New Neighborhood Voice

Newsletter - Edition 36 - Section 1

May 7, 2006

Return to Home Page
Click on a thumbnail to view larger photos - More photos are in Section 2

ARUESD Supt.
Norma Martinez

 

Tina Pricolo at
Vintage Rose

Consignment
Closet in ARV

 

Antipastos on
McKee Road

People bones?

Mildred
Overfelt at 91

Today at
Overfelt Gardens

 

CM Campos
can pitch!

And Fabian
can pitch!


ARRL can
play ball

 

Moving to
Miller School

 

ARV Farmers'
Market

What's new
at RMC?

 

Cesar Chavez
Rally

Aztec
dancers

Beautiful
children

 


Kate Gates
runs Boston

 

Barnes & Noble
at Eastridge

 

Opera SJ at
Chavez School

Newsletter Headlines

bulletCould Our Neighborhoods Be Annexed by the City of San Jose?
bulletMarguerite Terrace Closing! The rumors are unfortunately true
bulletNew Superintendent for Alum Rock Schools – Norma Martinez
bulletNNV Recognizes (and Thanks) Four New Sponsors
bulletA Bit of Willow Glen in Alum Rock Village - Vintage Rose Consignment Closet
bulletDeli? Café? Butcher Shop? Dining Room? Take-Out? Tavern? Antipastos!
bulletAuthor Chris Crutcher Shares Wit and Wisdom with JLHS Students by Kathy Evans
bulletOverfelt Gardens – Eastside Treasure – Part 2 - Mildred Overfelt by Sylvia Lowe
bulletDefensible Space? Here's how to prepare for fire season! by SJFD Captain José Guerrero
bulletAlum Rock Little League Season Debuts by Rich Tayor
bulletWin-Win for KIPP Heartwood Academy and LUCHA School - Grandin Miller site
bulletNNV Briefs
bulletSpringtime Haiku by Alum Rock Park Ranger Roger Abe
bulletFarmers’ Market Still On Tap for Lick High School Parking Lot - Mid-June start date
bulletRegional Opens New Center for Advanced Imaging by Victoria A. Emmons
bulletCelebrating Local Hero Cesar Chavez - Eastside kids march and rally
bulletAirport Looks for Community Input - How would you spend $200K curfew fines?
bulletJim McEntee Legacy Art Project from County Supervisor Pete McHugh
bulletRunning the Boston Marathon on Behalf of Two Others by Kate Gates
bulletToney New Book Store at Eastridge Mall - Barnes & Noble Moves In!
bulletLa Boheme for Little Kids at Chavez School? With Opera San Jose – it’s elementary!
bulletEastside Youngsters Present City Hall Rotunda Concert - Three bands and a choir
bulletEast Foothills Community Wildfire Protection Plan Update
bulletOn the Avenue – Alum Rock Avenue - Horse now completely blind
bulletNew Parking Plan for Alum Rock Village - Lick lot available after 3:00 PM without permit
bulletMajor Financial Institution "Invests" in Alum Rock - Washington Mutual opens branch
bulletSpelling Whiz Brian Nguyen - D.C. Bound! by Supt. Ken Van Meter, Milpitas Christian Schools
bulletHubbard Eagles Learn On the Run by Doug Paganelli, Hubbard Administrator
bulletEast Alta Vista Crime Story Moral: Make sure your home looks occupied; Be a good neighbor
bulletLake Linda Vista - Wild, wet winter, but the pond’s no more on Kirk Avenue
bulletYouth Science Institute Summer Camps in Alum Rock Park
bulletWhat Do You Know About the Alum Rock Railroads? by Alum Rock Park Ranger Roger Abe
bulletLet’s Protect Our Creek! Join the preservation effort by Alum Rock Park Ranger Roger Abe
bulletYou Dig It?
bulletMay Hot Topics by UC Cooperative Extension Master Gardener Bracey Tiede
bulletLocal Natives for San Jose Gardens - "My favorite locally native plants" by Arvind Kumar
bulletSpring at Springers’ Ranch - Dedicated stewardship of “viewshed” property
bulletWhite Road Food Lockers - A little piece of Alum Rock history by Lori Karadunis Frost
bulletFAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)
bulletIs it true that a Trader Joe’s is going in next door to the new Costco in North San Jose?
bulletWhy didn’t Rafiki’s go after the coffee shop opportunity in the Cruz/Alum Rock Library?
bulletHow is the campaign to get a Peet’s Coffee in the Rafiki’s location coming along?
bulletWhy don’t we try to get Jamba Juice to move into Rafiki’s old space?
bulletWhy has the city allowed the promised “La Bodega” site to become such a blight?
bulletIs it true that mail thieves robbed the mailboxes on Highland Drive again in April?

