Often enough in this column I’ve sung the praises of local folks who do good in our town and in our Valley. Few, I feel, would match up to the subject of today’s column. Truly she’s an exemplary woman, someone I’ve admired for many years.
Last spring, when Glen Ellen resident Fran Meininger announced by email that she would be retiring from her lovely store, My Girlfriend’s Closet, I invited her over for tea and time to talk.
Sitting together on the porch at Creekbottom on a mild spring day, I had a chance to ask Fran all the questions I’d always wondered about. Long aware of her career and changes, I knew she was a woman who has been at the forefront of a number of important organizations in our Valley. Her work and dedication have made a difference in the lives of so many folks throughout our Valley – particularly young folks. Yet, Fran was never one to brag or make herself prominent, and so, though I knew of her, I didn’t really know much about her.
I first met Fran in the late 1980s when our boys were members of the Valley of the Moon Boys & Girls Club. We didn’t go there often, as Sonoma seemed (back then) quite a trek from Glen Ellen. But we loved their Halloween events (and first met Roger and Diana Rhoten at one of those). Equally entertaining were the Boys & Girls Club’s Christmas gatherings with dear David Williams presiding as the best Santa ever.
So, initially, as Fran and I talked, we reminisced about other good folks we both admired.
Home on Brookside Road
Fran and her parents, Cecelia and George Braga, moved to Sonoma Valley in 1960. Her dad was working at Hamilton Air Force Base and they planned to move to Novato, in fact they’d already put an offer on a house. On a whim, off for a drive to Sonoma, they discovered their dream home.
It was in that paradise, on Brookside Road, that Fran grew up playing in the creek and riding her horse. While she frankly admits to a wonderful childhood, she also says that Sonoma Valley is a better place now than it was then.
With some surprise I asked why, since folks often bemoan today in favor of the “good old days.” Not Fran. “Our Valley has evolved, because of the many nonprofits that benefit people in our Valley.” She says that people in this Valley have opened their hearts and given so much to help others. She’s seen that first-hand and has been long at the forefront of those helping nonprofits.
School days, music, opera and ballet
But, long before all of that, Fran attended local schools including El Verano and one year at Flowery. We shared a good laugh as she talked about Muriel Robbins, her kindergarten teacher, and Evie Berger, her first-grade teacher, another couple of folks I admire greatly.
Fran attended Altimira (when it was new), then on to Justin Siena High School (where she and David Everidge were classmates) and Dominican College, where she majored in music.