Solano County has long been a place where its inhabitants give back to their communities. But it could be argued that among the special people who have given the most for the longest time, Lee and Virginia Kloppenburg can be counted. That is why the NorthBay Guild is nominating them for a Tribute to Seniors honor.
The Kloppenburgs began their volunteer efforts for NorthBay “back in the day.”
“We joined the Guild in the very beginning. That’s when the women had to wear pink,” Virginia said in a tone obviously indicating that pink is not her favorite color. “I think we’ve done just about everything—working in the gift shop and the thrift store. The NorthBay Guild has always been a place where we can help with the knowledge we’ve gained over the years, particularly with the thrift items.”
Listening to the story of Virginia’s life is like opening a history book about Vacaville and Solano County. She proudly traces her lineage all the way back to Juan Felipe Peña, one of the founding fathers of the area. With her lively, intelligent eyes, ready smile and legendary no-nonsense demeanor, Virginia reflects on her growing up years in Vacaville.
“We were poor,” she says matter-of-factly. “I can remember cutting apricots and peaches and picking prunes. It was hard work. But it was fun growing up in this town, especially after meeting this old man,” she says, pointing to her husband, Lee, and giving him an affectionate poke. “Yeah,” Lee jokes back. “When I met you there were only about four girls in Vacaville.” His laughing wife fires back: “He took one look at me and chased me all over town!”
Lee, in the Air Force and stationed in Fairfield in the ’50s, was born in Los Angeles and wanted to move with Virginia to his hometown. “We tried it for awhile, but she got too homesick,” he recalls. “We came back to Vacaville and have lived here ever since.”
The Kloppenburgs, who married in 1954, opened a second-hand store in Vacaville with their name on the shingle. Not knowing anything about the business, but eager to learn and filled with ambition and energy, they would purchase their wares at an auction house in San Francisco and bring them back to sell. The shop first featured everything from flapper dresses to furnishings and art, all mainly from the 1920s. As their business began to thrive, so did the Kloppenburgs’ determination to leave their community a little better than they found it. Their volunteer work included participation in Fiesta Days, helping with Vacaville’s annual parade, and of course, many years of helping NorthBay’s Guild.
“I remember as a child asking my parents why they volunteered so much,” said their daughter Kim Clary, a first-grade teacher at Sierra Vista School in Vacaville and an active volunteer as well. “They explained to me that they were giving back to the community that was supporting them. They have always been generous with their time and money and you can see the evidence of their efforts just about anywhere you look in our town and county. NorthBay’s Guild is a great example.”
“Lee and Virginia richly deserve to be singled out for this honor,” says Patricia Dennis, president of the Guild. “Volunteers like them are so rare, and we are grateful for their contributions and continue to reap the benefits of their generosity.”
For now, the Kloppenburgs are taking time out. Lee has had a series of health problems and Virginia is taking care of him in their beautiful 1903 Buck Avenue home, which is filled with antique furniture, ornately framed family pictures, music boxes and many other treasures they either traded or purchased over the years.
“Lee has had open heart surgery, an aneurysm, a stroke and a blood clot, all since January,” she explains. “But we’ll be back to volunteer with the Guild. Getting involved actually helps you evolve. We’ll just keep on helping out. We volunteer because we really like it—and we’re a pretty good team!”
SIDEBAR QUOTE NorthBay Hospital Guild nominated Lee and Virginia Kloppenburg for Vacaville’s Tribute to Seniors award. The Kloppenburgs will be among a number of local seniors being honored by the city on Oct. 7, 2009, at the Vacaville Performing Arts Theater. What follows is the Guild’s nomination.
Tribute to Seniors
Cardiologist Dr. Milind Dhond will be the featured speaker at Vacaville’s 13th Annual Tribute to Seniors celebration.
The annual event puts a spotlight on the accomplishments and contributions of local seniors in the community.
Admission is free for the celebration, which will run from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 7, at the Ulatis Community Center.
Dr. Dhond will speak at 11 a.m. on the latest technologies for peripheral arterial disease.
In addition to Dr. Dhond’s medical presentation, there will also be a business expo, geared toward seniors, a fashion show and entertainment. Health information and a nonprofit resources table are also planned. Free flu shots will be offered to the first 200 visitors to the NorthBay Healthcare booth starting at 10 a.m.
Among the seniors being honored for outstanding achievement at this year’s event are NorthBay Guild volunteers Lee and Virginia Kloppenburg.