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Moraga Citizen of the Year Recipients

Five years after the incorporation of Moraga in 1974, the town began an annual tradition of recognizing a citizen(s) who had made a significant contribution to the community.  

Nominations are solicited from all residents and then reviewed by sponsoring groups, which have varied over the years. Qualifications include being someone who has given their time, money, and energy to help make Moraga a vibrant community, and whose work and contribution helps bring the community together. The nominee cannot be a current elected member of the Town Council, School Board, or serve as an appointed Town Commissioner.  

Friends and family of the honoree as well as the community at large are invited to a festive banquet to honor its Citizen of the Year. Saint Mary’s College has often been the site of this popular event. Due to the pandemic there were no citizens honored in 2020 and 2021.

Below, we acknowledge each Moraga Citizen of the Year:

Wendell Baker (2024)

Wendell Baker is known to many in town as the unassuming co-founder of the nonprofit Moraga iKind. Moraga iKind was formed by Baker and two others in 2013 while he served as a scoutmaster.  Its message is to “promote civility and compassion in our community. Our mission is to promote kindness and courtesy, to foster courage and bravery, based on the belief that empathy and inclusion constitute the foundation on which community is built.”  Someone described Baker as one who “makes Moraga a safer, kinder place to live, work and play.  He is leaving a lasting impression on the children of Moraga . . .”

Cathy Chang (2023)

In her five years as a Moraga resident, Cathy has made decades-worth of contributions to the community and inspired everyone with her resolve, her kind heart, and can-do attitude. She is a Girl Scout leader and has led the Scouts in survival training.  In addition to working full-time as a single Mom of two, Cathy has been an active provider of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion education to both Moraga students and adults through curriculum, movie/ discussion nights and numerous library displays. Cathy has been a consistent champion of welcoming and inclusion of all people in this community.

Karen Reed (2022)

Karen was recognized for her broad involvement in the Moraga Park Foundation, where she held office within the Foundation, developed the Summer Concert Series, and did fundraising during the Pear Festival. She was an active Moraga Valley Kiwanian where she also held office, worked tirelessly on the Crab/Lobster Fest and the See’s Candy fundraiser. She was the organizer of the annual Pear Harvest and tree pruning, helped with the annual daffodil planting, and the Fourth of July festivities.

Fred Weil (2019)

Described as a person whose name is synonymous with Moraga and community service, Fred was named the 2019 Moraga Citizen of the Year. Some of his many public service contributions included serving on the Moraga-Orinda Fire District board, the Moraga School District governing board and the Acalanes Union High School District governing board. He was also a founding director of the Moraga Education Foundation, Soda Aquatic Center director, and member of the Town of Moraga Park District Study Committee.

Susan and Sam Sperry (2018)

​​This dynamic couple was honored for their multiple contributions to Moraga over several decades. Susan, born and raised just outside the borders of Moraga, taught in the Moraga School District for 50 years, and launched the historical tour of Moraga for 6th graders, and currently for 3rd graders. This program morphed into annual 3rd grade visits to the Moraga History Center. Sam was one of the founding board members of both the Moraga Education Foundation and the Moraga Community Foundation. Sam, a very active member of the Moraga Kiwanis Club, has been very instrumental in guiding the annual Citizen of the Year process.

Bobbie Preston (2017)

The choice of Barbara (Bobbie) Preston as Moraga’s Citizen of the Year was a natural. Bobbie, a woman who simply says yes to every opportunity she sees for making life better for others, was honored for her many and diverse contributions. Bobbie started several nonprofit groups in and around Moraga because she did not want to wait for someone else to do what had to be done. One of those projects was launching the bicycle-recycle program that has been going on in Moraga for over 20 years. In 2014 she tackled the fire blight that was sucking the life out of Moraga’s 100-year old pear trees. Bobbie’s most demanding and all-encompassing philanthropic effort was her involvement with “No One Left Behind,” where she organized a phenomenal network of mentors, tutors and donors to support Afghani and Iraqi people who had helped Americans during the U.S. presence in those countries.

Judy Dinkle (2016)

Judy Dinkle, quite an unassuming woman who said she feels more comfortable in the background, but in reality, she is a licensed general contractor, entrepreneur and volunteer extraordinaire. She couldn’t hide her achievements indefinitely. She was active in the Moraga Education Foundation, PTA, Moraga Junior Women’s Club, and the Moraga Park Foundation. She brought her expertise to the Hacienda de las Flores by creating the Hacienda Foundation, which focused on the preservation and public exposure of this historical Moraga treasure.

