"Be it ever so humble, there's no place like home."
-- From the song "Home Sweet Home" (1822)
Richard Crenna. Recognize that name? He was the actor who starred in movies and TV shows from the early '50s to 2004, a year before his passing.
Richard spent his lifetime in Los Angeles. So what's his tie to this area, you might be wondering?
I recently had a pleasant chat over coffee with Lloyd Crenna at a cafe in downtown Concord. Lloyd is a native and former resident of Concord. Turns out he and Richard were first cousins.
Lloyd's parents, Pietro and Mansuetta Crenna, immigrated from a small village in northern Italy and settled in Concord in 1898. The home they chose was outside the city limit and sat on a property that included a small farm and winery.
As a 7-year-old, Lloyd remembers walking barefoot to the Graham Grocery store several blocks from his home to buy a nickel ice cream bar. And during the long, hot summers he recalls playing ball with his friends in the street from dawn to dusk, stopping only for lunch, until his father whistled for him to come home in a pitch that could be heard throughout the neighborhood.
Lloyd speaks with pride that his father, with only a limited education, operated his own Flying "A" Associated oil service station on Willow Pass Road. Lloyd adds, "He was the only source of tires, which he recapped, in Contra Costa County during World War II."
The Port Chicago blast in 1943 remains fresh in Lloyd's mind. He still envisions his father, a civil defense block captain, leaving with his partner to inspect the houses in the area that were affected by the blast.
Mattson's Creamery on Willow Pass Road was the place where high school students gathered on Saturday nights -- reminiscent of "Happy Days." Lloyd claims the managers ran a tight ship but it was still THE place to be.
Lloyd enjoyed the years he attended Queen of All Saints and Mt. Diablo High School, and credits his teachers and nuns for having indelibly impressed on him the values of fairness and compassion. He also knew too well that if he ever did anything wrong, his parents learned about it well before he reached home.
As a longtime resident of Concord, I'd never heard of Concord's Red Men Pow Wow weekend parade that, according to Lloyd, once was second in the state after the Rose Bowl parade in Pasadena.
Lloyd is proud to be from the same hometown as Dave Brubeck. He is equally proud to be related to Richard Crenna whose father was his dads's brother. While a teenager and young actor, Richard spent many summers in Concord with Lloyd and his cousins.
A graduate of UC Berkeley, Lloyd entered military service and served honorably as an officer in the U.S. Army. At the same time, he married and fathered two daughters.
Following discharge from the service, he worked as a cost accountant for a local construction firm before moving to San Francisco and enrolling in law school at USF where he received his JD in 1971.
Lloyd worked in San Francisco as a civil attorney until 2006 when he semiretired to a home office where he continues to conduct business as an attorney and trustee. During the time he lived in San Francisco, Lloyd presided over several nonprofit boards and assisted in various other public functions.
After 19 years of marriage, Lloyd and his wife parted.
Lloyd met his current wife, Shelba, while vacationing in Europe. The couple married a year later and established their home in Marin County. They have been together 27 years.
Fifteen years ago, a couple of local folks Lloyd knew in Concord asked if he would consider joining the board of the Concord Historical Society.
Although it meant having to commute from Marin to Concord to attend meetings and fulfill other obligations, Lloyd agreed, knowing that it was an opportunity for him to "give back some of the joy" he'd received growing up in Concord, and also a way for him to thank and honor his parents, grandparents and family members who had an influence on his early life.
A lot happened in the intervening 15 years, especially under Lloyd's leadership when he assumed the role of president. Under his direction, the society opened the Galindo Home as a historic museum along with its gardens. And plans are underway to move the Masonic Temple to an adjoining property and make it the Concord Historical Museum and resource center.
The project to relocate the temple is proceeding on schedule, but it will cost a bundle of money. Although he has stepped down as president, Lloyd has assured the society he will stay on as an active member until the move is completed.
Those who take pride in preserving the history of Concord -- whether or not you live in that city -- can help immeasurably by volunteering your time and contributing to the Concord Historical Society, regardless of the amount you give.
There's an oft-cited phrase -- with minor revision -- that reads: "You can take the boy out of Concord, but you can't take Concord out of the boy."
Eizo Kobayashi is a Concord resident and a member of the Concord Senior Citizens Club. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.