Friday, July 31, 2009


Legendary football coach Larry Siemering, 98, dies

Former Santa Cruz High football coach Larry Siemering believed offense was all any football team needed. He died Monday at the age of 98

Santa Cruz County lost a football coaching legend Monday, when offensive-minded pioneer Larry Siemering died at Watsonville Community Hospital after suffering from a fall earlier that day at his Watsonville home. He was 98.
"He was just an outstanding man in every respect," said friend Joe Marvin, who coached with Siemering at Cabrillo College. "And highly respected by his players."
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Siemering was born in San Francisco in 1910 and raised in Lodi. He played baseball and football for the University of San Francisco and two seasons as center with the NFL's Boston Redskins [1935-36], now the Washington Redskins.
At 98, he was the oldest surviving pro football player.
Siemering made a name for himself everywhere he stepped foot.
He was practically royalty in Stockton, leading University of Pacific to an unbeaten 11-0 season in 1949. Siemering's .875 winning percentage is the highest in Pacific's 75-year football history. In his three-year tenure at UOP, he went 35-5-3 overall. The school stopped playing the sport in 1995.
Locally, Siemering served as head coach at Santa Cruz from 1956-58 and at Cabrillo from 1959-65. He coached Cabrillo's inaugural team in '59. He also coached the Seahawks golf team for a stint, stepping aside in 1976.
"He was a piece of work," said end Fred McPherson, who played for Siemering on the unbeaten 9-0 Santa Cruz football team in 1958 and on Cabrillo's first team. "He could really get into your head. He used a lot of psychology. He could get the players to work as a team together by knowing who to pick on. He would get the team to rally behind it."
After his NFL career, Siemering got into coaching, leading two San Joaquin Valley high schools. He began his coaching career at Manteca High. After that, he served as an assistant for the legendary Amos Alonzo Stagg at Pacific.
Marvin said Siemering worked double duty in 1943. While an assistant at UOP, he took up the head coaching position at Stockton High after the former head coach departed to serve in World War II. Siemering, Marvin said, coached Stockton's team during lunch hour and led them to the Valley Championship.
In 1946, after a third straight losing season, Stagg retired, opening the door for Siemering to take his place.
Siemering, a disciplinarian who loved offense, devised and implemented a complex offense at UOP. It was run-heavy and full of tricky options that set up a pass attack. His first UOP team went 10-1 in 1947.
He applied the same ideals at Santa Cruz.
"It was offense, offense and more offense," McPherson recalled of his days at Santa Cruz. "His belief was if you score all the time, you don't need defense. We never practiced defense."
Marvin, a football historian, marvels at the 575 points -- an average of 57.5 a game -- that Siemering's UOP team produced in 1949 with 5-foot-7, 165-pound quarterback Eddie LeBaron.
"That was unheard of at that time," Marvin said. "They were ranked 10th in the nation and they didn't go to a bowl game. No one wanted to fool around with little ol' College of the Pacific. LeBaron was a magician. It was dynamite.
"Siemering was tough. He was a hard-nosed coach -- the old school. He knew the game very well. He was a fundamental coach. He loved offense -- his team's showed that."
Siemering also coached at Arizona State University and was an assistant for the Washington Redskins and the Canadian Football League's Calgary Stampeders.
Said former Cabrillo football coach Steve Cox: "With him, it really wasn't an issue of what the other team did. It was what you did. The only thing you could control was who you were and how hard you worked."
The above article appeared was first published in the Santa Cruz Sentinel:

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Thursday, July 23, 2009


On this particular day, my father had to make a wood delivery in the town of Tricesimo (in Friuli). He was also of mind to stop there to negotiate some further business, so he asked my mother to go with him. Since his business would keep him there for awhile, he told her that he wanted her to take the carriage and oxen (that came with it) home after he unloaded the wood. Being very confident that she could do that, my mother agreed to go along.
Once in Tricesimo, my father unloaded the wood and a bicycle that he would use to ride back home. He gave my mother specific directions on how to get back home. (My father was not as confident as my mother about these things.) My mother told him not to worry and started the journey back home: two oxen, one carriage, and one middle aged Furlana.
Everything went well until they reached a fork in the road. Stopping the oxen, she thought and thought, trying very hard to remember which fork my father told her to take. She couldn't be quite sure, but she felt very confident that the road to the right was the one to take. Thus, she attempted to guide the oxen to the right. The oxen started to move, not to the right, but toward the road on the left.
Becoming impatient with the two animals, she struck them with her whip and screamed in Furlan, "Volte, Volte stopits demais". (Roughly translated: "Turn, turn you dumb oxen".) Try as she may, she couldn't make the oxen take the road to the right. She even got out of the carriage and tried to lead the oxen to the road on the right. The oxen refused to go that way.
At this point she gave up. She threw up her hands, uttered a prayer, "O Dio Mio, I don't know what to do. I am in your hands now", and let the two beautiful animals go their way.
Believe it or not - the two oxen took her straight home. They knew that the road on the left was the one to take all the time. Either that or they had no confidence in mother's ability to get them home.

