Rosalie C. Rohr – The Donor That Started It All

A wealthy Santa Rosa widow who had a soft spot in her heart for 4-H kids, cows and agriculture left a sizeable bequest that launched the 4-H Foundation of Sonoma County.

 Today, the 4-H Foundation, a non-profit corporation established in 1982, is the community’s primary financial vehicle for supporting, promoting and enhancing the Sonoma County 4-H program.

It was the late Rosalie C. Rohr’s large and unexpected bequest in 1981 that brought community leaders together to begin discussions that would eventually lead to establishment of the 4-H Foundation of Sonoma County. Mrs. Rohr, the widow of Santa Rosa physician Dr. Silas M. Rohr, died on Nov. 15, 1978, at the age of 101 following a long and colorful life as a Santa Rosa socialite and philanthropist.

Throughout her life Mrs. Rohr supported agricultural youth organizations in Sonoma County. Additionally, she annually presented cash awards to the top Guernsey cattle breeders in the junior show at the Sonoma County Fair.

The Rohr estate, valued at $1 million at the time of her death, was left in a trust administered by Wells Fargo Bank. Mrs. Rohr’s will stipulated that the annual income from the trust was to be divided equally among four beneficiaries including the Sonoma County 4-H program. The other beneficiaries were the Sonoma County FFA program and two scholarships, one for Santa Rosa agriculture students at U.C. Davis and the other a music scholarship at the University of the Pacific in Stockton.

 It was estimated that the annual income from the Rohr trust would be $15,000 to  $17,000 for each of the four beneficiaries. Because the Sonoma County 4-H Foundation did not exist at the time, the money from the Rohr estate was to be held by the California 4-H Foundation, specifically to foster 4-H activities in Sonoma County.

4-H supporters believed Sonoma County 4-H needed its own foundation to receive the annual income from the Rohr trust and other bequests in the future. Members of the initial committee were Shirley Dempel, Harriet Polansky, Bob Sisson, Coston Crouse and Jim Groom. The committee met for more than a year to lay the groundwork for the foundation, which would became the legal entity to hold, administer and distribute charitable contributions directed to the Sonoma County 4-H program.

Mrs. Rohr’s generous bequest was the first but not the last to benefit Sonoma County 4-H Club members.

The Grainger Foundation donates $10,000 for 2012 scholarship funds


The Grainger Foundation

The 4-H Foundation of Sonoma County is excited to announce that we recently received a generous donation of  $10,000 for scholarship funds from  The Grainger Foundation.  These scholarship funds will be available to Sonoma County residents pursuing a career in Agriculture or Agri-Business. They must be entering or attending a college or trade school. Wallace Wong, Branch Manager of the Grainger store in Rohnert Park, made the scholarship donation as part of Grainger’s commitment to the communities where it does business. He said many of Grainger’s customers in Sonoma County are wineries and agricultrural businesses. The scholarships are a way for Grainger to give back to the Sonoma County compainies that have been its loyal customers over the last four decades.

About W.W. The Grainger Foundation, Inc.:
W.W. Grainger, Inc. (NYSE: GWW), with 2008 sales of $6.9 billion, is the leading broad line supplier of facilities maintenance products serving businesses and institutions in the United States, Canada, Mexico, China and Panama. Through a highly integrated network including more than 600 branches, 18 distribution centers and multiple Web sites, Grainger’s employees help customers get the job done.

Sam McMillan 2011 Shining Star Award

Sam McMillan, a longtime director of the 4-H Foundation of Sonoma County who quietly devotes hours and hours of his time to 4-H and the community, is the 2011 recipient of the Shining Star Award.

The Shining Star Award, given by the 4-H Foundation of Sonoma County, recognizes a person who has made significant contributions to the 4-H Foundation and 4-H Club work. Fellow directors on the 4-H Foundation board praise Sam as the Foundation’s unsung hero because he is always there to help and always gets the job done. He does it all without drawing attention to himself, quietly doing whatever needs to be done to advance 4-H Club work and assist the 4-H Foundation.

“Sam truly is the 4-H Foundation’s shining star. He has been a very dedicated, hard-working board member on the 4-H Foundation for many years. Sam can always be counted on to spend countless hours helping with our fund raising events and the management of the 4-H Center,”  said Shirley Dempel, a founding director of the 4-H Foundation and the recipient of  last year’s Shining Star Award.

Sam was a member of the 4-H and his children were 4-H Club members as well. He grew up on his family’s Santa Rosa poultry farm where he raised Hampshire sheep and Duroc hogs as his farm projects.  He has been a director of the 4-H Foundation since 1999.

