Betty Pedersen

Senior Center Founded by Lake Berryessa Adventurer, Betty Pedersen

by Peter Kilkus

Communities evolve because people who care make things happen. Betty Pedersen is one of those special people. When she and her close friend, Ruth Stiteri, took walks they would talk about what their Lake Berryessa community needed. In 1983 they realized that a Senior Center would be an important resource for many local residents, especially since everything around the lake closes down in winter, so they decided to start one.

They laid the groundwork in 1983, originally meeting with a talented group of people at Moskowite Corners, to create the bylaws and structure. Seventy people showed up for that original meeting! The membership age was set at 55 since they wanted members who were young enough to have energy and who realized that the Center would be an investment in their own future.

They decided to incorporate as an independent, rather then County-run, Center to avoid becoming involved in bureaucracy. A $293,000 State development grant helped build the Center, but all other financing was done through fund-raisers. The Senior Center opened in 1984 as has been a cornerstone of the community since then.

By the time the Center opened, Betty was already a veteran lake adventurer. She and her husband, Robert, were born and raised in San Francisco and started coming to the lake in 1957 after the dam was built. They and their two boys were avid boaters who spent days water-skiing up and down the lake. In 1966 they bought a lot in the Berryessa Highlands, built the basic house by 1968, and finished their home over the next few years. It was their summer place until they moved here permanently in 1982.

Betty said that when you bought a lot back then, it was just a spot on a plan. You didn’t know exactly what you’d get. It took 10 years to get the Highlands going - 2 years just to do the grading! She fondly remembers the excitement of riding in jeeps on dirt trails so the realtor could show you potential building sites.

They camped out on their land when the family came to the lake. Their place originally had no electricity. After a day of strenuous water fun they used kerosene lanterns for light and barbecued their supper. Other couples bought land at the same time and they would often get together to party all weekend. (Sound familiar?) Betty said they had a really great time! (Note to non-seniors: Just because you’re younger than we are doesn’t mean you can party any more hardy!)                       © Peter Kilkus 2017