A good neighbor called this week to tell me our old friend had passed. I shouldn't be surprised because she lived well over 100 years, but I guess I figured since she'd always been around she always would be. Like many things, we don't fully appreciate the best around us until they're gone.
She was truly a grand old lady — tall and strikingly beautiful with just the right mix of strength and grace. She was born and died on the same property near Bidwell Park. Her roots helped make Chico famous. However, she remained committed to her own neighborhood and especially to those families for whom she served faithfully as nanny and caregiver — the Sheltons, Raleys, Heaths and Dugans. My children learned to ride their bikes under her loving gaze and camped out in the safety of her yard.
A naturalist who always made time for squirrels and birds, she was a warm hug on a cold day and a cool breeze on a hot one. She told a fascinating story if you listened closely and she always waved at passerbys on their way to the park. Forever charitable, my friend fed hungry neighbors regularly, donated her clothes to locals each fall and donned a spiffy new set of duds every spring. I will miss the tantalizing tunes she often whistled.
Chico lost a real gem during the last storm. The majestic valley oak tree on El Monte Avenue has fallen. Goodbye, old girl. You will be missed.