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

Livia Seim - From Tuscany to the Central Coast by Lisa Guy

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!


  • December 23, 2014 6:14 AM | Cyndi Runstrom
    Thank you Lisa for this wonderful piece.
    We have such a beautiful, talented, accomplished, and good- hearted membership and it is lovely to spend this time getting to know Livia better. So happy we will be honoring her.
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  • December 30, 2014 5:26 PM | Jennifer Alderman
    I really enjoyed learning about Livia's young years growing up in Italy, as well as her interesting and accomplished life. Thanks Lisa and Livia!
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  • January 08, 2015 1:29 PM | Joyce Zorger
    How sweet it is to learn the life story of Livia. Reading about her life has been an inspiration. Thank you for this opportunity to get to know Livia and to appreciate all that she has experienced up until now. In gratitude for sharing life's journey with the women of The Monday Club, Joyce with a choice
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