KNIGHTSEN -- From the time that Patricia "Pat" Bello moved to Knightsen in the early 1950s she was an active member of the tiny eastern Contra Costa County town. Her involvement included everything from helping to make sure the town's water was safe to helping to keep history alive throughout the region. Last week Bello passed away peacefully at the age of 69 in her home after a long illness.
"Pat never met a stranger," remembers longtime friend and fellow volunteer Kathy Leighton. "From the time I first met her as a Rainbow Girl she was always compassionate and very kind to me."
Bello and her family moved to Knightsen from Richmond. She graduated from Liberty High School and continued on to Diablo Valley College where she received her associate degree.
In 1964, she married her high school sweetheart, Albert Bello. Bello and her family remained in Knightsen where she and her husband ran a ranch, giving Bello a chance to spend time with the animals she loved.
Bello spent many years working with the Knightsen 4-H, the oldest 4-H club in California. She was also the second oldest member of the Knightsen Garden Club. She joined the club in 1964. Her mother, Gladys, is currently the oldest member. She spent years working with the group on fundraisers to give back to the Knightsen community.
Bello's daughter, Trish Bello-Kunkel, remembers helping her mother in the 1970s, with a county assistance program that tested 70 water wells throughout Knightsen for water quality.
"Her worked helped to putting in a fresh water system throughout Knightsen," Bello-Kunkel said.
For many years Bello also was a member of the East County Historical Society. Leighton said Bello was instrumental in starting classroom tours of the Historical Society building.
"She was responsible for bringing about 10,000 third-graders through the building over the years," Leighton said.
Bello served on the East County Historical Society board of directors for more than 20 years. Leighton said Bello never wanted to serve as the president of the board, but spent countless hours volunteering, including making sure that the doors were always open on Saturdays for more than 12 years.
In 2006 Bello was awarded a special recognition award from the state of California for her work on regional history.
"Pat was very passionate about the history of the community," Leighton said. "Even after her illness kept her from doing school tours and opening every Saturday she still worked on training volunteers."
Albert Bello is incredibly proud of the work his wife did for her community. "She was always concerned about what was happening around her," he said. "She was an advocate for the entire community."
Bello was an avid fishing buff and spent a great deal of time fishing with friends on the river. She also shared her love for classic cars with her husband and liked to travel to the Reno Hot August Nights car show.
For many years Bello worked to try to quit smoking, but it wasn't until one of her grandchildren was born that she took the plunge and finally quit so she could take care of her family without possibly causing them illness because of secondhand smoke. She later found that she had chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD. For 14 years she battled the illness until it finally took her life on April 3.
"She never failed to warn people, teens and adults, about the dangers of smoking after she found out she had COPD," Albert Bello said.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to the East Contra Costa Historical Society, P.O. Box 202, Brentwood, CA, 94513.
Born: May 20, 1943
Died: April 3, 2013
Survived by: Husband Albert; three children, Trish, Donnie and Jody; grandchildren Joseph and Spencer; mother Gladys; siblings Bud, Garnetta and Barbara
Services: 10 a.m. April 11 at Holy Cross Cemetery Chapel in Antioch. Funeral services begin at 11 a.m; Celebration of life will follow at 1 p.m. at the East Contra Costa Historical Society & Museum, 3890 Sellers Ave.
Donations: East Contra Costa Historical Society, P.O. Box 202, Brentwood, CA, 94513.