"AROUND SUNOL" by VICTORIA CHRISTIAN


January 12, 2004

In 1905, when James Hughes came out from New York to visit his Aunt Maggie in San Francisco, he wasn't expecting to be a part of an historical event. Shortly thereafter the great quake of 1906 struck the City and armed with his little blue notebook James kept a day-by-day diary of what was happening in the City during the aftermath. He recorded facts that must have been an absolute adventure for a young 15 year old boy; Van Ness Blvd. being dynamited to stop the raging, out of control fires and camping with his family in Golden Gate Park. Finally, weary of the destruction that lay before them, the family boarded a ferry to cross the bay, then traveled by train "to begin their life here" in Sunol.

James finally returned to New York and on July 27, 1947 married Grace Heath. Grace was born on October 27, 1905 in Chaumont, NY. Grace had been previously married to Chester Lashway, who fathered a son, Al Lashway. She worked as a clerk at McCarthy's Cigar store, which was also a soda fountain and newspaper stand, and then as a manager for 14 years at Traver's Cigar Store in the Paddock Arcade in Watertown, NY. According to Grace's son, Al, she was a "very hard worker, sometimes working 13 hours a day for 6 days a week".

James Hughes was chief storekeeper at the Northern New York Division of the New York Central Railroad and after 42 years of service, retired on September 30, 1955. Two days later James and Grace left Watertown bound for their Aunt Maggie's home in Sunol.

After the Hughes family moved from San Francisco, they acquired a substantial amount of property in Sunol. Their first home, which still stands on Main Street, was built in 1907. When James and Grace arrived in Sunol they found their Aunt Maggie living in a nursing home, but immediately brought her home to care for her there. Aunt Maggie was very grateful to Grace for taking good care of her in her last years of life and when she passed away she left the property she owned in Sunol to Grace and James.

The current property consists of the main house, two smaller cottages in the back, a tank house and an additional home that was converted into a cafe. But Grace always said that Al owned the front porch because whenever he visited her he would always go and sit out there.

"She always liked people around her to talk with and talk to and for years she went across the road at noontime to the cafe when the girls owned it, Char and Lil. The place was always packed so she would go over to help", said Al.

After James died on Oct. 4, 1966, Grace worked as a volunteer at Valley Memorial Hospital for about 20 years, driving her 64' Ford every day but didn't get out much in her later years. According to Al she just "loved for people to come sit and talk to her".

Grace Hughes Kazel passed away on November 18, 2003, at the age of 98 years old; her son Al and daughter-in law Helen of Ukiah, a grandson and two great-grandsons survive her.

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