Saturday, July 18, 2009


IVANO SAYS: This Remembrance for John was first published in the
Santa Cruz Sentinel:

John Colombini

A recitation of the Holy Rosary and a Mass of Christian Burial will take place on Sunday and Monday in Santa Cruz, for John Colombini, who passed away peacefully at his Santa Cruz home on July 15, with his loving family at his bedside. Born in Capannori Lucca, Italy, he was 89 years old. Mr. Colombini moved to the United States in 1936 and has been a resident of Santa Cruz County for the past 55 years. He served his country during WW II as a paratrooper with the US Army Air Corps, and saw action in the Pacific Theatre where he made numerous parachute jumps over Japan.
A well known and respected farmer on the north coast of Santa Cruz County, his career in agriculture where he farmed artichokes and Brussels sprouts spanned over 50 years. He first farmed in Pacifica and later brought his family to live on Wilder Ranch. John was a member of the Santa Cruz and San Mateo Farm Bureaus.
Mr. Colombini made many life long friends in the various organizations to which he belonged, including the Family of St. Joseph, The Sons of Italy, Santa Cruz Elks Lodge, The Italian Catholic Federation, Marconi Club, and Lucchesi nel Mondo. He was generous, kind and loving toward everyone he met. He had a contagious smile, sparkling blue eyes, and a strong handshake.
He was a long time parishioner of Holy Cross Catholic Church.
He is survived by his daughters and sons in-law, Diana and Giovanni Colombini, Sandi and Claudio Locatelli, his son Albert Colombini, his five beloved grandchildren, Freddy Colombini of Italy, Cristina, Nicolas, and Emilia Locatelli and Erik Colombini all of Santa Cruz. He also leaves his younger brother, Jimmy Colombini of Santa Cruz and several nieces, nephews, cousins, and loving friends. The Colombini Family would especially like to thank and recognize his caregivers: Ana Ramos, Luis Salazar, Jorge Acosta, and the wonderful staff of Heartland Hospice, whose kindness we will be forever grateful.
Mr. Colombini was preceded in death by his loving wife of 45 years, Olga Colombini, his parents, Ottavio and Emilia Colombini and his older brother, Bart Colombini.
Friends may pay their respects at Benito and Azzaro Pacific Gardens Chapel on Sunday, July 19, from 12 noon until 5 p.m. The recitation of the rosary will begin at 7 p.m. at Holy Cross Church 126 High Street in Santa Cruz on Sunday evening, July 19, 2009. The mass will be celebrated at the church on Monday morning July 20, 2009 beginning at 11:00 a.m. He will be laid to rest at Holy Cross Mausoleum 2271 7th Ave. in Santa Cruz beside his beloved wife Olga, immediately following the mass. Any kind acts of charity may be made in his memory to Sons of Italy Lodge 1992/ Scholarship: 108 Ridgeview Court, Santa Cruz 95060.
IVANO SAYS (CONT'D): John and his brother Bart were well known 'ranceri' . The word rancere or ranceri (pl) was (is) reserved for the Italians who farmed "su per la costa". When asked what our occupation up the coast was, my father Bronco and/or my mother Valentina would answer "Siamo ranceri". (We are ranchers.) I first became aware of the Colombini brothers when they first moved to the Wilder Ranch (now a State Park). Later, when I was Exalted Ruler of the Santa Cruz Elks, I would see them often at the Lodge. Now they have both crossed "Il Ultimo Ponte" to join other 'Ranceri" who have gone before them.
Addio, John and Bart.

