|Birth: ||Apr. 30, 1925|
|Death: ||May 22, 2008|
Alexander Valley Vineyards Winery owner Margaret "Maggie" Cranford Kirkpatrick Wetzel, 83, died Thursday at her home.
Wetzel, known for her charming nature and love of making things grow, died of complications from Alzheimer's disease.
In 1962, she and her husband, Harry Wetzel, and friends Russ and B.J. Green bought the 1842 homestead of Cyrus Alexander, for whom the valley is named.
The couples were among the first to plant grapes in the valley. While living in the Los Angeles area, the Wetzels frequently came north to the property and lovingly restored the old Victorian home and Alexander Valley schoolhouse.
In 1975, they began constructing their winery, which is now run by their son.
Harry and Maggie Wetzel have given generously to the arts and civic institutions, including a recent $2 million gift to Healdsburg Hospital for the Wetzel Family Emergency Department.
"It was natural for her to give, particularly to things that would be a full benefit to everyone who lived here, not just that would go to a few," said her daughter Katie. "It was intrinsic to her nature to be very generous."
Maggie Wetzel was born in Hampton, Va. She met Harry Wetzel Jr., at an officers' club dance in Pennsylvania. The two were married 62 years at the time of her death.
They eventually settled in Palos Verdes Estates, where they raised their four children and where Harry Wetzel served as president and CEO of the Garrett Corp.
When their children were grown, Maggie Wetzel returned to college and earned a bachelor's degree in art history from the University of Southern California.
She became active in art, music and opera, serving on boards such as the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and later the board of the San Francisco Opera.
Eventually the couple began looking north for a weekend and summer retreat. They chose the Alexander Valley and the old Alexander homestead, which included a crumbling Victorian home.
When they learned of the home's historic significance, they rebuilt it, doing much of the work themselves and maintaining the integrity of the era, said Sarah, Wetzel's granddaughter.
"She became really fascinated with the history of the area. She really wanted to give something back. It was very much a labor or love for her," said Fallon, of San Francisco.
In the early 1970s, the couple put their efforts into moving the Alexander Valley schoolhouse about a half mile to their property. The old school became a guest house.
The couple began living in Alexander Valley full time in about 1975.
Wetzel was extremely charming, a part of her southern upbringing, her granddaughter said.
And while Maggie Wetzel enjoyed opera and art, she also didn't hesitate to dig into the dirt of her garden to weed or take her visiting grandchildren to the nearby river and teach them to build mud castles and catch tadpoles, Fallon said.
Wetzel once wrote, "There are loads of people who love to be on committees and in clubs, who thrive on going to board meetings. But what I love most is seeing things grow."
And in keeping with that, Maggie Wetzel helped cultivate the family winery and created gardens including an extensive vegetable garden on the property.
Fallon called her grandmother a force of nature.
"She was an amazing person. She knew how to make everything around her really beautiful," she said.
Over the years, the couple also donated to the Healdsburg Museum, the Santa Rosa Symphony and the Green Music Center at Sonoma State University.
She was a member of St. Paul Episcopal Church in Healdsburg.
Press Democrat, published 5/26/2008
written by Randi Rossmann
edited to meet findagrave protocol
Davidson Kerr Kirkpatrick (1901 - 1950)
Susie Margaret Crone Kirkpatrick (1896 - 1989)
Harry Herman Wetzel (1920 - 2008)*
Alexander Family Cemetery
Created by: Colletta
Record added: Oct 14, 2012
Find A Grave Memorial# 98876005