KNIGHTSEN -- Friends and family gathered in celebration of Dorothy Walter's long service to the Knightsen School Board on Saturday as the district trustee stepped down from her position after 30 years.
Current and former district superintendents spoke of Walter's dedication and quiet strength of leadership to the smallest district in East County.
"Dorothy is a very quiet person, a very strong thinker, who looks at all the aspects of issues," former Knightsen school district Superintendent Vickey Rinehart said. "She always listened to everyone's point of view and then made a reasonable decision."
Walter is a 40-year resident of Knightsen. Two of her three children, Bruce and Jan Reis, both attended Knightsen Elementary School, as well as her grandchildren and a great-grandchild. She started on the board in January 1983 but was no stranger to the school as a volunteer for many years before that.
"I was called by the school and asked if I wanted to sit on the board," Walter, 80, recalled of her start on the board.
Thinking back to the early '80s, Walter said the school didn't have a gym or a music department. Those services had to be shared with Byron schools. Slowly, the school grew and added those services.
Theresa Estrada, the current superintendent, looked back on the "incredible amount of time" that Walter has donated to the school district over the past 30 years, including attending 600 board meetings, 60 back-to-school nights and open houses, more than 40 fall carnivals, and countless events, including holiday concerts, plus the times Walter had volunteered in classrooms.
"Over the years, she has brought thousands of pens, pencils and notebooks for the students," Estrada said.
An emotional Estrada told the more than 70 guests that "Dorothy is one person, one heart," stressing her many accomplishments and dedication to the students and staff at the district.
"You have our heartfelt thanks for 30 years of dedicated service," she said.
Among those accomplishments, Estrada included helping to build a staff from 25 to 55, adding 12 classrooms and upgrading the school buildings with the use of state, not district, funding. She also helped build Knightsen Community Park, which is adjacent to the school, and bring the caboose as the lead attraction to the park.
Walter was presented with awards and proclamations from local and state officials and congratulated personally by Contra Costa County District III Supervisor Mary N. Piepho.
Although presented a gold-plated plate for her service by the district, Walter said she was most overwhelmed by the "beautiful" quilt that was made in her honor by one of the school's teachers, Ann Ajimura.
The quilt featured squares of all the teachers' signatures, squares represented from every classroom and a center square with the school's logo. As an avid quilt maker herself, Walter said she knows the work and love that went into the project.
As she retires from the school's board of trustees, Walters isn't stopping her dedication to the Knightsen community.
"I came here to do what I could for children," she said. "I hope I have made a difference."
In our "Neighbors" series, we give you a personal look at the people who are serving your community. If you would like to nominate someone for this column, contact Judy Prieve at 925-779-7178 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.