally released and returned home, he was in great need of healing, and moved in with his brother who was a doctor. He was a very different man when he returned and although they stayed friends, their marriage was over. As Donna explained, “The stories we’ve all heard are true. They really did bury people alive. If you so much as stuck your arm out of the cabin, the guards would shoot you.”

    According to Donna, “World War II stopped everything – and also opened the employment world for women.” During the time that her husband was held in a German prison, Donna found a job as typist, working for the Southern California Gas Company. It was not easy being a single mother, but the government allotted $90 for child care each month, and she took Sandra to a babysitter. Times were hard, and Donna remembers taking the bus with her mother to the downtown market where they could fill two bags with food (meat, bread, produce, etc.) for only two dollars, and this was to get them through the week.

    Several years later her parents purchased a boysenberry farm in Ontario, CA, and little Sandra was able to live with them during the week while Donna worked. In the meantime, she continued to move up the ladder at the Gas Company, holding the positions of Telephone Clerk (handling complaints), later taking a position in the billing department, and finally, towards the end of her 18 years of service, being promoted to Public Liaison for the Improvement Department (she was one of two women who were given cars and sent out into the community to educate people about new products, assist in the attainment of new appliances and increase public awareness).


    In the early 60’s Donna met her beloved husband, Sherwood Barkdull, who worked for an Insurance company. The couple dated for over two years, and eventually married.  Donna’s parents helped them purchase a house in Ontario, and she begged the Gas Company for a transfer. Due to the uncertain times, the best they could offer her was a position in Compton, which meant an 80 mile round trip ride each day. She made this trip for a number of years, but finally, after many years with the Gas Company, Donna decided it was time to make a career change. “Bark”, as Sherwood was affectionately called, and Donna purchased a home in Lomita and Donna started studying for her Real Estate license.

    Bark had a friend from high school, a retired policeman, named Lu Ferguson who lived with his wife Carol in a beautiful house at the end of Indio Street in Shell Beach, on the Central Coast.  Donna and Bark came up to visit and fell in love with the rocky cliffs of Pismo Heights.  After making an offer on a house that was pulled back off the market, they purchased a home on Wadsworth Street and moved to their new home in the early 70’s. 

    Carol was a member of The Monday Club, and immediately drew Donna into the membership.  Donna fondly recalls Carol’s beautiful singing voice, and how often she entertained the ladies at their monthly meetings and frequent performances:  “Carol had a beautiful, smooth voice - just like Doris Day”. Donna also remembers having lots of fun with fellow Monday Club member, Idabelle Shields. She remembers, “We used to dress up all the time and sing duets! Idabelle was so much fun.”

    Donna was motivated, hard-working and determined, purchasing Grace and John Dillon’s Real Estate office in Shell Beach upon moving to the Central Coast, and eventually purchasing and operating Gold Coast Realty in Pismo Beach for over 20 years.  She continued in the real estate business for the remainder of her working days.  During this time she also served as President of The Monday Club (1981-83), and chaired most every Committee at one time or another.  Donna has fond memories of Martha Schwartz. “Martha was behind getting a lot done…she was the backbone of the Club.  We had fun and did some good things for the community too!”

    At ninety years of age, Donna has lived a full life with many adventures and trials.  She lost her beloved husband, Bark, nine years ago, the week of their 50th wedding anniversary, and her daughter Sandra when she was just sixty. Donna has lived many places, experienced many things, and now lives comfortably with her grandson Corey, her little dog and beautiful cat in a home perched on the cliffs of Pismo Heights, overlooking the Pacific Ocean. She believes the happiest time of her life was early on in her marriage to Bark, and is saddened by the passing of so many family members and friends as the years progress.

    Donna just celebrated her 90th birthday this summer, with all of her family around her, including her six great grandchildren!  When asked what important words of wisdom 

    Donna would like to pass on to the younger generation, her nephew Corey interjected “she has always said "get out there and vote – make a difference!" Donna has not been able to attend a Monday Club meeting in several years due to health problems and the illness and passing of her husband, but she is planning to join us for our October 5th General Meeting and Luncheon,  and is excited to see all of the wonderful things that we have going on.  She is also very excited to see her good friend Idabelle (now 104 years old), who is planning to attend the October meeting too!

  • August 26, 2015 12:57 PM | Linda Wilson (Administrator)

    In May 2015, Kathi Battles, a San Luis Obispo Quilter, got a phone call from her friend, Maxine. Maxine had purchased a craft/sewing cabinet from a second hand store downtown. In the cabinet was a Bernina sewing machine accessory box, manual and a few other small sewing items. Maxine knew that Kathi is a passionate quilter and owns a Bernina. She thought Kathi could make use of the equipment.

