|Birth: ||Mar. 26, 1904|
|Death: ||May 12, 2003|
Father was charles William Bowers.
Geraldine Lucille McConnell, who was instrumental in the founding of Columbia State Historic Park more than a half-century ago, died of natural causes in her longtime downtown Columbia home May 12th, 2003.
The woman known by many as "Mrs. Columbia" was 99.
A private family burial was held at Columbia City Cemetery the morning of May 16th. A 1:30 p.m. public memorial was held at Angelo's Hall in Columbia the same day. Terzich & Wilson Funeral Home was in charge of arrangements.
Geraldine and her late husband, dentist James McConnell, led community and political campaigns that resulted in the town's inclusion in the California park system in 1945.
Calling on the influence of politicians, on the wealth of the rich and on modest but sincere contributions from scores of other friends, Geraldine and James McConnell helped turn Columbia State Park from dream to reality.
"It's a marvelous place," Mrs. McConnell said in 1994, while looking from her yard onto the main street of her adopted home town. "Especially for the children."
When the McConnells moved to town in the early 1940s, the surroundings weren't nearly so charming.
"It was in bad, bad shape," Mrs. McConnell said of war-time Columbia. "The grocery store was closed and many of the town's businesses were shuttered."
Rumors that the venerable but rundown City Hotel would reopen as a house of ill repute spurred Mrs. McConnell into action.
Then-Gov. Earl Warren, a family friend who often dropped in on the McConnells, had the answer.
"I'll get a bill introduced to make Columbia a state park," Mrs. McConnell remembers the future U.S. Supreme Court chief justice suggesting over dinner. "All you have to do is raise $50,000."
Suddenly the push for a state park was on.
The Columbia Progressive Club, to which the McConnells belonged, pioneered the effort. Support from around Tuolumne County and the state was secured.
On July 15, 1945, in the town's Justice Court, Gov. Warren signed the Columbia State Park bill. With a celebration attended by 10,000, the park was dedicated amid parades, dances and Gold Rush-era festivities.
Columbia was declared "Capital of California for a day" and the McConnells' house, where Warren stayed, became the "Governor's Mansion."
Copyright 2003 The Union Democrat, used by permission
James E McConnell (1900 - 1961)
Geraldine M. McConnell (1924 - 1926)*
Columbia Public Cemetery
Created by: Shirley Williams Rieneck...
Record added: Nov 01, 2011
Find A Grave Memorial# 79695220
Thanks for sharing so much of yourself & Columbia with us.|
V & P
Added: Sep. 13, 2012
Thank You for saving the wonderful town of Columbia. I have made a day trip there almost every Summer for the past 50 years.|
Added: Jul. 20, 2012
Added: Nov. 1, 2011
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