From time to time, The MCN Link presents an outstanding Moraga resident that has given a lot to some aspect of our town, and deserves the limelight. An MCN member does the interview and writes up the story about this person who has demonstrated significant participation in the life of the Moraga community.
Bob Murtagh : "Lionesque" Giving Back in Moraga
by Linda U. Foley
"We serve" is the motto of the Lions Clubs International, the world's largest service club organization numbering 3.2 million members in more than 200 countries. Bob Murtagh, president of the Moraga chapter, takes this motto seriously and has so for four terms. The quiet, retiring manner of the former U.S. Customs Service Agent, gives no hint as to the amount of time and commitment required to fulfill the many functions and services this Club provides to meeting community needs locally and ultimately, globally.
The primary Lions mission of providing vision for all—SightFirst program—works toward eradicating blindness. The Lions also fund glaucoma testing and eye operations locally and worldwide. The Moraga Lions have collection bins—for glasses/sunglasses—at the Moraga Safeway, CVS Rheem and the Hacienda. The glasses are collected from there, cleaned by the Campolindo Leo Club (Leos are aspiring Lions) and shipped to Folsom Prison where inmates volunteer to determine the prescriptions. Shipped monthly by the thousands, they are accompanied by volunteer doctors to clinics in Mexico and third-world countries like Paraguay and Bangladesh.
The Moraga Lions have sponsored a Club at Campolindo High School for the past ten years, totaling about 300 Leos. Campo Leo Club spans all grade levels, has elected officers, and features guest speakers. Moraga Lions have awarded Campo Leos over $20,000 in scholarship funding over the years. Campo Leos volunteerism includes providing holiday gifts at the Rheem Convalescent Home and helping with the annual Moraga Lions Crab Feed.
New this year for the Moraga Lions and Leos—and in collaboration with Moraga Chief of Police Bob Priebe—is a poster contest held at Campolindo themed Driver's Safety. Cash prizes will be awarded for the winning poster. In addition, Moraga Lions is providing $1200 to the Moraga/Orinda Fire District to help fund 400 CPR Anytime kits.
If all this weren't enough to make even a non-retired person tired, Murtagh is involved with the Saint Monica's Men's Club running the golf tournament in October and June, works the Breakfast with Santa hosted at the Hacienda, has served as president of the association of former customs agents and presently serves as president of a foundation to create a National U.S. Customs Museum.
Murtagh is a living example of 'giving back to the community' and doing so selflessly and from the heart. Oh, and he does squeeze in two days of golf.
Jerry Meyer: A Passion for Community Service
By Sandy Fox-Sohner
Jerry Meyer has been a Moraga resident for 50 years, moving here in 1961 from Orinda. "At that time," she says, "we were looking for a bigger home with more bedrooms for our growing family." Moraga has been lucky to have her ever since because volunteering in her community is her passion.
She was not only the second "Citizen of the Year" for the town of Moraga, but she continues to donate her time to the Rescue One Foundation, which she helped found, and serves as moderator of the Moraga Firehouse Liaison Meeting, which she has done for more than 30 years. In 2010, the Culture-to-Culture Foundation honored Jerry because of her significant contribution to Moraga in her elder years.
"The Firehouse Liaison Meeting is a wonderful meeting," she says. "It brings all of Moraga together: the mayor, town manager, department heads, police and fire chiefs, along with business, school, and service club representatives plus the citizens of the community. Everyone shares news, ideas, and feedback. People come for good reasons: to listen and share their opinions. They are polite and pleasant." With a twinkle in her eye, Jerry adds, "And we never have a jerk show up at the meetings."
Thirty years ago, then County Supervisor Jim Moriarty asked Jerry to moderate the first Moraga Firehouse Liaison Meeting and she did, with tremendous dedication that continues to this day. The Moraga Firehouse Liaison Meeting is held in the conference room of the Moraga/Orinda Fire District on Moraga Way at 8 am on the second Friday of each month. Jerry sits at the center table, announcing the next speaker, asking for questions, and keeping things humming so that everyone gets heard in the one-hour meeting.
Jerry is also dedicated to the Rescue One Foundation and continues to sit on the board as an original founder. "The fundraisers provide much needed resources for our firefighters," she says, "and it is rewarding to see the difference we can make."
Moraga has benefited in many ways from Jerry's multiple community efforts. To name just one more, Jerry served on the Friends of the Moraga Library for many years and was instrumental in securing the funds needed to build the current Moraga Library.
Jerry has two children: a daughter who worked in Contra Costa County social services and who is currently retired and living in El Cerrito, and a son who is Vice-Chancellor at the University of California at Davis. "And," she says, "I have a grandson who makes me very happy. He likes to play Rummy." On her kitchen table is a deck of cards, ready for good game!
Although Jerry no longer drives, many remember her renowned license plate, which perfectly sums up her dedication and the pride she takes in Moraga. It read "My Town."
Sophie Braccini: Citizen in More than Name Only.
by Linda U. Foley
Moraga is French-born Sophie Braccini's beat. She covers the Town's civic aspects as reporter for the Lamorinda Weekly. A native of Macon, France, her lilting accent drifts between us. Writing in a second language and not having either a writing degree nor reporting background, it is surprising to learn that when publisher Andy Scheck put out the word for writers, she applied. The rest, as they say, is history.
