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Bill Lynch revisits his history in 'My Sonoma'

‘My Sonoma’ book is available at Readers’ Books and the Fat Pilgrim in Sonoma. It is also available online at the Apple iTunes store, Amazon, Kobo, Google Play and Barnes and Noble. Paperback $16.95. Hardcover $27.95.

Bill Lynch loves the holiday season and he captures the magic of attending his grand-aunt Celie’s holiday parties in her home in the Sonoma Barracks in his new book, “My Sonoma – Valley of the Moon.”

If he had to pick a favorite chapter, it might be “Holidays in an Adobe Museum,” because of his memories of the home Celie shared with her husband Walter and their antique guns and swords, stuffed owls, bell collection and gilded lights from hotel lobbies.

“It really was like a museum, or set for a late 19th-century period movie,” he said. “Those memories are still very much alive for me every Christmas season.”

Lynch – formerly the editor and publisher of the Sonoma Index-Tribune – has filled the pages of his new book with anecdotes that provide a unique inside look at the Sonoma community by a lifelong resident and journalist. Lynch was the fourth-generation editor of the newspaper started by his great grandfather. He retired in 2012, but has continued to write columns for the I-T.

This is his second book project. In 2015, he completed and published an updated version of “The Sonoma Valley Story,” originally written by his father, Robert M. Lynch, in 1997.

“That was really my Dad’s book. I just added a section to cover the years from 1997 through 2014,” he said.

Lynch says his new book is a far more personal look at his hometown.

“So many things we take for granted here in our community were created by Sonoma Valley residents long gone,” Lynch says. “Sometimes their names are on buildings or monuments dedicated in their memory. But who is left to remind us of why?

“Perhaps only a handful of old guys like me.”

He says that he started writing “My Sonoma” as a way to answer questions such as: Who was Prestwood school named after? And who was Larson of Larson Park?

“We honor our fellow Sonomans for their service to our community, we name something in their honor – but as time goes by that person and everyone who knew him or her, are gone,” says Lynch. “As long as one person is left to tell their story, that honor has meaning.”

Illustrating the book are many old black and white photos previously published in the paper.

“For more than four decades, I wrote editorials, columns, news and feature stories about the people who made the Valley of the Moon special,” says Lynch. “I knew them. Many were neighbors, family friends and associates.”

Lynch admits he’s not a historian.

“Raconteur would be a better description,” he says. “The people, places and incidents I write about are real and part of Sonoma Valley history. Some are retold stories passed on to me by my grand-aunt, father and fellow Sonomans who have been part of my life here.”

He describes “My Sonoma” as a collection of “anecdotes, embellished and shaped by my personal experience, and viewed in a rose-colored rearview mirror.”

He says that if there’s anything about Sonoma that’s not-so rose-colored, it is that housing has gotten so expensive that local teachers, firefighters, police officers, and many others who work here, cannot afford a home here.

‘My Sonoma’ book is available at Readers’ Books and the Fat Pilgrim in Sonoma. It is also available online at the Apple iTunes store, Amazon, Kobo, Google Play and Barnes and Noble. Paperback $16.95. Hardcover $27.95.

“Heck, my kids can’t even afford a home here,” he says. “And I don’t know what the solution is.”

Up next for Lynch? He says he’d like to try writing a novel based on David Bouverie and his renowned canyon ranch.

“David was a very interesting man and very kind to me and my brothers,” says Lynch. “I loved walking into his canyon and fishing for trout. It was a beautiful, mystical, magical place.

“I could imagine it as a setting for a good book.”

He said that he also recently found a box of all of his hand-written letters home from Vietnam and that may inspire a new project.

“It is quite a large stash, and reading them now, 50 years later,” he says, “brings back a lot of memories.”

While many bemoan the changes to the Valley over the past few decades, Lynch says that he thinks his beloved Valley of the Moon is in good hands.

“I think the more recent arrivals have done much to make our community more interesting and culturally rich,” he says. “New arrivals are often the most hard-working community volunteers and do much for our many nonprofit endeavors.”

So does he lose sleep worrying about the future of his Valley of the Moon?

“I sleep well at night,” he says.

Email Lorna at lorna.sheridan@sonomanews.com.