Graig Crossley (2015)

Service to others and strength of character were the two qualifiers that first came to mind when thinking of Graig Crossley. He’s led his life wanting to be useful to others, serving the community through his volunteer activities. First he was an educator in Richmond, as a Scout master. His civic involvement included 10 years on Moraga’s Town Council, serving twice as Mayor. Later he chaired the Climate Action Committee and then was active in the Moraga Commons Park, which included the construction of the Band Shell. He has always been active in the Moraga Valley Kiwanis Club.

Cliff Dochterman (2014)

Cliff Dochterman defined citizens, as opposed to residents, as people who take responsibility for themselves and for their community. The former university administrator lived by his principles. It’s impossible to talk about Cliff without mentioning Rotary International’s fight to end polio where he played a key role in this global effort to eradicate polio. He was active in Rotary for nearly 60 years, both locally and as its International President in 1992-1993.

Dick Olsen (2013)

Dick Olsen was a multi-talented gentleman who had served in many volunteer capacities for the town, starting in the ’70s as a founding member of Citizens Incorporating Moraga and serving on the Town’s first Design Review Board.  He also helped shape the Moraga Orinda Fire District by providing countless hours of knowledgeable, dedicated service to the town. Dick provided many years of service to the Moraga Valley Kiwanis Club.

Ellen Beans (2012)

There are different nicknames that suit Moraga’s 2012 Citizen of the Year, Ellen Beans. To many, she is ‘the quiet leader,’ because of the way she takes charge of things when the need arises without ever putting herself in the forefront. But to her longtime friend Edy Schwartz, her name should be Beans’ legal first name, Grace, “because this is the way she goes through life, does things and is with people,” Edy said. Ellen launched the Moraga Community Faire and continues to be its coordinator, writes the bi-weekly bulletin, The MCN Link, and is the Executive Director for Moraga Citizens Network (MCN).

Gordon Nathan (2011)

Gordon Nathan’s career, including his retirement, had been dedicated to safety and emergency preparedness. For more than 20 years, Gordon was a driving force for local emergency preparedness and medical response programs through the Lamorinda CERT program (Community Emergency Response Team) and Rescue One. His experience as a Moraga volunteer firefighter led him to being appointed to the Moraga Fire District Commission.

Edy Schwartz (2010)

Edy Schwartz and her family celebrated, along with hundreds of Moraga residents, her nomination as Moraga’s 2010 Citizen of the Year. Her dedication to the Town, her innovative strategies, and the energy she put into the Moraga Chamber of Commerce were some of the reasons cited in her nomination. She was also very instrumental in working with the community to save the Rheem Theatre from closing. When Edy passed away in 2018 after a year struggling with brain cancer, the town of Moraga lost not only a former Citizen of the Year, an activist, and a visionary, but also a woman of rare quality, a seeker of wisdom.

John Haffner (2009)

John Haffner was a member of the Moraga Parks and Recreation Foundation from 2001 to 2005, and its president in 2004. He served as a Parks and Recreation commissioner, and was involved with a number of other civic and service groups, including the Moraga Chamber of Commerce, Kiwanis Club of the Moraga Valley, the Moraga Citizens Network, Moraga Movers, the Moraga Historical Society and the Lafayette Veterans Memorial board. One notable contribution was John’s passion for making sure that the Pear Festival continued by taking on the leadership of this event for several years.

Ken Tom (2008)

Ken gave many years of service to Moraga. He was seen as a driving force of the Moraga Chamber of Commerce and its predecessor, the Moraga Business Association. In addition to this he had been a strong supporter of local disaster preparedness training and was also an active member of the Kiwanis Club of the Moraga Valley.

Mike Majchrzak (2007)

“Moraga is not a place on the map, it’s a place in the heart of people . . . it’s a place where cows are very important. It’s a place where the daffodils coming out in the springtime are just really awesome.” This is the essence of Mike, who originally wanted to do something about the speeding on Rheem Blvd. This led to him volunteering for the Design Review Board, followed by serving on the Planning Commission, and eventually on the Town Council. One of the accomplishments Mike has been most proud of is the establishment of the Moraga Orinda Fire District in 1997.

Julie and George Fisher (2006)

This couple who moved to Moraga in the 60’s did a lot to shape the town we live in today. Julie, as member of the Moraga Service League, helped raise $10,000 for the Town’s first ambulance. Later she joined the Rescue One Foundation that supports Moraga’s paramedic resources. While Julie served on the Park and Recreation Commission, the town acquired the Moraga Commons. George volunteered on the Moraga Park Authority which oversaw the formation of Moraga Parks and Open Space, including acquiring the property for Rancho Laguna Park. He fought tirelessly for the creation of the Lafayette-Moraga trail which had once been a railroad line into Moraga.