Other Sections:  Letters to the Editor  Deer Resistant Plants  Community Bulletin Board  NNV Archives

Return to Top

Could Our Neighborhoods Be Annexed by the City of San Jose?

“We’re too big!” you say? Sure about that?

The San Jose City Council voted on April 25th to proceed cautiously with their obligation (to Santa Clara County) to annex unincorporated “county pockets” or “islands.” The topic always causes angst and trepidation. The State has forged a plan in which all small pockets (under 150 acres) may be annexed by their respective cities without a vote by the people who live in the pocket. This law will expire early next year, so the city must gets its ducks in a row fast to scarf up those little pockets – unless the state decides to extend the window of opportunity. (The extension sounds as though it’s in the realm of possibility.)

The County really, really wants to get rid of its unincorporated pockets. They are nuisances that require all sorts of special care which is difficult to deliver because the pockets are often tiny bits and pieces scattered far and wide. Most of the pockets meet the under 150-acre standard. Some are as small as ¼ of an acre, believe it or not! The City is now in the process of deciding whether to attempt annexing a few, a lot, or all of the appropriately sized parcels – and on what timeline. It will take several months to get this expensive project rolling according to the city’s acting planning director, Joe Horwedel.

The Mercury News helpfully published a map showing where all the pockets – large and small – are located within Santa Clara County. It makes clear which little pockets (including Lyndale) are vulnerable to annexation-without-a-vote. More striking are the big pockets on the map. And, for us here in the East San Jose foothills, the most intriguing thing is to realize that we are in one huge 1,400+ acre pocket. Click here for a map of the pockets in the northern part of this area and here for a map of the southern part (PDF Files). Click here for maps of other areas (very large PDF File).

Obviously, as the law stands, a 1,400 acre island cannot be annexed without a vote of the people who live here. However, there is the possibility that the state law will be changed sometime so that larger parcels may be annexed without a vote. Keep in mind that, until about a year ago, the city could annex only pockets 75 acres or smaller without a vote. It wouldn’t take many 100% upticks before areas such as ours would be vulnerable to annexation without a vote. However, bringing City services (sidewalks, sewers, SJPD coverage, etc.) to the occupied pockets is such an expensive proposition that there doesn’t seem to be any reason that the City would want to take on the burden any sooner than necessary.

Some pocket residents couldn’t care less whether they live in the City or the County. Some renegades prefer to live without sidewalks and other city amenities and would fight tooth and nail to “stay County.” To some, the only clear plus to “becoming city” is that residents can vote in San Jose city elections. Sometimes this seems a dubious prize, but, when one considers how our lives are dominated by the city’s “sphere of influence” (even here in this unincorporated area), it seems that having a voice in the election process is important.

Stay tuned!

Return to Top

Marguerite Terrace Closing!

The rumors are unfortunately true

Our neighborhood’s old “California P.E.O. Home” - recently renamed Marguerite Terrace - will close its doors this summer. The retirement community has been at the corner of Alum Rock and Kirk Avenues for just about as long as anyone can remember.

Eastsiders were happy to see the home change from a members-only enclave to a welcoming resource for the public-at-large. A well-designed renovation opened up the entrance area signaling the new regime. Our community had begun to embrace the idea that perhaps we would take advantage of Marguerite Terrace’s offerings when that time arrived ….