    When the collection of Bernina accessories was delivered to Kathi, she realized they were for an older model Bernina and did not fit her machine. Kathi called me as she knows I have an older Bernina and perhaps the parts would fit my machine. Kathi had come to the conclusion that the original owner had most likely died and then the owner’s home was dissolved, the Bernina machine had gotten separated from it’s accessory kit and manual. It was an emotional moment.

    When Kathi brought me the collection, I laid the various items out and studied them. I determined the accessories would fit my Bernina. As I studied the collection, I became intrigued. The original receipt was included along with the accessory box, owner’s manual and a few little sewing accessories in a metal box. There was also a hand stitched name tag with the name “Bonnie Engberg”. The name tag told me she was a member of a local quilt guild. The original receipt included her name, with an Avila Beach address. The machine had been purchased in 1996 at a cost of $1,700 - a prized possession.

    After thinking it through, I decided I did not need to keep these items. They fit my machine but were a duplicate to what I own. I knew it would be frustrating to sew on a fine Bernina without a manual or accessories so decided to try to reunite this collection with the machine. It seemed possible since we knew Bonnie was local and that families generally understand even an old Bernina has value. It was apparent Bonnie had taken good care of her machine by keeping things together and saving the original receipt. It felt like the treasures had come into Kathi and my possession for a reason.

    I googled Bonnie’s name. Her obituary came up from the Tribune showing she had died in January 2015. Even though Kathi and I had guessed Bonnie was dead, it was another powerful moment. My own mother died just a few weeks prior to Bonnie’s death and I could empathize with the family’s challenge to dispose of their mother’s possessions respectfully. The obituary did not list her survivors by name, however mentioned Bonnie was a member of the Presbyterian Church in San Luis Obispo. A small clue! I was ready to bolt downtown to the church. Maybe someone could tell me the names of the family, who might know where Bonnie’s sewing machine had gone. I hoped it had not been sold at a garage sale but I had a feeling that was not what had happened.

    I texted Kathi what I had found and she returned a text - she has a good friend who is an active member of the Presbyterian Church. She would ask if this friend knew Bonnie or the family.  Another small step!

    Kathi’s friend knew Bonnie but not the family. Her friend had to make some phone calls.  Within a day or two, we had our answer.  The Bernina was found! It was AT the Presbyterian Church Bonnie attended - a stunning turn! The family had donated it to a group who regularly meets at the church to make quilts. Bonnie’s family had not realized the cabinet contained important parts to the machine.

    Getting ready to return the collection to the Presbyterian Church, and what was the last step on the journey, I got out a small bag which had a message on it: “Life Is An Opportunity”. It seemed as though Bonnie had been guiding us since Kathi’s friend had originally taken home the sewing cabinet. I took the little bag of parts to the church and the prized Bernina was reunited at long last with it’s accessories and manual.

    The lesson from this experience could be that it is a good idea to leave instructions for your family to guide them where quilting equipment and quilts should be distributed when the time come.

    Beyond that, quilt stitches connect more than pieces of fabric in a blanket. Quilts connect communities.

    Some weeks after I delivered the collection, I learned that Bonnie Engberg and I had another connection. We were both member of The Monday Club in San Luis Obispo. I never met Bonnie, as I joined just prior to her death, but I know I would have liked to.

  • May 13, 2015 1:29 PM | Linda Wilson (Administrator)

    When I think of Sally, in my mind’s eye I see a tiny woman, full of determination and kindness, making her way across the main hall of The Monday Club in high heels to find her Sally at about 20seat at one of our monthly meetings.  

    Sally joined The Monday Club 49 years ago, in 1966.  She has had a life full of trials and even more blessings.  These she so graciously shared with me this past Wednesday evening from her big, king-sized bed with her beautiful Persian kitty named “Missy” curled up beside her.

    Sally was born in San Luis Obispo, California, on September 28, 1917.  She was an only child and lived with her mother and father in a little house, she called it a "hovel", on Mill Street.  Her father worked at the brickyard for fifty cents an hour and her mother did house work to help pay the bills.  Sally worked with her whenever she could.  When she finished high school Sally took a secretarial job, working for Mr. Hensen at the Railway Express, a moving and storage company.  Sally enjoyed this, and described Mr. Hensen as a “nice old gent”.