Ellis Langley (2005)

Ellis Langley’s long list of civic engagement includes the Kiwanis Club, Saint Vincent de Paul Society, Goodwill Industries, Saint Mary’s College, and the Moraga Park and Recreation Foundation. He helped organize the summer concert series and ran the concession booth when needed. He also volunteered with the Muffin People which served the needy in the region.

Dr. Ben Ho (2004)

Ben was lauded for more than 20 years of volunteering for the community of Moraga, the state of California, and the country. Ben, a board certified eye surgeon, is a retired captain of the U.S. Navy with more than 25 years of service. As a member of the Moraga Police Department Reserves, he held the title of Range Master for the officers, mentoring everyone in the department. He served on the Moraga-Orinda Fire District for 5 years, and trained the fire fighter/paramedics. Ho also had extensive involvement in training rescue dogs for Search and Rescue operations.

Bruce and Bea Cunningham (2003)

Bruce and Bea Cunningham were the first duo to be honored as Citizens of the Year. Bruce guided and groomed generations of current and future community leaders as a baseball coach, Boy Scout troop leader, and president and district governor for Kiwanis. Bea, as a member of the Moraga Women’s Society, served 3 terms as president. She was also vice president of the Moraga Garden Club and served as a Park and Recreation Commissioner also serving on that Foundation.

Dick Terry (2002)

It was the many small things that “Dr. T” did with great love that earned him the title of Citizen of the Year. Volunteering in his community was a given, despite his hectic schedule as a cardiologist. He had a lifelong commitment to Scouting from his own youth to his son’s participation. In addition to Scouting, Dick contributed countless hours to MVPC (Moraga Valley Presbyterian Church) as an impromptu counsellor and in his famous role as Moses. Most meaningful to him were the 5 trips he took as part of the annual Mexico House Building Project with MVPC youth.

Bob Reynolds (2001)

Friends and family traveled from all over to praise the selfless acts of Bob Reynolds. “For everything that has been mentioned, Bob has done 10 more things,” said Councilwoman Lori Landis. The umbrella groups under which Bob volunteered were the Moraga Kiwanis Club and the Moraga Park Foundation. Two significant projects that Bob spearheaded were the fundraising to construct bathrooms near the bandshell at the Commons Park and then build the Lamorinda Skate Park.

Cherie Grant (2000)

Cherie’s contributions to the town of Moraga were as numerous as her attributes. Among them were Town Council member and Mayor during the Palos Colorados meetings; vice chair of the Town’s 25th anniversary celebration; Grad Night organizer for Campolindo; and both President of the Park and Recreation Foundation and then Commissioner. One of her favorite projects was creating a laser show which drew roughly 4,000 people to the hills of Moraga Commons. She said “it was fun doing something that people really enjoyed in the town.”

Dan Rego (1999)

Although Dan insisted that he was just one facet in a highly involved and active community, many projects would never have gotten off the ground if it weren’t for his clever ideas and follow through. Dan’s service repertoire included the Moraga Historical Society, where he was instrumental in the campaign to build the History Center next to the Library. On the Park and Recreation Commission, he spearheaded the building of the Moraga Commons Bandshell. Dan also helped form the Lamorinda branch of the Sons in Retirement (SIRS) and became its first president.

Alice Hahn (1998)

Alice’s’ commitment to her community was a natural extension of her lifelong pursuit of excellence, which carried her from a working class childhood in Korea to a full scholarship at Fairleigh Dickinson University in New Jersey to a doctorate in chemistry at USC, and finally to Moraga. Alice found time to be a successful businesswoman, a school board member, a school volunteer, a member of the Bay Area’s Asian-American community, as well as a wife and mother. “She is always interested in doing what is in the best interest for the community. With a bat of an eye, she’s there!,” said Tom Ehrhorn, Campo Principal.

Al Dessayer (1997)

Al served as Mayor three times, and was on the Town Council from 1982 to 1994. Among other things, he helped establish the Town Casual Carpool, coached LMYA, worked with local Boy Scouts, and served on the board of directors for Contra Costa County Connection. For more than 20 years, Dessayer dedicated countless hours toward the interests of Moraga. “If everybody in town had my father’s enthusiasm, oh, what a town this would be” said his daughter Kathryn Whittaker.