Click here for the California P.E.O. Home’s Board of Directors’ official message of explanation (PDF File).

Return to Top

New Superintendent for Alum Rock Schools – Norma Martinez

Expediency compromises Best School Board Practices

The Alum Rock Elementary District (ARUESD) will have a new Superintendent of Schools. Long time district employee Norma Martinez will assume the mantle beginning July 1st. By conducting an intramural search within the district, and eliminating the usual headhunter-conducted national search, the board of education hoped to save a bundle of dollars. However, as it turned out, beaucoup bucks had to be spent on a consultant who was paid to arrange community input sessions after the school board majority was persuaded to (reluctantly) allow community “stakeholders” to have their say.

For months there had been persistent “rumor and innuendo” around the school district that a majority of the school board trustees (the three male members, Lalo Morales, Joe Frausto and Frank Chavez) had actually settled – from the get-go - on Ms. Martinez as their first and only choice. The board minority (the two women trustees, Board President Kim Mesa and Tanya Freudenberger), while bearing Ms. Martinez no ill will, hoped that opening the selection process might provoke the interest of other talented leaders – to provide some honest-to-goodness choice for the trustees to consider.

As it turned out, only four candidates materialized and Ms. Martinez, with her rich background in the school district, was clearly the most appropriate choice. An editorial in the Mercury News of April 14 (p.18A) said, “As a former Alum Rock principal, administrator, director of bilingual education, and, for the past 15 months, deputy superintendent, Norma Martinez was an obvious candidate.”

While it was wrong of the board majority to try an end-run around established protocol (and in so doing getting “their” candidate enmeshed in an unwelcome tug of war which resulted in her approval by a 3-2 vote) - it really doesn’t matter now, does it?

What does matter now is that the board and those community stakeholders (parents, teachers, businesspeople, interested citizens, community leaders) throw their support behind Ms. Martinez and help the district continue the forward progress it has been enjoying.

Norma Martinez is “smart, competent and [a] respected leader” the Merc opines. NNV agrees and hopes that Ms. Martinez’ high expectations for the children of the district will be realized under her leadership. She certainly knows the territory – and that can be a very good thing!

Perhaps the recent controversy over superintendent candidate selection will cause the current board trustees and our new superintendent to take a close look at the process by which decisions are made in our school district. And, perhaps, some new, creative and talented folks will decide to run for election to the school board in order to do something about that process with an emphasis on ensuring no short-cuts or compromises with sound procedure. The Alum Rock community deserves nothing less.

For the June NNV, Superintendent Martinez promises to send a message to our community spelling out the philosophy and mission she espouses for our elementary school district, ARUESD.

Click here for a photo of Superintendent Martinez.

Return to Top

NNV Recognizes (and Thanks) Four New Sponsors

Local businesses help keep newsletter afloat

Real estate, finance and investments guru, Gustavo Gonzalez, joined NNV’s roster of supportive neighbors early this year. His business is right smack dab in the middle of NNV’s “sphere of influence” on Valley View Avenue.

The DeRose family, the wonderful neighbors who own and run Antipastos by DeRose, our neighborhood’s foremost food emporium, jumped on the NNV bandwagon a few months ago. You can find a story about them and their business in this edition of NNV.

Long-time (20 years!) real estate agent, Lisa Blaylock, has achieved the status of being among Coldwell Banker’s top 100 agents. She grew up and lives here in the East Foothills. Lisa is passionate about supporting the neighborhood.

East-Side based Home Care Network, Inc, (HCN), a home health care agency, is the brainchild of one-time homecare RN, Sally Ryan. HCN offers a low-cost alternative to convalescent homes.

We are grateful to our original “Founding Sponsors,” our newer sponsors who came forward in 2005 and our newest four. Thank you, thank you for making New Neighborhood Voice possible.