    When Sally was nineteen, friends introduced her to a young man named David Caserra, and in 1938, when Sally was twenty years old, they were married at Mission San Luis Obispo with a beautiful wedding reception held at the Estrada Gardens.  Shortly after, the couple moved to San Jose to find work.  Fortunately, Sally was able to find another secretarial job; as she said, “in those days during the Depression, if you found any work you had to grab it”, and her husband secured work as a day laborer.  And then WWII came along and David went to serve in the army.

    During his absence, Sally continued to work wherever she could – cleaning houses, taking any work she could find -  all the while, waiting patiently for David’s return. Finally he came back from the army and found a job working for the gas company, and they lived together in a little house in SLO.  And in Sally’s words, “time marches on".  The couple made the best of a bad situation – times were tough and there was no money to be made.  They were able to “make their own fun” by gathering with friends on weekends for potlucks and barbecues.

    Sadly, David passed away in 1945, when Sally was just 28 years old.  She decided to leave the United States and traveled to Stuttgart, Germany where she was fortunate to find a job working for the American Embassy.  She made good money and was even able to save some over the next couple of years.  Sally was determined to learn to speak German, and according to her, “When I first moved to Germany, I didn’t even know two words of German. The Germans were "putting on the dog" and I decided I was going to fix their wagon.  I went to school to learn German and I can speak it now!”

    Sally with BrianSally eventually returned to the states and came back to her hometown of San Luis Obispo.  She was alone for a long time, doing whatever house and office work she could find.  In 1966, a friend of hers, a doctor’s wife named Margaret Boland, invited her to attend a meeting at The Monday Club.  Sally remembered that, at the time, the Club had very little money, and the members had to be creative when decorating and planning events.  “We did the best we could. There was a lot we did at home.  We made money with garage sales, just the poor way. People would pay a couple of dollars to come and watch our Hi Jinx.  We made soup and had dinners where we sold wine for a couple of dollars per glass.”

    Hard working and resourceful as she was, Sally decided to open a dress shop in Pismo Beach, with her friend Doris Fissori. The name of the shop was Ida Jays and she remembered it fondly.  “We had the shop for about 24 years.  We did things the honest way – hemmed, pressed and delivered clothing to our customers.  If one of the ladies really wanted something but could only make payments, we would let her take it home.  Otherwise by the time she finished paying, it would have gone out of style.”

    Years passed and then Sally met a man named Brian Koch, who was “wonderful and artistic”. The couple fell in love and were married. Brian designed a fantastic hotel in Morro Bay called the El Morro Lodge (now the Masterpiece Hotel) which they later sold for a great deal of money.  Brian also designed, built and decorated their lovely home in Pismo heights, overlooking the rolling hills and Pacific Ocean.  In addition to his talent for building and design, Brian was a wonderful cook, and he often made German food for Monday Club events.  Sally fondly remembered his help with the soup dinners and the time the two of them won a Monday Club dance contest.  The couple had a passion for travelling and together they toured Europe, visiting Berlin, Frankfurt, and  Switzerland many times - a favorite of Sally’s.

    The happy times would come to an end when Brian developed a growth on his foot, which turned out to be melanoma.  He put off going to the doctor for quite some time, continuing to tell Sally “it is getting better”, until finally he made an appointment to see a specialist.  Surgery was conducted immediately but unfortunately two years later, the cancer came back on his shin, and then after another two years, it appeared on his knee cap, finally traveling to his chest.  Brian Koch, Sally’s beloved, wonderful and artistic husband, died at age 68, leaving Sally alone once more.Sally at Hearst Castle at 80!

    Sally cried as she relayed this last bit of history.  She said she had been by herself a good many years, but was so thankful for the wonderful family and friends that she had.  It brought her a great deal of joy to host a traditional family dinner at the holidays with a “big turkey and all the fixin’s”.  Sally was so proud of her nieces and nephews and grateful for the many friends who had shown their concern for her recent illness, calling her and stopping in to bring food, plants, flowers and gifts.  She made it quite clear that she did NOT want anyone feeling sorry for her, as she has had a wonderful life with a great many blessings.  “I’ve never had to borrow money and I’ve made it through thick and thin!”

    When asked what she has enjoyed most over the years, Sally replied, “The best time is to find little people that don’t have anything and give them something. This makes me happy”.

    And as far as things she has learned in the past 97 years:  “Never give up – get in there with both feet and make something of yourself! Try to help people if you can.  Life goes on.”

  • April 09, 2015 11:06 AM | Linda Wilson (Administrator)

    Joan Petersen is a true Californian.  Born in San Diego, she lived in the same house through childhood until leaving for college.  She grew up in beautiful, rural Mission Valley surrounded by cattle and horses.  A local used to say, "There go the Palominos!" when she and her tow-headed sister would ride by on their horses along the river bed.