Jim Sweeny (1996)

“One knows where Jim stands since he speaks his mind, but he does so with diplomatic courtesy”, said Brother Mel Anderson. Jim served two terms as Mayor, eight years on the Town Council, and 10 years in Kiwanis, making countless friends and followers. In addition, Jim was on the advisory board of the Hearst Art Gallery, a director at Goodwill Industries, and served on the Moraga Park and Recreation Foundation. “He defines what citizenship is all about. Whenever you need anything, you could always call on Jim Sweeny,” said Marv Wiegman.

Tom Macintosh (1995)

“Mac” was chosen for this honor for his more than twenty years as leader of Boy Scout Troop 212, guiding more than 250 boys to earn the rank of Eagle Scout. His guiding proverb was “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not turn from it.” When “Mac” assumed leadership of Troop 212 in Moraga, he thought it was a four- year commitment! He left a lasting impression on the lives of hundreds of young men.

Brother Mel Anderson (1994)

Having received his bachelor’s degree many years earlier, Brother Mel returned to Saint Mary’s College as president in 1969. He then initiated the enrollment of women students at SMC, helped select Moraga’s Police Chief, and served on Moraga’s Historical Society’s board for many years. He was also known for having auctioned off many of his gourmet dinners. “Brother Mel has shown that good leadership at the college has benefits for not just SMC but the entire community,” said Bettie Graves, Acalanes District Trustee. In his 28 years as Saint Mary’s president, Brother Mel expanded the college’s student population, added graduate programs and extended education, and focused on the quality of the college’s education.

Linda Borrelli (1993)

Linda Gong, Chamber of Commerce President, called Linda a “shining example of what community volunteerism is all about.” Linda Borrelli was one of the founders of the Rescue One Foundation, started in 1977 to support the Town’s fire and paramedic services. She served as a member of the fire district’s volunteer Board of Fire Commissioners. She was also president of the Moraga Service League and the Moraga Juniors. In addition, Linda was a member of the Park and Recreation Foundation, chaired the 4th of July picnic as well as the Round Up Western Dance and Party. For 8 years, Linda was the Executive Director of the Moraga Chamber of Commerce.

Kaye Yost (1992)

Kaye said helping build Camino Pablo Elementary School’s creative playground was the start of her community volunteer work. Linda Borrelli said of Kaye: “Kaye has been involved in every aspect of Moraga and Lamorinda youth programs and has dedicated herself to school issues for many years.” She helped to organize the Moraga Youth Involvement Committee (MYIC), a youth council, which she called one of her most satisfying achievements. In addition, she provided leadership in the Orinda-Moraga Girl Scout Association, Moraga Education Foundation, and numerous boards and organizations.

Bill Jasper (1991)

Bill Jasper proved himself to be a multi-talented Moraga volunteer. He proved himself to be an enthusiastic, organized, generous and fun-loving community activist. His first step in activism was joining the Moraga Safety Commission. After that, he became involved with the Traffic and Safety Commission. Later, he became the founding president of the Moraga Education Foundation. He also was an LMYA coach, and later became president of the Moraga School Board.

Al Simonsen (1990)

Al dedicated enormous time and energy to youth sports in Moraga, and as a result, touched the hearts of hundreds of students. He salvaged youth sports programs that had been tossed aside for lack of funds by drumming up enthusiasm, money, and volunteers. He served on the LMYA board in various capacities, was devoted to the Miramonte athletic programs, and supported girls athletics before it was popular. As a member of Moraga Rotary, Simonsen was involved with the annual field days held at JM for third to fifth graders.

Dr. Robert Walcott(1989)

A deep appreciation of nature and of youngsters was woven through all of Dr. Walcott’s involvements. Whether it was helping a prospective Eagle Scout earn his merit badges or practicing his profession of dentistry on a special-needs child, Walcott was reinforcing his belief that children are important and deserve the best adults have to offer. Dr. Walcott’s activities included Moraga Valley Rotary Club, Kiwanis, Boy Scouts, and president of Campolindo’s Band Boosters Parents Club.

Dr. Raymond Kan(1988)

Dr. Kam began his volunteerism shortly after he arrived in Moraga in 1966. While starting his optometry practice in town, Dr. Kam helped organize the Moraga Rotary Club, of which he became president in 1970. On top of that, he worked to establish the Parks for Moraga organization and served as president of the Moraga School Board. Dr. Kam wanted his sons to be involved in school activities, but he didn’t want to force them. Instead he attempted to motivate them by setting an example. He helped establish the Moraga Chamber of Commerce and served as its first president in 1979, and was its Business Person of the Year in 1986.