Thursday, July 16, 2009


IVANO SAYS: Over the past year or so, I have been selling/signing books at the Guglielmo Winery in Morgan Hill. There I have met many people who do not have close family ties to the North Coast of Santa Cruz. To my pleasant surprise, I found that they are very much interested in the La Nostra Costa Story. Nannette Morgan is one such person.
Dear Signore Comelli!
I know you won't remember me but I met you at Guglielmo's Cork Equity on 8/8/08 (!) and bought your wonderful book. You were so kind to autograph it for my mom (who wasn't with me at the event) after we had talked about my Swiss family (from the Lago Maggiore region of Switzerland) who settled in Salinas and other parts of Monterey Co. My maternal great grandfather had a saloon and wine bottling co in Salinas on Main St. We talked about this. Buying your book was the best gift I've probably ever given my mom in the past recent years. She was thrilled with the autograph and I believe read it in 2 days! (She was a voracious reader). We would talk over the phone about events in the book each evening (over "un bicchiere di vino"). I just started reading the book myself, having only read a few pages, (Introduzione, etc.) before giving it to her..... I was so excited for her to have it. I can't tell you how many times she thanked me for the book (and believe me, I gave her many gifts treasured by her over the last 50 some years).
Anyway, I love your book. You are a very talented writer and even though I was a youngin' going to Salinas and Monterey to see our Swiss relatives (we are also Irish and Scottish), I feel like I'm reliving my youth reading your book.
(The photos of) Serafina's and your parents' house looks like our cousin's/godparent's house on Main St in Salinas (still standing). I know Davenport, San Gregorio etc. well because as an adult I used to do Dressage at a horse ranch in San Gregorio. Of course, being a native San Franciscan and my Irish-Scottish descended maternal grandmother being raise in North Beach ( MY favorite part of SF), I can relate to SO much in your book.
I'm so thankful that you wrote this. I hope to run into you again at Guglielmo's sometime. I enjoyed speaking with you and your wife too. Unfortunately my mom passed away peacefully and unexpectedly on 11/2/08. I only wish that I had read your book before then because I could have asked her some questions about the coast.
One question I have is about the old Swiss Hotel in Santa Cruz. Who owned it and were they from the Lago Maggiore area? My great grandpa came from Val Versasca in that area.
My mom and I made a trip there while in Italy and even though our Swiss -Salinas relatives warned us not to bother because folks there weren't the friendliest, we did so anyway, riding the Postal Bus. Well we not only got to one of the villages but we also met descendants of my great grandpa's saloon partner. Would you believe it? It happen to be a day when they weren't open. Guess what? They wouldn't even offer us a glass of water (we were hoping for a glass of vino..... a tradition in OUR family if visitors come). The lady even knew who we were talking about. As you would say, "Porca la miseria!!"

Anyway, thanks for listening to my thank you note. If you have information on the Swiss Hotel, I'd love to hear about it. Buona fortuna, Nannette


I requested that Nannette send me further info on her family. She added the following and also sent me the photo above of herself, Mom Phyllis Frolli Morgan and cousin Michael.

My great grandfather who owned the saloon in Salinas was named Domingo Frolli. And interestingly, our family personal vocabulary called anyone that was Swiss from that or nearby areas in Switzerland "versasca" -- roughly meaning "paisano". Also you'll delight in knowing that a staple (not every day of course) in my family was and is polenta. This was a staple of that area of Switzerland and also the Piemonte area of Italy (which borders the Lago Maggiore area).
My relatives in Salinas actually had a special polenta pot. One of the cousins, Enos Frolli, was an excellent cook but people would complain that dinner took too long to get to the table at family gatherings. Apparently, Enos embodied the saying "I like to cook with wine; sometimes I even put a little in the food!" (As an aside, I loved the story in the book about the cellar where the wine was kept. Growing up in Millbrae we had a dear Italian neighbor, Joe Turla. He used to make his own wine (much later he bought the wine). He always kept it in a little room in the garage which was under the house. When we went to visit, my grandpa and grandmother and later my mom and I, would sit in the cool garage and enjoy a glass of vino and chew the fat together.

My other family members who lived in Salinas were the Martella family. Their house on North Main is still there. In fact, at one point about 20 years ago, the lane behind them and the house, which runs parallel to Main, was renamed Martella Street (or Avenue). Elmer Martella owned the old drugstore on Gabilan Street in Salinas (he was the pharmacist). I remember as a very young girl going down to Salinas for the "Big Week"(The Rodeo). My maternal grandpa, Winfred Romeo Frolli (his dad was Domingo) would tell us all the stuff going on, while we sat on cousin Elmer's balcony (2nd floor of the drugstore), and watch the pre-rodeo parade.

