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Obituaries » Penelope Rose Grant

Penelope Rose Grant

October 1, 1936 - August 13, 2018


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Our beloved Penelope Rose passed away peacefully on the morning of August 13, 2018 in Sonoma, California at the age of 81. Born in Oakland on October 1, 1936 to Edward and Ruth (Smejkal) Gerner, Penny lived her entire life in the greater San Francisco Bay Area. She spent her childhood in Oakland growing up with her brother Mitch, and sisters Kathleen, Sonja, and Debbie, attending McChesney Elementary, Holy Names High School, and Holy Names College, where she earned a Bachelors Degree and was awarded an Elementary Teaching Credential. Married to Thomas Grant on July 19, 1958, Penny gave birth to six children in less than 10 years – Catherine Marie, Michael David, Daniel Joseph, Mary Ann, Penelope Anne, and Thomas Patrick.

Living initially in Oakland, Tom and Penny moved to Pleasant Hill in 1960, and in 1968 they moved in at 20 Horten Court where Penny lived for the next 42 years. 20 Horten was Penny’s nest, where she raised her family, and eventually lived in a multi-generational home with her eldest daughter Catherine and her husband Mark VanBuskirk, and their three boys Micah Joel, Jordan Wesley, and Luke Daniel. Divorced in 1977, Penny returned to work at Christ the King School, where she taught Kindergarten for 25 years. Penny lost her daughter Mary Ann, who was born with severe disabilities, in 1994 at the age of 30. In 2010 Penny moved with the VanBuskirks from Horten Court to Orinda for about a year, and then from July of 2011 to June of 2012 Penny spent a year living for periods of time shared in a special way with each of her children and grand children. Her Magical Mystery Tour, as we called it, had stops in Santa Cruz (Daniel, Amanda and grandson Carson Thomas), Petaluma (Michael, Brenda and her “only” granddaughter Aiko Bailey and grandson Charlie Hayden), Concord (Thomas and Fran), Martinez (Penelope and Joe Ogden), and Orinda (Catherine and Mark, and grandsons Micah and Luke, with Jordan off to college). The Mystery Tour came to a close when Penny’s sister Debbie and her husband Guenther (Hofen) lovingly created a cozy landing place for her in Rossmoor, where she lived from June 2012 until December of 2013. After more than two years on the waiting list with Petaluma Ecumenical Properties (PEP) Housing, on December 6, 2013 Penny moved to Petaluma, where she lived in her first ever “home of her own” until June of 2017. During the final 14 months of her life Penny lived at Broadway Villa in Sonoma, under the 24-hour embrace of an amazing, kind and loving community of caregivers.

Penelope Rose will be remembered as an awesome mom, known for her adept and positive conversational skills with literally anyone, her love of young children (and guessing their ages), her practical family oriented culinary skills (lemon chicken, spaghetti, lucky special, hot dogs and soft-boiled eggs were among her specialties), a caring and kind friend and teacher. Penny will always be known as the Matriarch of 20 Horten, and although she may have expressed otherwise on occasion, we know that she loved how it became a bustling center of activity for two distinct waves of tender childhood, moving into the precarious and adventurous teen years, seeing both her children and grandchildren bursting into adulthood. She loved our family camping trips in Yosemite, going to visit Barb and Marty (Ruddy) in Pinecrest, and had a willingness for adventure, rafting the Class V Forks of the Kern River with her three sons at the age of 50 (and telling the story over and over and over again). She loved telling people that her two sons Mike and Dan were living in Zambia and Zimbabwe, leading river trips on the Zambezi River. She loved her two cross-country bus trips with her son Tom, travelling with the Concord Blue Devils Drum and Bugle Corps, and visiting historic and famous places across the United States of America with her youngest (and some might say, favorite). She was somewhat of a legend as a gatekeeper and regular presence at the Pleasant Hill Aquatics swim club – for two generations of family – just a few blocks from 20 Horten Court. They awarded her a lifetime membership. She was extremely proud of her daughter Penny who followed her footsteps into teaching at a Catholic School, and loved to tell people she wanted to help the younger Penny as an aide but couldn’t figure out 8th grade math. She felt deeply blessed to have such a significant part in Catherine and Mark’s life in helping to raise the three boys at 20 Horten and beyond. She loved going to movies, going out for a meal, participating in home bible study prayer groups in her neighborhood, and life’s simple pleasures, daisies and gingham, teddy bears and her doll house, and finding treasures in thrift stores. She fell in love with the town of Petaluma, and the day that Catherine, Mark and Micah arrived in Petaluma, just a few blocks from her place, about a year after she moved there, we think may have been the happiest time of her life.

In addition to her children and grandchildren Penny is survived by her siblings and their partners, Mitch and Patty Gerner, Kathleen Gerner and JoAnn Bennett, Sonja Spagnolo, and Debbie and Guenther Hofen, her Grant family Barbara and Marty Ruddy, David and Helen Gilstrap, Barry Grant and many, many Gerner, Grant and Smejkal cousins, second cousins, nieces and nephews. Her daughter Mary Ann, her brother in law Bill Spagnolo, Tom Grant, Mary Ellen Grant, Charles Grant, Stewart Grant, and Wilma Grant precede her in death. Penny’s children and family will be forever grateful to PEP Housing for providing such an amazing, affordable and dignified independent living space for mom for a few years, and especially to the kind and caring staff at Broadway Villa and Hospice by the Bay in Sonoma for your love and support over these last few months of mom’s life. You are angels to us.

A Service and Celebration of the Life and Times of Penelope Rose Grant will be held at Christ the King Church in Pleasant Hill on Friday, October 19, 2018. Mass is at 10:00 am, with reception and celebration directly following at 11:00 am. In lieu of flowers, family is requesting that donations are made to one of the following:
• PEP Housing –
• Hospice by the Bay –

Please look in the gallery at a copy of the prayer mom used to recite with her kindergarteners at the start of each day, in her own handwriting, which is a great reflection of how she lived her life…