    Joan attended college at San Diego State and finished up at UC San Francisco as a dental hygienist.  She met her husband Dan, who was finishing dental school, at UCSF. When choosing a possible location to be stationed for his Navy service, he hoped for an exotic locale, but ended up being assigned to San Diego doing dental work on the Marine Corps recruits.

    Once out of the service, Joan and Dan headed for San Luis Obispo where Dan's parents were living.  In 1959 there were only three houses for sale and they chose the one on San Luis Drive where they live to this day.  Joan's mother-in-law said that they shouldn't buy a place "in the bottom of the river", and Joan's response was that she had always lived "in the bottom of the river" and the nearby San Luis Creek was just fine with her.

    Joan was introduced to The Monday Club by her mother-in-law, Lydia Petersen, who at one time was the Rental Chairperson.  For over 50 years she has enjoyed the fellowship of the Club and has made many dear friends. Community volunteering has been a life-long joy for Joan, including Questers and Alpha Chi Omega.  

    Photo Below: 1951 Hi Jinx:

    Front: Ada Howes, Lucy Holt, Mary Walker, Bess Pfleghaar, Ollie Williams; Back: Mary Law, Mrs. Brown, Mrs. Corvin, Mabel Palmer Rotzell, Lydia Petersen, Florence Ssandercock, Mary Griffin

    Howes, Holt, Walker, Pfleghaar, Williams, Law, Brown, Corvin, Rotsell, Peterson, Sandercock, Griffin

    Joan worked for many years as a hygienist with her husband.  She has three children: Margo, an operating room supervisor at UC Mt Zion; Eric, who lives at home and suffers from severe diabetes; and Allen, a data analyst in Las Vegas.  Two grown grandchildren live in San Diego, one of whom owns a winery.  She enjoys visits from her 4 year old granddaughter who lives in Paso Robles.

    The Petersen home on San Luis Drive is beautifully landscaped with an impressive garden wall and a koi pond sporting 3 vigorously splashing fish.  The home interior includes a 

    beautiful collection of paintings by local artists.  There is a display of tiny China butter dishes, rows of old tea tins, a herd of tiny wooden, stone, and metal elephants, amusingly shaped tea strainers, and more green glass than one would normally encounter in a lifetime.  Joan likes to collect!

    Dan and Joan enjoy traveling and have been to every continent.  They recently returned from Sri Lanka.  They both remain very active, exercising their minds playing bridge, and their bodies by walking.  She was an avid bicyclist until her second concussion, at which point her doctor nixed that sport.  She contents herself with her daily walks (at least 3 full turns around the high school track and finishing by jogging the fourth loop).


    Aside from traveling together, Joan and Dan also like to hunt. At Thanksgiving the whole family, children and grandchildren included, enjoy pheasant hunting.  She enjoys San Luis Obispo living and says "It's always good to come home!”

    Be sure to greet Joan at our next Club meeting. She’ll be a tall, elegantly dressed woman with a diamond ring on each and every finger!

  • December 18, 2014 2:37 PM | Linda Wilson (Administrator)

    Each one of us has a story – the unfolding of our lives, if we’re fortunate, that spans over 80 years or more. Livia Seim, a Monday Club member for 35 years now, is 91 years of age and suffering from Parkinson’s Disease. This does not stop her from attending our monthly General Meetings, however. In fact, at virtually every meeting you can find her sitting toward the back of the main hall in her wheelchair with her delightful caregiver, Bing. Livia can no longer speak but she has many different ways of communicating, and according to Bing, always looks forward to coming to our monthly meetings!

    I met with Livia’s husband Edwin, a native of Minnesota, in their cozy home of 35 years in the Old Country Club with Livia and Bing listening close by, and Ed was kind enough to give me a glimpse into the full and meaningful life Livia has had over the years. The story goes like this… 

    Born on December 2, 1923, in the little town of Castel del Piano in southern Tuscany, Italy, Livia began her adventure. Livia’s mother was a remarkably intelligent woman who eventually became Superintendent of schools for their region and her father was a Civil Engineer, designing many aqueducts in the area to bring much needed water from the nearby Mt. Amiata to a number of the local towns and farms. While their mother was busy working, Livia and her sister Lia were in the care of the nuns in a convent in Pisa, and then educated at the local school there in Castel del Piano. Livia completed high school in Grosseto and then enrolled in the University of Florance (Firenze) in the department of Agriculture.

