Oakmont turns 50 years young
Published: Saturday, September 7, 2013 at 5:35 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, September 7, 2013 at 5:52 p.m.
Members of the Oakmont Lanes Wii Bowling league waved happily from a golf cart Saturday morning, bucking the stereotypes that the elderly aren't athletic or tech-savvy, as Oakmont residents celebrated the community's 50th anniversary with a parade.
The variety of clubs on display — everyone from “Pickle Ball” players and baton twirlers to dramatic play readers — showed that this retirement community is anything but retiring.
“There are a lot of things going on here,” said Christian van den Berghe, 75, a Wii bowling player and retired linguistics professor from Santa Clara University. “It's not just a retiring community with people waiting to die.”
Indeed, residents and their friends who lined Oakmont Drive to watch the swift-moving parade referred to the community nestled in Sonoma Valley as a place that Baby Boomers seek out not just to retire, but also to party.
“If you run out of things to do here, there's something seriously wrong with you,” said Helen Glover, 66, a member of the “Single Boomers” club and retired teacher who frequents yoga classes. “People who are very active are attracted to this place because of all the golf clubs and the singing clubs.”
Henry Trione, the retired businessman and philanthropist, was the grand marshal of the parade. He waved warmly to the crowd from a lime-green convertible as residents called out their thanks for his gifts to the community, such as his donation of the land that became Annadel State Park, which abuts Oakmont.
Trione lets Oakmont residents walk their dogs off-leash on the broad, green lawn of the Wine Country Polo Club, as long as they clean up after their furry friends, he said.
“It's a very popular dog park when the horses are not around,” Trione said. “Oakmont is as fine a community as we can find. It's good that it's a part of Santa Rosa.”
In the community of about 4,400 residents, there are more than 125 activity clubs, all organized by volunteers, said Susan Millar, co-chairman of events at Oakmont. One retired filmmaker runs a popular documentary screening club. Political clubs and alumni groups from UC Berkeley and Stanford University are popular in the quiet community with many modest homes.
Residents held parasols and wore broad-rimmed sun hats as politicians and Oakmont residents drove by.
Rep. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, and several local politicians, including Santa Rosa City Council members Julie Combs, Ernesto Olivares and Gary Wysocky, rode floats and shook hands at the parade, while Supervisor Susan Gorin rode in on a bicycle, said Sally Risberg, parade organizer.
“I think we're important. There are a lot of votes here,” Risberg said. “We're a high-voting group.”
As the crowds quickly dispersed after the parade, Judy Burness, 71, rode her Trek townie bike home, hauling a collapsible picnic table on the back rack.
“I was absolutely delighted to see so many people along the route as the parade went by,” Burness said. “Everyone was smiling and having a lot of fun.”
“Oakmont is a wonderful community,” said Ellen Butterman, 82, who watched the parade with a friend. “We just lost our husbands, and I'd be lost without Oakmont and all the cultural activities.”
The former New Yorker, who worked in high-end retail, frequents the line dancing and the lifelong learning classes.
“There are people who are 100 who are coming to the activities,” Butterman said. “It's wonderful. We are just reliving our youth.”
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