Return to Top

New Neighborhood Voice Founding Sponsors

bullet

Lifestyle Properties, Call Ellen Rauh at (408) 929-1925, www.lifestyleprop.com
The REALTOR© You Choose Does Make a Difference, E-mail ellen@lifestyleprop.com 

bullet

Caskey Country Club Properties, Call Larry and Barbara Caskey at (408) 926-5400

bullet

E.M.S. LLC, Environmental Management Systems, (408) 501-4200
A full service construction & demolition cleanup, hauling and recycling company

bullet

Eileen Parks, Windermere Silicon Valley Properties, (408) 251-5860
"When the follow through counts, call Eileen" - or e-mail Restatelady@aol.com 

bullet

Keith Bush, Artist/Sculptor, (408) 923-6666, www.keithbush.org 

bullet

MBA ARCHITECTS, Marvin Bamburg AIA, (408) 297-0288, www.MBA-Architects.net 
Residential, commercial, industrial, historic preservation & mixed use projects;  marvin@mba-architects.net 

bullet

Mark DeTar, INTERO Real Estate Services, (408) 482-1727
Call or click today WWW.MarkDeTar.com or e-mail mdetar@detarprop.com  

And We'd Like to Welcome Our New 2005 and 2006 Sponsors

bullet

The Coffee Cup, Finest French Pastries, Country Club Plaza
Sun-Mon 6AM–2PM, Tue-Sat 6AM – 4PM, 3477 McKee Road, (408) 254-0755

bullet

Robin Edwards, Inc., Engineering Contractor, (408) 244-4791
CA Lic. 762792 A&B, "Basements, retaining walls, and complex foundations"

bullet

Regional Medical Center of San Jose, www.RegionalMedicalSanJose.com 
225 North Jackson Avenue, San Jose, CA 95116-1691, 1-888-RMC-8881, Dedicated To Your Well Being.

bullet

Gustavo Gonzalez ABR, Real Estate, Finance & Investments, (408) 646-1236
VALLEY VIEW PROPERTIES, 342 Valley View Avenue, Web Site, E-mail

bullet

ANTIPASTOS by DeRose, Gourmet Meat, Fish, Deli, Dine In or Out, (408) 251-5647
3454 McKee Road (at the corner of Kirk and McKee).  Long-time neighborhood favorite!

bullet

Lisa Blaylock, Coldwell Banker, 408-377-LISA (5472), www.lisablaylock.com, lisa@lisablaylock.com
Coldwell Banker’s TOP 100 Agents! Serving my clients since 1986. I grew up and live in the East Foothills!

bullet

Home Care Network, Inc., Home Care Professionals, www.homecarenetwork.us
Low Cost In-Home Care. Call Sally Ryan, RN, MS, MBA at (408) 254-4650 or e-mail sally@sjrrn.com.

Return to Top

A Bit of Willow Glen in Alum Rock Village

Local gal’s dream: Vintage Rose Consignment Closet

The first little shop with a truly Willow Glen ambiance has just opened up in Alum Rock Village. On the last Saturday of April, Tina Pricolo flung open the weathered door of our neighborhood’s first consignment boutique in the seemingly unlikely little courtyard behind Mario’s Barber Shop. Behind Mario’s Barber Shop?! Mais oui!

But is there parking back there? Yes, and besides that, there is a dear little 400 square foot space which Tina has filled with one-of-a-kind items which will be perfect for those special gifts you need to purchase. Or, if you need an honest-to-goodness unique conversation piece to round out your living room décor, this little shop is now the place to go. Tina makes and sells novel jewelry from vintage beads. She has some old sculptural pieces, mirrors, some antique furniture, vintage clothing, some delicious designer handbags, some beautiful shoes – all-in-all many big and little somethings which will catch your fancy. How about a gilded bird cage – a really nifty one? Wall sconces? Funky lamps? Many items still have their original price tags on them. Needless to say, you won’t be paying those prices.

Do you want to sell some of your own objets d’art, jewelry or classic clothing? Tina’s the gal you want to talk to. Why drive to Willow Glen?