Margaret DePriester(1987)

Margaret was often called “Margaret DeBeautiful” because she inaugurated Moraga Beautiful Week which became an annual town-wide spring cleanup event. She began sitting on policy-making committees in the early 70’s. She was the only woman on the 8-member Community Association Planning Commission board. From there she ran for and won a seat on the Moraga Town Council where she served for 8 years, being Mayor twice. As a Council member she served on many county-wide committees. She was responsible for bringing the Chamber of Commerce into focus as a community catalyst for civic and business support. This active Moraga woman also served as President of the Lamorinda AAUW, Director of the League of Women Voters, and President of the Moraga Historical Society.

Maggie Skinner (1986)

Maggie may be small in stature but she surely was one of the giant volunteers in Moraga. For many years, she was an active member of the Friends of the Library and for 18 years, she worked on the library’s annual Book Faire. With the Moraga Historical Society, she led a number of volunteers in many facets of work with the Society’s archives, relics, and publications. Along with Brother Dennis, she was responsible for the planning and organization which led to the History Center being open to the public.

Bill Combs (1985)

Bill Combs was elected in November 1974 to serve on the first Moraga Town Council, serving 3 times as Mayor. Known as “a fiscal watchdog” on the Council, he estimated the Town carried over from one year to another about $1 million. Representing our town, Bill donated many hours with his expertise in finance. He was respected for his honesty, integrity, dedication, and ever present sense of humor. Bill brought a high degree of responsibility to his position as a leader of our town.

Brother Dennis Goodman (1984)

In this seemingly rootless suburban area, Brother Dennis made residents aware of its rich heritage. Known as “Mr. Historian”, he showed interest in the Rancho Laguna de los Colorados community as early as his student days at Saint Mary’s College. He shared his historical research with the Moraga Historical Society and the community, which benefited in many diverse ways. Brother Dennis traced and recorded the people and events of Moraga’s past which shaped Moraga’s present and gave form to Moraga’s future.

Bob Merritt 1983)

Bob Merritt was dubbed the “pediatrician” of the birth of the Town of Moraga in November 1974 because he headed the Citizens to Incorporate Moraga. “There were an awful lot of things to be done, so it made a lot of sense for me to be involved”, said Bob. Several years later, Bob was elected to the Moraga School Board where he served 2 four year terms, and was elected President twice. He liked the challenge of solving education problems creatively and with limited resources.

Mike Cory(1982)

Mike, sometimes called the founding father of modern Moraga, was its first mayor. A strong leader and decision maker, he was noted for an ability to listen to others and unflagging sense of humor. Brother Mel Anderson, President of Saint Mary’s College, spoke of Mike’s wisdom, sincerity, and devotion to family, friends, town, and country. Mike’s civic endeavors included the town’s incorporation in 1974, integrating the Moraga bus system into The Central Contra Costa Transit Authority, and serving as president of the Moraga Community Association.

Bill Diffenderfer(1981)

Bill’s volunteer activities range from youth to senior citizens, from recreation to service clubs, from church to community support groups. A few of his accomplishments was being President of the Rescue One board, and past presidents of the Hacienda Seniors, LMYA, and Friends of the Moraga Library. He was also on the Moraga Kiwanis Board. Working in tandem with Bill was his wife Katie who not only worked tirelessly in Moraga in many capacities, but encouraged Bill’s involvement.

Jerry Meyer(1980)

MY TOWN, says Jerry’s license plate. Ever since she and husband George moved to Moraga, she’s claimed Moraga as her own, a significant statement for someone who’d lived in 30 different homes. Although many people had not heard of Jerry because she did her work quietly behind the scenes, she did as much to shape Moraga as any one. Among her community involvements, Jerry was a founding director of the Friends of Moraga Library. Other contributions include Moraga Historical Society, Moraga Parents Club, Community Association, and the Moraga General Plan Goals and Policy Committee.

Barry Gross(1979)

Gross was on the first Town Council whose number one goal was to adopt the General Plan to preserve the semi-rural character of the community. Lawsuits, recalls, and referendums were threatened. However, Gross’s ability as a negotiator, mediator, and sense of humor helped accomplish this goal. One of his secrets was not in the art of compromise, because he knew that sometimes there were several other ways to accomplish the same goal. Barry was devoted to his family, his town, and enjoyed being in the arena.