Selling the old family home is hard -- especially when it is a stunning Victorian on Second Street -- but it helps when the buyer is the young family across the street.
"I'm very, very happy for them," said Cheryl Benson, who moved into the house in 1985 with her husband John and their young daughters, Sydne and Jordon.
John, 73, died one year ago, and Cheryl decided to move away from the daily memories and downsize, not an easy task. The historic two-story home was filled with Benson's accumulations of a lifetime including treasures from her mother's home in Wisconsin.
"I got a lot from my mom's house," Benson said. "She had great taste. John and I drove there, packed up a van and drove cross country. When he drove up the driveway he said, 'You're on your own. Find a place for it.' And I did."
The Second Street house, a Colonial Revival with 12-foot ceilings and many of its original features, was built in 1893 for Pleasanton pioneer Joseph Arendt on the corner of Second Street and what is now Arendt Way. It has 5,000 square feet including the full basement and is situated on two-and-a-half city lots resplendent with towering palm trees and lush foliage. The backyard has a swimming pool and cabana.
Benson grew up in Wisconsin and after high school traveled by train for a two-week vacation with an aunt and uncle in Fremont. She ended up staying and attending San Jose State College, getting an apartment nearby. She met John while grocery shopping at Lucky.
"He was stocking milk, and he looked at me with a twinkle in his eye that he always had," she recalled. "May of 1967 was our first date. We went to his roommate's graduation party."
"I turned 21 in September of 1968, then he gave me an engagement ring," she remembered.
After college, she was a flight attendant for United Airlines, working out of Chicago for six months, then transferring to San Francisco International Airport. The couple did a lot of traveling before they came to Pleasanton in 1974 for John to manage the Hungry Hunter restaurant on Hopyard, and Cheryl worked as a cocktail waitress.
"Then it was cows," Benson said with a laugh. "We sat in the parking lot -- a slab of cement -- and said, 'Where the heck are we?'"
They bought a home in the Valley Trails neighborhood and had two daughters, then moved to their first home on Second Street when Sydne and Jordon were 7 and 5, she said. They loved the location and the house.
Next door was an abandoned old Victorian that the little girls found kind of creepy. But it had been brought up to code and had a swimming pool, so when it went on the market a few years later, the Bensons checked it out, found it beautiful and made the move.
The neighborhood was wonderful for raising children as more families moved in, Benson said.
"Second Street is wide and long, and they can ride bikes," she noted.
Benson worked at East Bay Flower Co. in Danville for a long time, then at Towne Center Books for 16 years.
"I'm a book reader so that was very convenient," she said.
She also took years of dance classes at the Veterans Memorial Building, swam 50 laps a day and played racquetball.
John Benson become an advertising photographer with a studio in San Francisco, and they continued to enjoy their home as the girls left and had their own families.
"John and I did all the fun work outside, planted flowers all the time," Cheryl Benson said. "We did of lot of work inside and out and had a ball."
But then John became ill and died Oct. 22, 2019.
"John and I lived there for 35 years in that house -- I didn't want to be by myself with all the memories," Cheryl Benson said. "And it was too big."
But she did not want to leave downtown Pleasanton. After searching with her daughters she settled on an apartment on the other side of Main Street nearer the library.
"It's quiet and there's a little yard on the side," Benson said.
She never did put up a for-sale sign on her old home and disliked when people came to look at the house and talked about changing things.
Meanwhile the Matt and Tina Gaidos family who had four children were renting the house across the street. They had become friends and often visited to swim.
"Now they came across the street and bought our house," Benson said. "The four kids were so excited. They went upstairs and picked out their rooms. They can still play on the street with all their friends."
Sydne and her children have moved into the Gaidos family's former Second Street rental while her military husband is serving in Korea, so Cheryl often takes the short, pleasant walk through downtown to visit her. Jordon and her family live near the fairgrounds, so they are all near one another.
As Benson mourns and copes with the restraints due to the pandemic, she reflects on the blessings in her life, living by her daughters and their families.
"I have to go with the flow right now, and think positive for myself," she said.
The house has been part of three historic Pleasanton homes tours, Benson said. The Pleasanton Weekly featured it in a Home & Garden special section in 2003 and noted its two porches, one near the front door and the other by the kitchen.
"The front porch is for morning coffee," Benson was quoted as saying, "and the side porch is for my afternoon reading."
More recently she liked to sit on the side porch and listen to music.
"That became my perch," she said. "People would come and talk."
The buyers have invited her to use the porch any time.
"Matt and Tina said, 'Your perch is there for you,'" Benson said. "I walk, and then I go in the side gate on Arendt and up the steps."
"I'm very blessed to have lived in Pleasanton all this time," she added.