While Sophie's three children were young, she focused on them, their school activities and studies. Living in Palo Alto, the community provided a fabric of multi-cultural opportunities including a large enclave of French speaking ex-patriots. In time, circumstances brought the family to Moraga with its decidedly rural characteristics. Sophie, who studied in Paris and earned degrees in Economics and Political Science, continued to nourish her cultural need and heritage by treks into the City to meet up with another expat group.
Civic interests didn't come onto the scene until later, coinciding somehow with becoming a citizen and an invitation from her neighbor, Ellen Beans, to attend a political function. A seed was planted, interest sparked. Sophie takes being a citizen seriously and feels an obligation to participate.
Sophie's waifish demeanor reminds me of Joyce Carol Oates, but there's nothing waifish about her clear understanding of how "things work" here. She has definite opinions as to the structure, hierarchy, budget, and direction of Moraga. Nonetheless, she emphasizes that as a reporter, it is not her job to voice her own opinions but to gather those of others. To that end, she attends all the council meetings, and has a good grasp of where the town is "coming from." She is concerned that the turnout at these meetings is sparse.
Sophie believes that it is time for more involvement in the town's affairs. At the beginning of each year, we all have the opportunity to become involved when the town's staff and town council meet on a Saturday morning to set goals for the year ahead. This year's meeting on January 8 is open to all and will be announced in the MCN Link and in the newspapers.
Eugene Gottfried: From Laboratories to Rescue Equipment
by Emily Hook
Dr. Eugene Gottfried, the 2010 president of the Rescue One Foundation, has had a roundabout journey to his involvement there. Before his retirement he was a professor of Clinical Pathology at UC Medical School, specializing in hematology and lab medicine. But his community involvement began in 1987 when Dr. Gottfried became involved in forming a neighborhood watch group. After the Oakland Hills fire in 1991 the neighborhood group recognized that there was a need for a way to communicate in case of fire or other catastrophe when telephones and electricity might not be available. A ham radio seemed to be the answer to this problem but no one knew how to operate one. So Dr. Gottfried filled the void by learning how to operate a ham radio and got his license.
In 1996 the Moraga Fire District purchased a communications van for this purpose.
When Orinda joined with Moraga to form the Moraga-Orinda Fire District in 1998, he joined Rescue One as a board member representing Orinda. He was also appointed as a Director of the Fire District in 2000 when one of the directors quit, and he served as a director from 2002-2008. In 2007 the city of Orinda recognized him as the Volunteer of the Year.
In his spare time he enjoys travel, photography, and attending the symphony and ballet and the Berkeley Rep. In closing he said that, besides keeping him going, he also has the satisfaction of having given something back to the community where he has enjoyed living for a long time.
Perhaps you are wondering just what the Rescue One Foundation is. It was formed 33 years ago in order to raise money to purchase an ambulance for the Moraga Fire District, as well as the services of a paramedic. Moraga was the FIRST FIRE DISTRICT in No. California to provide such services!
In the past 33 years the Rescue One Foundation has donated over $307,000 worth of equipment and supplies to the Moraga-Orinda Fire District. It has paid for advanced training for EMTs to become paramedics, and it has also provided several pieces of specialized equipment. These include a battery-powered gurney, thermo imagers that allow a rescuer to find victims in dense smoke, and Life Paks. Life Paks measure multiple vital signs and then transmits the info to the hospital before the ambulance arrives there. Last, but not least, it provided Sparky, a remote controlled car used to teach children fire safety. These were all things the Fire District's budget could not have secured.
Linda Waldroup: Time to Write New Chapters
by Linda U. Foley
Like it or not, all good things must come to an end. The time has come for Linda Waldroup to say a wistful good bye to a successful 9–year stint as manager of the Moraga Library to focus her energies on family and her many interests.
Her well-versed career spanned retail in Berkeley to a host of libraries including Vallejo, El Cerrito, and Pleasant Hill. Eventually, Linda replaced Laura O'Donoghue who moved on to Deputy County Librarian.
Over time, Linda enhanced the library ambience by removing the spinner racks and creating separate spaces for children, teens, and adults. Linda selected the children's furniture funded by the Moraga Juniors and worked in tandem with artist Tom Matousek to create the children's mural, funded by the Moraga Rotary Club. From funds provided by the Friends of the Moraga Library, Linda chose the teen area furniture, and area rugs did the rest to create a "cozy" place.
Linda's contributions brought the SF Museum docent lectures series to our doorsteps and many other programs for adults and children alike. "Moraga has so many wonderful volunteers," she says. In particular, she refers to the Friends of the Moraga Library—under the direction of David Kruegel—who provide much of the funding for many of the programs, presented free to the public.
"This is a very caring community", says Linda recognizing the many contributions of the Kiwanis, Moraga Garden Club, Joan Bruzzone, Moraga Nursery, the Town of Moraga, and the Moraga Asian-American Club. "I've enjoyed working with all of them, particularly the Firehouse Liaison Meetings which is a unique and great platform to connect with other sections of the community".
While leaving a successful career is bittersweet, Linda anticipates having time to follow other interests. Besides hiking, 'birding', and gardening, she hopes to become a 'costumed' docent at the John Muir House in Martinez. A bigger endeavor will be to become involved in a Holocaust outreach program, particularly relative to the Kindertransport.
Her mild demeanor and pleasant smile will be missed by the many connections she had honed in our town. Happy trails!