Tina grew up in the neighborhood. She and her sister, April Wilkerson, who also helps out in the shop, are James Lick grads who dearly love our neighborhood and want to see it recognized as the dear, special place that it is. Tina has a design background with a specialty in signage and has also worked in retail. “I’ve always wanted to have my own store – so this is realizing a dream for me,” she told NNV. She and her husband and their three children live just up the street on Alum Rock Avenue in a unique vintage house - which came as no surprise since she’s that sort of person.

Tina and April have all sorts of ideas for the shop and the parking lot behind it. On one Sunday each month, they hope to have an outdoor flea market there. Nearby shops are closed on Sundays, so the coast will be clear for plenty of parking for the shop. They also would like to develop some synergy with other Alum Rock Village businesses.

NNV sees Vintage Rose as a catalyst for bringing other classy little businesses to The Village. Tina sees it that way, too. She has been watching a while for a space to open up in The Village because she wants to be part of making our historic area a destination place. She was eyeing Rafiki’s, but it’s a little too large and the rent is too steep.

So, watch for Tina’s Vintage Rose Consignment Closet sign to go up on the side wall of Mario’s. However, don’t wait for the sign! The shop is open Wednesdays through Sundays at various hours. You’re going to love it and you’ll absolutely adore Tina and April!

The shop’s at 3150A Alum Rock Avenue. You can call (408) 258-4501 or (408) 605-4118.

Click here for photos.

Return to Top

Deli? Café? Butcher Shop? Dining Room? Take-Out? Tavern?

All-In-One Neighborhood gem, “Antipastos by DeRose”

Our neighborhood has a unique business – truly like none other around here – and maybe not like any other, anyplace!

The DeRose family’s Antipastos on McKee Road is a blend of all the yummiest comestibles ever created. For the serious gourmet or gourmand – or for ordinary folks who simply love delicious food and a warm ambiance - Antipastos is the place to go.

You like Deli? They have it. Picture cases and cases of prepared salads, smoked meats, cold cuts and cheeses. Olives? Of course!

You like absolutely fresh, best-quality meats and fish, right? Antipastos has them. Their counters are resplendent with topnotch roasts and steaks, rosy salmon and pristine halibut. Want something exotic? Gino DeRose will order it for you and dress it just as you desire.

Are you partial to freshly baked artisan breads from Roma and Golden State Bakeries? You can get them at Antipastos. Often they’re still warm from the oven. Or you can purchase partially baked loaves and finish baking them at home. Yum!

And wine? Antipastos has a small, but fine, selection of quality vintages including fabulous DeRose wines made by their uncle and cousin near Hollister. (NNV suggestion: try the Negrete!)

We could go on and on detailing the merchandise available at this unusual shop, (think: premium dry goods and condiments; milk, juice and sodas; stuff that comes in six-packs) but we should point out that a great deal of Antipastos’ business is their lunch and dinner trade. Mary DeRose and “the boys,” her sons Gino, Nick and Joe, (along with longtime employees Charlie and Ramon) prepare a wide assortment of mostly Italian-themed entrees and sandwiches using the deluxe ingredients from their own cold cases. The specials include such tasty things as ravioli and other pastas, chili and Caesar salad. The sandwiches are made with a generous amount of delicious filling. Several beers are always on tap. Double yum!

The DeRose family members live all around us in the East Highlands area. Mary’s husband, the “Original Nick,” started the Antipastos business in 1987 after deciding the East Side deserved a top-quality gourmet shop. At the time Gino, Nick, and Joe were respectively 23, 19 and 13 years old. Mary “did the books” and the boys helped their dad until Nick Sr. passed away about eight years ago. Since that time Mary and all three sons have run the business with the help of 15 employees - many who live nearby.

Antipastos doesn’t characterize itself as a restaurant because it doesn’t have waiters. However, it is a restaurant in the sense that one can purchase complete meals (or snacks) at the counter and carry them over to the twenty or so tables. And, a lot of people do just that! Others stop by on the way home from work for ready-made dinner ingredients for lunch or dinner at home. Many folks stop by on their way to Alum Rock Park to pick up a picnic. Some neighbors stop in just to breathe in the scents of the DeRoses’ Italian cooking and see their friendly faces.

