by Doug Graham, History Chair

Barron Park has lost its foremost benefactor, pioneer Roble Ridge resident Josina Bol, matriarch of the Bol family, donor of Bol Park and now of Mickey's pasture. It will sadden me and many Barron Park residents to walk by her house by day or to catch a glimpse of the lights at night, while knowing that Josina is no longer with us. Palo Alto has lost a truly great lady.

Josina des Haan Bol was born November 3, 1901 in Eindhoven, Holland, in the Netherlands. She met Cornelis Bol while working as a chemist at the giant Phillips' Laboratories in Eindhoven. Cornelis and Josina married in 1924 and eventually had six children, all sons. Not liking the way things were going politically in Europe, they emigrated to the U.S. in 1936 to get away from Hitler and his Nazis. They were touring the U.S. when they visited friends on Roble Ridge and Josina fell in love with the Barron Park neighborhood. Their youngest son, Gerald, was born here.

For many years, the Bols acquired land and farmed it on the side, while Cornelis did research at Stanford. They owned not only the homestead on Roble Ridge and Bol Park, but also the Strain Dairy property where the first Eichlers were later built along Josina Avenue. They built a pool on Roble Ridge and let the Barron Park School PTA run swim classes there in the summers. Neighborhood children were always welcome to visit and enjoy the Bols' many animals, including horses, cows, donkeys, goats, pigs, chickens and dogs. Cornelis Bol often let the neighborhood children take donkey rides in the pasture where Bol Park is today.

Cornelis and Josina first participated in the ownership and management of the Emway Mutual Water Company, and then eventually bought out the other owners and ran it by themselves, with the help of their sons, until finally selling to the City of Palo Alto. The water company supplied the entire northwest portion of Barron Park from Roble Ridge to El Camino. Josina served as bookkeeper for many years, also supervising her sons' activities in meter-reading and repairs to the system.

In an interview with the San Jose Mercury News, Dana Marie Bol remembers her grandmother as a stable force in the family, a loving woman who encouraged all her children and grandchildren to be creative. She was also a stellar baker, whose angel food cake, filled with cream and black raspberry jam always brought smiles to the kids' faces. At Josina's memorial service, one family member remembered that Josina had always had a cook in their home in Holland, and had to immediately learn to cook for her large and growing family when she moved to Roble Ridge.

A visit to Josina's cottage-style home leaves one with a deep sense of being at peace with nature. A front porch is surrounded with beautiful plants and looks out on the semi-natural portion of Bol Park. A turn of the head reveals Mickey grazing somnolently on the other side of Matadero Creek. Flowers and flowering shrubs abound. The property shows the care of a loving, nurturing gardener.

In a 1989 interview with Barbara Brown, then the BPNL Editor, Josina showed Barbara photos of her six children and 23 grandchildren (there are now 24 great-grandchildren). She told Barbara the story of Mickey. When moving here from Holland, they had promised their sons that they could have horses. Initially there were four horses and a pig. Then one day they spotted an ad for a donkey who needed a new home. They got the donkey, a jack, built a corral for him and later acquired two jennies to keep him company. One of these produced Mickey in 1967.

Josina will have one final celebration -- posthumously -- this coming summer, when we all gather in the park to dedicate Mickey's pasture --Josina's pasture -- in her memory as park land in perpetuity.

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