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About this blog: I am a native of Alameda County, grew up in Pleasanton and currently live in the house I grew up in that is more than 100 years old. I spent 39 years in the daily newspaper business and wrote a column for more than 25 years in add...  (More)

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How's this for an engagement offer?

Uploaded: Mar 1, 2016
Dan Ashton spoke like anything but a grieving husband when he shared memories of his late wife, Barbara, at her memorial service last week.
He started out by giving a bit of his personal history: World War II vet, active duty reserve as Naval Ensign, graduate student at Oregon State and then a job at a paper mill. He bought a half-acre property with river frontage and build himself, for cash a 200-square-foot two-room home. As his relationship with Barbara deepened, she helped decorate the homestead (no indoor plumbing or electricity at the start), he finally asked her to marry him.
He related at the audience at Centerpointe Church that he gave her a simple choice: an engagement ring or he would finish the septic field (which meant indoor plumbing). Barbara opted for the practical choice—but Dan said he procrastinated so there was no indoor plumbing when Barbara got pregnant with their first child.
After she delivered and was staying with her mother—she laid down the law—no septic field, no wife and baby at home. Dan got busy.
He then told the crowd how they gave the 10x10 bedroom to the baby and they slept outside under a tarp in the summer and then in the carport, with temporary walls, during the winter.
Barbara clearly loved the outdoors and knew how to adapt—such as the time when Dan took off on a 67-day business trip to open a new mill, leaving her at home with three kids and no car because she didn’t drive. Their son eventually took care of that by giving his mom money for the driving lessons.
Barbara lived a life serving others—she died at 88 after she and Dan had been married for 64 years. (I do not normally write about memorial services, but the septic tank deal was just too funny).


Speaking of memorial services, I do spend a fair bit of time skimming the obituaries these days—it goes with having spent more than six decades on this globe. When my family moved to Pleasanton, it was a tiny town of about 3,000 poised to grow significantly. A few years earlier, Livermore had hit a growth spurt largely driven by the establishment of what is now Lawrence Livermore National Lab (the Rad Lab in those days) and Sandia National Laboratories, Livermore site.
Advancing through public schools, by the time I got to Amador Valley it has started to grow along with the community. Dublin High opened a year after I graduated with Foothill to follow a few years later. That meant an influx of new teachers to join those who had been there for years.
The late Rich Del Tredici, one of the truly nice people you will ever meet, taught me freshman English during his first teaching year. One of the coaches and administrators I encountered in those days was Robert (Bob) Hagler. For some reason—my family has a proclivity to nickname people—I always thought of him as “Uncle Bob.” No good reason, although I really did have an Uncle Bob back in Boston.
Reading the Sunday obits, I noted that Bob went home to be with Jesus Feb. 6 and a memorial service is this Sunday at 1 pm in the St. Mary’s College chapel. The obit writer could have used an editor because there was no date of birth or age, but, given I knew Bob as an adult in the mid-1960s, it’s likely he was 80-plus.
As a sophomore football player, I had my best practice ever with Bob coaching me in the middle of the defensive line. I loved watching Bob coach the basketball team—he had a perpetually hoarse voice which made him sound like Alex Hanum, the coach of the Golden State Warriors during those days. During Bob’s coaching years, Amador played at the Fairgrounds in the exhibition hall because Amador did not have a suitable gym.
Bob moved over to Dublin High and into administration and finished up his career with a number of successful years as superintendent of the Castro Valley school district. In addition to his unique voice and competitive style, I remember his gray Fastback Ford Mustang fastback from the 1960s—a car he drove for many years.
The side of Bob I am sorry not to have known was his walk with the Lord—he was a member of Hillside Covenant Church. Incidentally, note to family: meeting Bob in 1964, I never recall him with the head of hair showing in the photo in the paper.

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