Click here for photos.

NNV Note: Ever since we started New Neighborhood Voice in 2002, we have had Antipastos on our list of wonderful community resources to write about. Many readers had suggested we do that. We were just about to research and write that story when Mary DeRose contacted us asking how Antipastos could help support the newsletter. Voila! A super new sponsor!

Return to Top

Author Chris Crutcher Shares Wit and Wisdom with JLHS Students

Summer reading suggestions for your teen

By Kathy Evans, Librarian, James Lick High School

James Lick’s ninth graders were delighted to have an appearance by Young Adult author Chris Crutcher early this month. Chris Crutcher is regarded as a dynamic and insightful writer whose works are both exciting sports stories and authentic reflections of the inner lives of his protagonists. We were lucky enough to score this coup only because Lick’s principal, Bill Rice, has past affiliations with Dr. Jonathon Lovell and the Bay Area Writing Project at San Jose State. Mr. Crutcher, working with the Bay Area Writing Project, chose James Lick for a Q and A session with our freshman students where he discussed Athletic Shorts, a collection of his short stories. In addition to Crutcher’s appearance, the Writing Project has generously donated sets of his novels to every English teacher at Lick to be used for further lessons and class libraries.

According to Biography Resource Center, Crutcher is, “Praised for the tough yet thoughtful nature and evocative quality of his novels and short stories as well as for the believability of both his characters and the sports background he favors. Crutcher, who has worked as a mental health professional in child and family services as well as for child advocacy, is consistently celebrated for the honesty and appeal of his books as well as for his understanding of teenagers. In 2000, the author received the coveted Margaret A. Edwards Award for his lifetime achievement in writing for teens. [He is] considered among the most respected American authors of young adult literature.”

It’s no accident that Crutcher is such a popular writer. His sensitive and thought provoking stories address the concerns of modern day teenagers and his enjoyment of writing is evident when he states, “It is a joy to write a tale that is believable, that is real. Writing is also a way to express humor and to present different human perspectives. I like to explore the different ways in which people make sense of what goes on around them--ways in which they respond to the wide range of random things that happen, and to the situations they create. Working in the mental health field provides me with some unique perspectives on the human drama--how people get stuck and how they grow. Every client--man, woman, or child, no matter how damaged--has shown me at least a small glimpse of how we're all connected."

Crutcher’s books have consistently won awards from the American Library Association, National Council of Teachers, Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association and many others throughout his career and his works are highly recommended by Young Adult librarian, Leslie Tanaka, at our own Dr. Roberto Cruz/Alum Rock library. I’ve included brief summaries of his books for parents who might be looking for summer reading recommendations for bored teenagers. Enjoy!

Athletic Shorts: Six Short Stories
Grade 8 Up - The stereotype of jocks as insensitive dullards is challenged in stories that grapple with the big questions of life as well as with athletic prowess, told with good-natured aplomb and gritty honesty.

Chinese Handcuffs
Ages 12 up - Still troubled by his older brother's violent suicide, eighteen-year-old Dillon becomes deeply involved in the terrible secret of his friend Jennifer, who feels she can tell no one what her stepfather is doing to her.

Ironman
Grade 9 Up - Although slow to accept his placement in an anger-management class, triathlete Bo Brewster learns to control and develop his emotional strength. Powerful, perceptive, and wickedly funny.

King of the Mild Frontier
All ages - In this funny, bittersweet and brutally honest autobiography, Crutcher recounts his journey from a boyhood misspent in remote Cascade, Idaho, to his present life as a writer.

Running Loose
Ages 12 up - Louie, a high school senior in a small Idaho town, learns about sportsmanship, love, and death as he matures into manhood.

The Sledding Hill
Grade 7 Up - Billy, recently deceased, keeps an eye on his best friend, fourteen-year-old Eddie, and helps him stand up to a conservative minister and English teacher who are orchestrating a censorship challenge.

Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes
Grade 8 Up - An obese boy and a disfigured girl suffer the emotional scars of years of mockery at the hands of their peers. They share a hard-boiled view of the world until events in their senior year hurl them in very different directions.

Stotan
Ages 12 up - A high school coach invites members of his swimming team to a memorable week of rigorous training that tests their moral fiber as well as their physical stamina.

Whale Talk
Ages 12-up - Featuring narrator T.J. Jones' darkly ironic appraisal of the high school sports arena, this gripping tale of small-town prejudice delivers a frank, powerful message about social issues and ills.

Return to Top

Overfelt Gardens – Eastside Treasure – Part 2

The Overfelt Family gives their name and fortune to East San Jose

“Leaving it for others does mean something” – Mildred Overfelt

Newly renovated Overfelt House to be dedicated on Saturday, June 10, 1:00pm

By Sylvia Lowe

Who was Mildred Overfelt? I can hardly find details about her life outside the old articles and records my parents saved. But she has kept me so busy these last few years. Here in the Chinese Cultural Garden I am an overtime-volunteer working with fantastic teen leaders and volunteers in a program that presents community events. I must say Mildred is very much in evidence here inside her Garden. Yet I am amazed that hardly a soul knows who she was. They only know they are in Overfelt Gardens and her house has just been renovated, that we’re on Educational Park Drive, and we share the north perimeter of the park with Independence High School. We have the library too, and by the way, did you know there is a Planetarium next door? They can beam the night sky from anywhere in the world up on that curved ceiling. It’s wonderful, and the East Side Adult Education Facility across the street can teach you just about anything you have a curiosity for. Mildred didn’t expressly specify any of this. She only wanted a big and beautiful park with flowers and a place to be calm in busy times. How interesting – she’s the reason we’re all here, including the Chinese Cultural Garden, and even the Regional Medical Center. I wonder who she was and what her family was like.

I do know Mildred Overfelt came from a deeply rooted American family with a paternal grandfather who served in George Washington’s army. She was the youngest of five children and the last of the William C. Overfelt family. It is William who is memorialized by the local high school that bears his name. He hailed from Virginia and arrived in California in 1849 during the Gold Rush by way of Independence MO. In 1852 he resettled in Berryessa along Penitencia Creek and from this, he dedicated one acre of land for a new school. Eventually, he would be the driving force in establishing the old Pala School District with a trio of Santa Clara Valley pioneers that included himself, Joe McKee (McKee Road) and George Wood. Wood had huge land holdings east of Jackson and Overfelt prevailed upon him to offer up the corner of McKee and Capitol to become the first public school on the East side with Overfelt as one of the trustees. He remained active and devoted to our budding educational system until his death.

Mildred’s mother was Mary of the Pyle family who braved great hardships traveling across the wild and beautiful American Plains by covered wagon. They came with the Donner Party during that long and terrible winter. But the Pyle family, instead of hunkering down to wait it out, trekked out of the mountains to get help. Mary met William at the school he built by Penitencia Creek and they married in 1854. In 1856, the family moved to the property on McKee Road. William died at age 49 in 1876 leaving Mary with an unfinished house, a ranch to run and a family to raise. She outlived her husband by fifty-four years, completed the Overfelt House, ran the ranch and nurtured and educated her children into adulthood.

Mildred graduated from San Jose State in 1893, but never married. She had been a teacher all her adult life and by 1959, was the family’s only survivor. By this time she was well into her 90’s and living on the same property in the house where she was born. Having no direct descendants, it was her wish to preserve the open space and beauty of her family’s land and share its good fortune with the City of San Jose, so that the land could nurture others as she had been. She decided to give it to the community. Her deed described a botanical garden, a park to be developed that is uniquely beautiful and serene. In her words, “… a place of beauty, with trees, sprawling lawns, flowers and other facilities … to provide a place of rest, relaxation and esthetic and other enjoyment for the people of the City of San Jose.” She also stipulated that this park would not develop areas for “games.” Which is probably why Overfelt Gardens is one of the more quiet parks in the City. Following on her impulse to “benefit” the East side, she also gave seventeen acres to the Alexian Brothers for a free hospital that was to care for the needs of the aging and their descendants - now Regional Medical Center.

