Ignazio August Vella
Ignazio August Vella
Ignazio August Vella died peacefully at home on the evening of June 9, 2011.
Ignazio had very deep roots in Sonoma. He was the great-great -grandson of Matilda Boccoli and great-grandson of Maria Castagnasso, proprietors of the Toscano Hotel. His grandparents were Annie and Agostino Clerici, who owned a candy store on the Plaza in the 1920s and 1930s. His parents, Thomas and Zolita Clerici Vella started Vella Cheese Company in 1931.
Ig attended Sonoma Grammer School until 1942 and graduated from San Rafael Military Academy, after Sonoma Valley High School suggested he attend school elsewhere, in 1946. He went onto Santa Clara University, graduating magna cum laude in 1950. After joining the Air Force Reserves, he qualified for Officers Candidate School and went to Texas, completing his training in December 1953. He returned to reserve status and served until 1967. After OCS, Ig returned to Sonoma Valley to work with his father at Vella Cheese.
Ig married Sarah Wright in 1952. He and Sally had four children, Ditty, Chickie (Tom Bova), Thomas (Ella and Wallace Henry Sloan) and the late Sara Ann Vella.
In 1964, Ig was elected to the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors. He was the youngest ever chairman of that board. After being elected to three terms, the Board of Supervisors appointed him manager of the Sonoma County Fair.
In 1981, Ig returned to private life, becoming manager of Vella Cheese, where he continued to work until May 26, 2011.
Politics were one love of Ig's life and he continued to serve the community he loved as a Sonoma City Planning Commissioner, as a charter member of the SVCAC, where he remained in an advisory capacity until his death, and as a member of the self-appointed Gang of Five (they know who they were). He was honored for his community service by the naming of the Ig Vella Bridge.
Another life-long enthusiasm was baseball. Ig played baseball at Sonoma Valley High and San Rafael Military. He coached a Sonoma Teener league for many years and loved to play with the neighborhood kids on Oak Lane. He listened to the Giants games on the radio until his death.
As a cheese maker, Ig mentored many. He received innumerable awards and accolades for his many contributions to the cheese-making industry. In 2006, the American Cheese Society bestowed upon Ig their first ever Lifetime Achievement Award. It was the only time in memory that he was rendered speechless. He was also a charter member of the Artisan Cheese Guild.
In addition to his wife, Sally, and his three children, Ig is survived by his sisters, Maria Giovana Vella and Zolita Vella; niece, Artemis Millan; nephews, Thomas Joseph Vella (Karen) and Paul Jacobsen (Sherry and daughter Shanti); as well as grandchildren Gabe Luddy (Stacey), Miranda Luddy, Ross Cannard (Kate Cherry), Marius Cannard, Shaina Vella and Gia Vella DeSoto (Tyler); and great-grandson Travis Danger DeSoto.
Special thanks to Nick Nicholson for his care and friendship.
There will be a viewing at Duggan's Mission Chapel, 525 W. Napa St., on Thursday, June 16, from noon to 5 p.m. Services will be Friday, June 17, at St. Francis Solano Church at 11 a.m.
Donations in his name may be made to Hospice By The Bay, 190 W. Napa St., Sonoma CA 95476; Friends of Turkana, P.O. Box 135, Sonoma, CA 95476 or a cause of your choice.