Williams Pioneer Day honors local agricultural legends, Saturday


Williams area agriculture, as well as community spirit, will be well represented in the Pioneer Day Parade when three beloved residents of the city serve as Grand Marshal.

Citizens for a Better Williams selected Bob Alvernaz, Marie Spooner and Jean Terkildsen to co-lead the festivities when Pioneer Day gets underway on Saturday.

The parade steps off at 10 AM from the elementary school area and will make its way down E Street.

Vendors will be located on E Street (between Sixth and Seventh streets) starting at 9 AM. Fireworks will top off the celebration at dark.

All three thanked the Citizens for a Better Williams for selecting them to be Grand Marshals of the Pioneer Day Parade.

Robert Alvernaz

Robert Alvernaz

Bob Alvernaz is known as a mover and shaker, not only in Williams, but Colusa County and beyond.

Born in 1930, Alvernaz, 87, has been a cattleman all of his live, first in the San Jose area, and for nearly 60 years in Williams.

In 1960, Alvernaz bought a ranch in Williams, moving cattle during the summer, then moving with his wife and children to Williams just after Christmas the same year.

But it’s Alvernaz’ long-term service on boards, committees and commissions for which he is best known.

For the past 47 years, Alvernaz has served on the Board of Directors of the Resources Conservation District, originally the Soil Conservation District.

For 33 years, he was the livestock 4-H leader, and he served 28 years on the 44th District Agriculture Association (Fair Board).

Alvernaz was a long-term director on the Glenn-Colusa Cattlemen’s board, serving two terms a president, and has been a member of the Colusa Farm Show Committee since 1970. He also served four years on the Williams school board and Colusa County Local Agency Formation Commission.

Alvernaz said his greatest achievement in life was his marriage to Glorietta, who died in 2015 just a few days after their Valentine’s Day wedding anniversary.

“She was the love of my life,” he said. “Marrying her was the smartest thing I ever did. I was fortunate to have her with me 61 years.”

Alvernaz said he is also blessed to have his children close to him. His son Alan is his partner in the cattle industry. His son John and daughter Patti are also involved in Colusa County agriculture. All three live in Williams. He has seven grandchildren one great-grandchild.

“I’ve always liked living in Williams,” he said. “It has changed a lot over the years.”

Alvernaz is US Army veteran, who served in the Korean War. He was taken out of the infantry at Fort Ord in 1952 and was trained to be a cook, due to problems with his feet.

Out of 60 people in his unit who trained to be a cook, he and one other man had the highest scores, allowing them to stay on for a time at the Monterey Bay Army post.

He was eventually deployed to Korea, where he was a cook at the North Korean village of Panmunjom, where the Korean Peace talks were held. The talks eventually led to an Armistice ending the war and the establishment of guideline for all future interaction between North and South Korea.

Marie Spooner

Marie Spooner

When people throughout the North State hear Marie Spooner’s name, it usually means one thing: A large donation will be made to benefit a good cause.

The 96-year-old’s homemade pies are synonymous with fundraising, although Spooner insists it’s not because people know her or her pies, but because it has become a tradition among the people who plan to support a particular cause that know Spooner generously donates an apple or cherry pie to everything.

Although one of Spooner’s pies typically fetches between $300 and $500 at auction, one pie donated to a fundraiser for a cancer victim reached a bid of $4,000.

“The guy that got stuck with it told the other guy that he can have some of the pie if he chipped in another $1,000, which he did,” laughed Spooner. “That is my coup…$5,000 for a pie. Of course, they were probably planning to donate that much anyway, but that is what makes it fun, and it’s always for a good cause.”

Spooner was born in 1921 in Willows. Her parents, Barney and Polly Alves, moved to the east side of the Sacramento River near Princeton when she was 1-year-old, and she, her four sisters and a brother rode the ferry across the river everyday to school.

In 1940, she married John Azevedo of Maxwell, and the couple operated a dairy, raised bees, rice and kiwi, and had an apple orchard.

After her husband died, she continued to run the ranch on her own for 10 years.

“That is when I started making pies,” she said.

Spooner was an active volunteer with the women’s Junior League in Maxwell, and has been a member and volunteer with the Sacred Heart Parish for 77 years.

Spooner was well known in Williams, having work at Fouch’s Drug Store for two decades.

In 1995, she married rice farmer Chester Spooner, of Williams, who passed away in 2007.

“I love Williams because I worked here for 20 years,” Spooner said, “I met a lot of nice people and made a lot of new friends.” Spooner has three children: Ron Azevedo of Maxwell, Vicki Fertig of Rohnert Park and Sara George of Los Gatos.

She has nine grandchildren, 15 great-grandchildren and two great-great grandchildren.

Her grandson Mike Azevedo continues her rice operation.

Jean Terkildsen

Jean Terkildsen

One can’t think of the Williams Community Center without connecting that name to Jean Terkildsen.

Terkildsen, 84, was part of the original group that worked for many years to make the dream of having a permanent place for social, recreational and educational activities a reality.

Terkildsen is involved in all the Community Center Association’s sponsored activities at the C Street facility, such as Bingo and the Youth Art Show.

“We are very happy at the old Veterans Halls,” Terkildsen said. “It’s worked out very well for us and really well for the community.”

Terkildsen’s family has a long history in Williams. Her grandparents Nathan and Martha Crawford came to Colusa County in the late 1800s, where her grandmother operated the Allen Mineral Springs Resort, and her grandfather drove a team of mules down the Leesville grade to bring spring water to the town.

They moved closer to Williams in the early 1900s, and owned a 30-acre ranch, where they grew watermelon and cantaloupe.

Terkildsen was born in Willows in 1932 to Pat and Eileen Murphy, who 70 years ago bought the Murphy Ranch in Williams, where they raised sheep.

She graduated from Willows High School in 1949, before attending and graduating from San Jose State University. She taught physical education in Oroville.

She was married to Felton Ferrini and had three children, and lived in San Luis Obispo for a number of years, before moving back to the area in 1980.

I was happy to move back to Williams,” Terkildsen said. “I enjoy the small-town atmosphere and the community spirit that will hopefully improve in Williams.”

In 1989, she married Jim Terkildsen, who passed away in 2007.

Terkildsen has long been active in community service. She was a longtime member of the Children’s Home Society and active in the Williams Catholic Church (Sacred Heart Parish).

About 20 years ago, she, along with Claire Reynolds, started “Telecare,” calling people who lived alone everyday to make sure they were well.

“It was probably the most fulfilling volunteer job I’ve ever done,” she said.

Although Terkildsen’s son, Matt Ferrini, continued the sheep business on the Murphy Ranch for some time, he and his sister Beth Katsaris, of Davis, switched operations to almonds, and now continue the family’s farming business under the name M&B Almonds.

Terkildsen has six grandchildren, three great-great grandchildren and two more great-grandchildren on the way.

“We’re looking forward to continuing our family in agriculture with our fifth and sixth generation coming up,” Terkildsen said.