The Shining Star Award will be presented at the 4-H Foundation’s annual barbecue on Sept. 17 at Richard’ Grove in Windsor.

2010 Shining Star Award-Shirley Dempel

Shirley Dempel’s life has been defined by 4-H. She was a 4-H Club member, a 4-H parent, 4-H leader and for the last 40 years an advocate and mentor for the 4-H program and 4-H club members. Shirley is one of the co-founders of the 4-H Foundation of Sonoma County and remains one of the 4-H program’s most ardent supporters. Following a large bequest to Sonoma County 4-H in 1981, Shirley determined the need to establish a non-profit foundation as the financial vehicle for supporting, promoting and enhancing the Sonoma County 4-H program. The 4-H Foundation was established in 1982 thanks to Shirley’s vision and hard work. Shirley was seated on the foundation’s board of directors and continues to serve as a director of the 4-H Foundation today.  She is the Foundation’s longest serving director and, of course, the foundation’s institutional memory. Shirley knows all and is regularly called upon for historic facts related to the 4-H foundation and 4-H Club work.

Shirley also played a key role in bringing forces together for the construction of the Sonoma County 4-H Center, which was completed in 1994. Shirley worked tirelessly with the late Hugh Codding, the legendary developer who donated the land for the 4-H Center and then agreed to have his crew build it at cost plus 5 percent. Shirley has donated thousands and thousands of hours to the betterment of 4-H in Sonoma County and we are all grateful for the contributions that have benefitted generations of 4-H’ers and their families.

Alice M. Reeves Basch (1926-2012)

obit photo of Alice M Reeves Basch
Alice M. Reeves Basch

Alice Mae started elementary school in Bloomfield, but then transferred to Dunham School. She attended Petaluma Junior High School and Petaluma High School, where she graduated in 1944. Alice Mae entered the Cadet Nurse Corps Program at Santa Rosa Junior College. The program was supervised by the United States Public Health Service to train nurses during World War II. Alice Mae graduated in 1947 and became a Registered Nurse. She then attended San Jose State where she met her future husband, George Reeves, of Napa.

Alice Mae and George married in 1950 and moved back to Petaluma to live and work on the family ranch. The ranch was full of character, with 1,500 acres of sheep, turkeys, canyons, draws, and every kind of terrain for hiking, horseback riding, and exploring. Alice Mae rode her horse all over the ranch while she was growing up.

Son Chuck was born in 1951 and son Ken in 1954. The ranch was a perfect place for the boys to grow up in the 1950’s. Alice Mae began her nursing career at Petaluma General Hospital and worked there from 1951 to 1963. About 1962, her parents sold the ranch, retired and moved to Sebastopol. Alice Mae, George, Chuck, and Ken moved to a smaller ranch on Valley Ford Road where the family continued to raise sheep and turkeys. George died in 1971, but the ranch continued operation. After George’s death, Alice Mae worked at El Rose Medical from 1972 to 1978.

Alice Mae remarried in 1978 and moved to town with her husband, Henry Basch. Although she took great pride in her RN status she retired from nursing to enjoy a life of travel and activities with Hank. They traveled to Russia, Greece, Canada, and all over the US. After Hank died, Alice Mae continued to travel to Ireland and Scandinavia with her high school friend, Beverly Lane.

Alice Mae always enjoyed an active social life. She grew up with Roblar 4-H, Rainbow Girls, and the Rebekah Lodge. As an adult she attended the same exercise class for over 20 years. She kept herself busy with the Petaluma Women’s Club, the Hospital Auxiliary, the X-Red Hats Grape Dames, and the Classics. When she wasn’t at a social event, she was probably shopping.

Alice Mae is survived by her sister, Wilma Steinbeck, now of Georgia; survived by son Chuck, wife Nancy, and their children Meghan and Zack (fiancée Ashley); son Ken and children Kendra (Casey) Roy, Jackie (Rich) Rottman; and great-grandchildren Colton Roy, Avery and Caydence Rottman. Survived by nieces and nephews of the DeMarta family; predeceased by Brad DeMarta; survived by cousins of the Steinbeck and Kirkland families; survived by members of the extended Reeves and Basch families; survived by many treasured life-long friends.

A Memorial Service will be held on Wednesday, March 7, 2012 at 11:30 a.m. at PARENT-SORENSEN MORTUARY & CREMATORY, 850 Keokuk St., Petaluma. Memorial contribution may be sent to the Faith Presbyterian Church, 190 Arlen Dr., Rohnert Park 94928; the 4-H Foundation of Sonoma County, P.O. Box 1283, Rohnert Park, CA 94927; or Hospice of Petaluma, 416 Payran St., Petaluma, CA 94952.