    These were difficult times of war in Italy. For some time, Livia’s family sought refuge in a chestnut drying house in the chestnut woods, where they were miraculously kept safe during those tumultuous years. When the war had ended, Livia’s family built a small shrine with a terracotta Madonna in the chestnut grove in thanks and remembrance to God for bringing them safely through the war. These experiences would have a profound effect on Livia’s political outlook and ideals.

    Livia had always thought that one day she would take over her father’s business, but upon finishing her degree she found her father unwilling to turn the management of his farms over to her, so she took a job working for a Nutritional Institute in Rome. She decided to apply for a Fulbright Scholarship, was accepted, and moved to Wisconsin to attend the University of Wisconsin, Madison. At first she found the new language and different foods of the United States to be unpleasant and disturbing, but soon adapted. After several years, Livia moved to the St. Paul Campus at the University of Minnesota and in her spare time, taught Italian in the University Extension division and became a counselor to a dorm full of student nurses.

    With her Thesis on Vitamin E deficiency in baby pigs almost finished and her return tickets home to Italy purchased and in hand, Livia met her future husband, Edwin Seim, at a house party in Minnesota. There was a strong connection between the two of them, but Livia was involved with another young man at the time. When her boyfriend was unable to attend a formal University Dance, Livia asked Edwin if he would like to accompany her. He accepted and unfortunately was delayed and showed up after Livia had returned home from the dance and already changed out of her party dress. The two of them went out for pizza together, and things progressed quickly from there. Their first date had been in May of 1958, they decided to marry in the Fall of that same year, and said their vows on January 3, 1959. Livia’s sister Lia, still at home in Italy, purchased all of the necessary wedding items, including a beautiful wedding dress, and shipped them all to Livia just in time for the wedding. Unfortunately Lia was unable to make the wedding, but came later for a special visit with the new bride and groom.

    The newlyweds moved into Edwin’s lakeside home in Minnesota where they soon brought two children into the world – a girl and then a boy, both born in 1960, eleven months apart. In 1970, upon completion of Edwin’s Ph.D degree, the family left Minnesota and relocated to Lincoln, Nebraska, where they restored a lovely brick home that had been constructed by a railroad man in the 1930’s. Finally they had room to showcase the antiques they had spent years collecting during their time in Minnesota. In 1972, Edwin took a job in Davis, California, where they purchased and renovated another beautiful home. During this time, Livia plunged into various activities of the U.C. Davis Women’s Organizations and began to take a leadership role in the Republican Woman Federated. She continued to find opportunities to teach Italian and participated in a number of successful fundraisers, including a High Tea which showcased her collection of antique quilts and the history that went along with them.

    In 1978, Edwin’s employer, Hunt Wesson Foods, experienced a major downsizing effort to satisfy stockholders, and Edwin was forced to take a job in King City. Livia insisted on remaining in Davis until their son graduated from high school, and then in 1979 Edwin accepted a job at Cal Poly, and the family moved to San Luis Obispo. They found a house in the Old Country Club area, and purchased the home they still live in today.

    Although San Luis Obispo was a somewhat different community than Davis, Livia was soon active once again. She began teaching Italian at Cal Poly, joined the Cal Poly Wives and the California Republican Women Federated. She attended regional and state conventions, advocacy workshops and a number of national conventions in Sacramento, Louisville, New Orleans, Washington D.C. and Seattle. Livia was appointed to one of the Reagan Block Grant Commissions on Education and developed an entire new set of delightful friends. The Commission often fought against bureaucracy in an effort to get the most dollars into the classrooms, especially in rural areas.

    Livia and Edwin liked to dance and eventually joined DAD, the Dine & Dance group, which met monthly at The Monday Club for a catered dinner and dancing to the music of a live band. Around this time, Peggy Quaglino befriended Livia and invited her to attend a Monday Club business meeting and Luncheon, and shortly thereafter, Livia joined the women of The Monday Club as an active member! She held a number of leadership positions at the Club over the years, and according to Edwin, as the signs of her illness became apparent, her MC friends started picking up the slack, and filled in to cover the areas where Livia required a little more help.

    In her younger days, Livia enjoyed collecting antiques (including her beautiful quilts), playing tennis, dancing, teaching and working to educate young people in the area of politics. She has had a vast array of experiences including a final trip to her hometown in Italy with her husband, children and grandchildren, in 2007. She is a bright light, always smiling and still happy to be a part of our beloved Monday Club! Thank you, Livia. We are so grateful to have the opportunity to honor you at our January 5th General Meeting, as a Life Member of The Monday Club of San Luis Obispo!

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