Cambria History Told on Pickets and Bricks

Four generations of Mike McKinney's family are immortalized on small brass plaques affixed to the carved wooden picket fence surrounding the Cambria Historical Museum. They typify the strong emotional connection many feel toward Cambria and commemorate the lives of people who are still part of our community and those who have left us.

John Ruml knows full well the import of these simple tributes. The former president of the Cambria Historical Society and the keeper of the records about fence picket donations lost his wife, Dodie, last year. The fence has a picket that's dedicated to his wife by their grandson's Cambria Reds baseball team. "In loving memory of our biggest fan," reads the inscription.

"That really means a lot," John said. "She was devoted to our grandson and would be pleased by the recognition from his teammates."

He pointed out many others who have chosen to buy pickets for a variety of reasons. Nigel and Jody Nisbet dedicated two pickets to their baby daughter, Cambria Lee, who died at birth. "Her spirit soars," reads the plaque. Though the Nisbets live elsewhere, they love coming to Cambria and are benefactor donors to the Cambria Historical Society.

The Berry and Corbet families have purchased four pickets along Center Street. Brent Berry, the architect who crafted the restoration of the Guthrie-Bianchini House into the current museum, and his wife, Susan, have a picket. So do his parents, Ray and Phoebe Berry, as well as Brent's sister, Susan Atencio. There's also one for Brent's nephew, Chris Corbet, and his wife, Tamara, and their daughters, Ani and Remy. "We think it's just wonderful to have this downtown museum and park," said Tamara Corbet. "It really enhances our community."

Contractor Carl Brandt led the restoration work, and he also built the fence around the museum in exchange for pickets for his family and construction crew. A row of his pickets stand tall along the Burton Drive fence line.

Nearby, are 21 pickets that Historical Society board member Anne Wyatt purchased for her neighbors under the auspices of the Bridge Street Scrabble Club. Apparently, there's some fierce Scrabble played at Anne's Bridge Street Inn.

Several local organizations have not only left their mark on our community with their good deeds, but have inscribed their names on museum fence pickets and walkway bricks. They include the Native Daughters of the Golden West, Greenspace The Cambria Land Trust, University Women, Allied Arts and Rotary.

The Cambria Rotary has purchased several memorial bricks with the Rotary Wheel logo for community members who have passed away, and Rotary has also purchased bricks to celebrate the Coast Union High School 2008 Girls Volleyball Team.

There are also stories behind the museum walkway bricks. Grandmothers Bobra Tahan and Barbara Sullivan purchased 10 bricks now arranged in neat rows at the Burton Drive entryway. The family of Blaine Thorpe asked that his brick was set in a sunny spot. Blaine three days of age and his brick reads: "He was too pure for this earth."

Barry and Cindy Decker of San Jose marked their anniversaries and other good times in Cambria with inscriptions on seven bricks. Brad and Tracy Kuric's inscription says, "Our home away from home," while Don and Shelley Welsh proclaim, "Wish we were here." Guess we don't have to tell them what a special place Cambria is.

Some people have chosen to remember beloved pets. When she's not out delivering the mail, Kelly Johnson is rarely out and about without a couple of dogs. Her current companions are Jack and Millie, but she has a picket and a brick dedicated to Jack and the memory of her other "best friends," Nellie and Maddie.

Sisters Connie and Annamarie Davidson inscribed "A girl's best friend" on a picket for Buddha Boy, their German Shorthair/Great Dane mix, who was often seen out on the town sharing croissants with Connie. "He walked every trail around here with me for eight years," she said. "I really miss him."

After more than nine decades on this Earth, Mary Pittman's inscription sums it up best: "Here's to life."

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