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SMITH: Why Gladys lunched at the Green Music Center

Published: Saturday, October 27, 2012 at 3:45 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, October 27, 2012 at 3:45 p.m.

You'll never guess where a sweet Santa Rosa woman named Gladys Bates, at 83 a not-quite retired car dealership office staffer, lunched the other day.

Gladys was guest of honor at a small, elegant repast on the second-floor balcony of Weill Hall at the Green Music Center. Her hosts were Sonoma State University President Ruben Armiñana and his wife, Marne Olson. Gladys' companion and fellow honoree was Linda Burille, a vice president and trust officer with Exchange Bank.

Armiñana invited Gladys up onto the balcony to thank her for the gift of the money to build it. How the career clerical worker came to be responsible for deciding where to donate millions for the betterment of Sonoma County is one of my favorite stories ever.

In 1958, 54 years ago, Gladys took a job in the service department of the G.K. Hardt Lincoln-Mercury dealership on Santa Rosa Avenue. Precise and dependable, she quickly won the trust of Hardt, a playful, brilliant businessman who emigrated to America from East Prussia as a boy and couldn't have loved Sonoma County more were he a native son.

Then the king of Santa Rosa's car dealers, Hardt invested his profits in land and local philanthropy. Before he died in 2004 at age 86, he asked Gladys to sell his properties and use the assets to help local schools, service agencies and arts-and-culture venues to do more good.

Eight years later, Gladys and Linda have sold holdings and donated more than $6 million to causes they believe Hardt would heartily approve.

Among the beneficiaries that have used the gifts to build facilities or expand services are Montgomery and Santa Rosa high schools, Children's Village, Redwood Empire Food Bank, California Parenting Institute, 6th Street Playhouse, Petaluma Arts Council, Assistance Dog Institute, SRJC's Shone Farm, Salvation Army, Meals on Wheels and the Earle Baum Center of the Blind.

Just recently, Gladys and Linda sold the South A Street property on which The Cookhouse diner is located to Evelyn Cheatham, founder of the marvelous Worth our Weight culinary apprentice program that teaches work and life skills to young people seeking direction.

That deal leaves one final Hardt property to sell, a parcel on Petaluma Hill Road. Gladys and Linda look forward to finding the ideal recipients for donations from the proceeds of that transaction and the sale of the Cookhouse property.

The pair utterly enjoyed the unusual luncheon up on the Green Center balcony they underwrote with a $1.3 million gift from the Hardt foundation. As they drove back to Santa Rosa, Gladys remarked to Linda, “I think G.K. would be proud.”

STATION BREAK: Hear that? Sonoma County sounds different today.

Jim Grady's not on the airwaves, waxing about the humor and irony in life and letting folks hype garage sales.

Grady has taken leave from KZST, which wisely hired him on as the popular FM station's weekend morning guy after he and KSRO parted ways in 2004. He'd started at KSRO in 1960.

He and his alter ego, Shamus O'Grady, turned 77 on Friday but didn't feel up to much partying. Jim says he needs to stay home a while with his wife, Carol, and tend to “a few broken parts in the old boy.”

STICKS & STONES: It's been almost 20 years since Judge Arnie Rosenfield suggested to a reporter it would be nice, given the constant talk of violence in the courts and media and culture, if we'd dedicate more time to teaching and pursuing non-violence.

People agreed with him and MOVES (Minimizing Occurrences of Violence in Everyday Society) was born. Rosenfield, who's now retired, spoke the other day at a luncheon at which MOVES presented an award to Verity, the rape crisis and counseling center, for its efforts to prevent violence.

At one point Rosenfield spoke of the need to “combat” violence, then apologized. Though he hadn't hurt anyone, isn't it true that we could do much better at holstering violent words?

(Chris Smith is at 521-5211 and chris.smith@pressdemocrat.com.)

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