When Mildred was asked why she wanted to give her land away, she merely stated, that, “all that land doesn’t mean anything to me, but sharing it and leaving it for others does mean something.” And so, she deeded her property to the City of San Jose, for the present and future benefit of its citizens. The precise wording goes, “For and In consideration of the love and affection for the people of San Jose.” And she was serious too. About a year after the City signed and accepted her conditions, something caused Mildred to feel the City wasn’t serious about it and she promptly requested the return of her property. The Mayor and City Manager at the time, however, were able to persuade her to stay the course after which a Master Plan for the first phase of her garden was developed and a small portion of it was landscaped.

Mildred died in 1967. But she left Mr. Crocker, her adopted son, in charge of assuring the direction of her Overfelt Gardens’ park development. In 1972, my parents, Frank and Pauline Lowe were gifted with a very large, bronze statue of the old teacher, Confucius. My mother got permission from Mr. Crocker to place him in Millie Overfelt’s Garden, and the actual work of developing Overfelt Gardens’ and the Chinese elements of the park began. Working side by side, one garden within another, it took years to finish all the while waiting for the trees and plants to grow to size throughout the park. Now, after more than thirty years, we will be getting a new, much-needed and improved irrigation system and we at the park all imagine there will be more improvements and new growth. Slowly, quietly, we may realize the botanical part of her dream with patient yet sure purpose.

In the meantime, there continues to be much work to do. We need volunteers of all kinds, those skilled in administrative work and capacity building and fundraising for our unique programming at Overfelt Gardens and the Chinese Cultural Garden. Millie left us a real treasure, a work in progress, a project that is rich with opportunities for enjoyment and participation in community. There are tons of ways to contribute to our City’s overall quality of life and its cultural and creative richness. Overfelt Gardens is a wonderful place to find respite from the dense pressures of Silicon Valley. When you visit the park, you will experience the wonderful presence of nature right here in the middle of our East Side. It is a world of its own that includes the seasons and wildlife interwoven with the value of growth, culture and diversity, ecology education, lifelong learning and a sense of well being. If interested, please email sylvia@chineseculturalgarden.org or call me at 258-3231.

Come join us on Saturday, June 10, 2006 at 1:00pm as we dedicate the newly renovated Overfelt House. The house will serve as the Park’s Visitor Center, with the maintenance and ranger staff offices. The renovation of the house was made possible through Construction and Conveyance Taxes from the City of San Jose, as well as through a grant funded by the State of California’s 2002 Urban and Open Space and Recreation Program Block Grant.

For more information or if you are interested in contributing your time and energy to Overfelt Gardens Park, please contact the Park Rangers at 408-251-3323 or email the Park Supervisor, Gina Aning, at gina.aning@sanjoseca.gov.

Click here for photos.  Click here to read Overfelt Gardens, Part 1.

Return to Top

Click here for Section 2 of the May 2006 Newsletter

(This newsletter is in two sections to reduce the download time for this page)

--------------------------- Contact and Subscription Information ---------------------------------
Copyright© 2006 by Judy Thompson, 16174 Highland Drive, San Jose, CA 95127 
Phone: (408) 272-7008, E-mail: JudyET@NNVESJ.org Fax: (408) 272-4040 
E-mail subscriptions are free. Your ideas and comments are always welcome. 
To Subscribe: E-mail JudyET@NNVESJ.org with "Subscribe" in the Subject line. 
To Unsubscribe: E-mail JudyET@NNVESJ.org with "Unsubscribe" in the Subject line. 
Privacy Policy: Your contact information will not be sold, distributed or visible to others. 
Opinions expressed by other writers and contributors are not necessarily shared by NNV.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Copyright© 2006 by Judy Thompson.  All rights reserved.  Updated 5/7/06.

Return to Top