I mention all the above as an interesting parallel of our families' histories in the Monterey area. I actually have all the old tin-type photos of the saloon, etc. as well as old year books from Salinas High School etc. where my grandpa went. Although a few years older, he knew John Steinbeck quite well. Family history has it that grandpa sold young John his paper route! I think that's why your book resonates so much with me. I feel as though I am following part of "my" family history!Some day I will be organizing all these photos and probably donate some to the Salinas historical society.
Again, Mille grazie,

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Tuesday, July 07, 2009


IVANO SAYS: Len Klempnauer alerted me to article below which was first published in the Santa Cruz Sentinel: Contact information for the NICHOLAS PAGNINI MERMORIAL FUND can be found at the end of the article.

Nicholas Pagnini: Grocery store owner, fire chief, coach was 'unofficial mayor' of Felton
By Emily Nord - Sentinel correspondent
Posted: 07/07/2009 06:18:26 AM PDT (Santa Cruz High School Photo added)

Nick Pagnini always had a lot on his plate, but to him, everything was too delicious to pass up.
Grocery store owner, fire chief, high school football coach, mentor, hero, husband and father Nicholas Roy Pagnini died June 6 after an eight-year battle with cancer.
As a lifelong resident of Felton, Pagnini was known for giving his all to his family and the community.
"He was such a great man, he was so kind and generous," said wife Beverly Pagnini. "He always gave 100 percent to everyone."
Nicholas Pagnini was born Aug. 4, 1936, at Hanley Hospital in Santa Cruz to Catherine and Roy Pagnini. His parents raised Pagnini in Felton, where Roy owned and operated Roy's grocery store since 1934.
He attended Santa Cruz High School where he met his future wife and pursued his passion for surfing.
After he graduated all-CCAL in football in 1954, Pagnini attended Hartnell College and worked for the California Department of Forestry. In 1955, he moved to Hawaii and surfed every day. Later that year, he moved back to California and attended Orange Coast Junior College while working at Disneyland.
In 1956, Pagnini enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps, attaining the rank of sergeant. After three years of service, he came back to his hometown of Felton to work at Roy's and marry Beverly at St. John's Catholic Church in 1959.
Pagnini took over the family business when his father died in 1976. The store, and Pagnini himself, became an institution in the community. For his high energy and kindness, his legions of customers named him the unofficial "mayor of Felton," and he was awarded SLV's Man of the Year in 1979.

In addition to running the store, Pagnini joined the Zayante Fire Department where he was an EMT and captain, later becoming Assistant Battalion Chief. Pagnini's experience at the department and dedication to the community made him a key player in the rescue operation during the floods of 1982.
"He is the moral compass for this organization," said Zayante Fire Chief Jeff Maxwell. "He was a great leader because he supported every individual. He was always there to give us advice and directions because he wanted the best for everyone."
An avid sports fan, Pagnini began coaching freshmen football at San Lorenzo Valley High School and was president of the Booster's Club. In 2006, Pagnini was inducted into the SLVHS Hall of Fame as an honorary member for his services to the school.
In 1990, Pagnini sold Roy's to good friend Bob Locatelli, who continues to run the store as New Leaf today. Pagnini remained active in his job with the fire department, the school, worked at the Trout Farm for a few years and as a devoted family man.
In his rare spare time, Nick loved to spend time with his family in Northstar resort in California where they would swim in the summer and ski in the winter. He liked to watch classic movies, listen to Hawaiian music, try new restaurants and tell stories of San Lorenzo Valley's history to his family and friends.
Pagnini is survived by his wife Beverly, and two daughters Dana Pagnini and Jennifer Pagnini-Gedymin.

Nicholas Pagnini Memorial Fund

The Nicholas Pagnini Memorial Fund was established to help local high school athletes and honor the memory of Nicholas Pagnini. To donate, make a check out to the Nicholas Pagnini Memorial Fund and send it to the Pagnini family, P.O. Box 336, Felton, CA 95018.

Saturday, July 04, 2009


IVANO SAYS: I searched the "La Nostra Costa" photo archives for a suitable photo to commemorate our Independence Day. None was more appropriate than the photo of Lou Moro standing before the American Flags. A true American who truly love his Country.
Happy Fourth of July Everybody.
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