Gilroy’s Hall of Fame gets new life

HALLOWED HALL OF FAME: Bob Dyer got the idea going strong in the 1980s and now has the Gilroy Hall of Fame back on track after a 21-year hiatus. The Hall of Fame Committee of the Gilroy Chamber of Commerce is seeking nominations for the 2015 awards. Deadl

GILROY—The dates go back to the 1700s and the names ended up on houses, roads and a hospital and then it all stopped in 1994. That was the last year residents, dead or alive, were inducted into the Gilroy Hall of Fame.

Now it’s making a comeback, thanks in part to the man who reignited the idea in the early 1980s, Bob Dyer, 82, of R.J. Dyer Real Property Investments, Inc.

“He was the catalyst,” said Kurt Michielssen, senior vice president at Pinnacle Bank and a member of the Hall of Fame committee of the Gilroy Chamber of Commerce.

For his part, Dyer said that, just like back in the 1980s, the newest iteration of the Hall of Fame is meant to recognize “people who worked hard and spent the time to make Gilroy a better place.”

Indeed, that and a residency requirement are the only rules for nominees.

And nominees are just what the committee needs. Names and official nomination papers—two brief pages—must be turned in by Sept. 30. An awards ceremony is planned for Nov. 7 at Old City Hall.

The idea to resurrect the sleeping Hall of Fame has been ongoing quietly for more than a year, according to Dyer and Michielssen.

They enlisted the help of Debbie Sanchez at the Gilroy Chamber, while local history specialist Edith Edde, former City Administrator Jay Baksa and others and have been volunteering time for research and paying incidental costs out of their own purses and pockets.

In the old days, nominees had to be from among the dearly departed, but that changed in the 1990s when exceptions were made for extraordinary candidates.

One of those is former Mayor Sig Sanchez, now in his 90s and the only living Hall of Famer, according to Michielssen.

Others inducted in the 1980s were John Cameron Gilroy from 1974, whose name the city bears, and Francisco Perez Pacheco from 1790, whose name adorns a local pass, and Maria Ascencion Solarsano from 1846, who has a middle school named in her honor.

Other recognizable names include cattle baron Henry Miller, rancher Fenton O’Connell, James Princevalle, Michael J. Filice and grower Kiyoshi Hirasaki.

Down at Gilroy City Hall are two plaques that hold small metal plates that contain the names and dates of the 119 Gilroyans inducted into the Hall of Fame.

But during the program’s downtime, some plates disappeared and others, it seems, never were installed.

“We’ve gone back and replaced all the missing plates,” Michielssen said. “We are really trying to get this thing reactivated; one of the things we want to do is to bring in some younger blood.”

The group also has reached out to different segments of the city to make sure all are aware that nominations are welcome from anyone and that people from all walks of life are eligible to apply for the awards.

On the nominating papers, the Hall of Fame is described as being designed “to acknowledge those persons who have contributed to making Gilroy a better place to live.”

It lists eligibility requirements this way: “Individuals living or working in Gilroy for no less than twenty-five years selected for their creativity, inspiration, resourcefulness, dedication, volunteerism, philanthropy, leadership, courage and pioneering spirit, playing a significant role in the progressive development of Gilroy.”

The Hall of Fame took an unexpected break when Dyer lived in Georgia for about 20 years. Now that he’s back in Gilroy, he’s gathered friends and business associates and convinced them that bringing back the Hall of Fame is a good and worthwhile thing to do.

Both Dyer and Michielssen believe that in the two decades the Hall of Fame has been inactive, a substantial inventory of eligible candidates has built up, and they need recognition.

And it won’t just be one Hall of Famer a year, according to Dyer; anywhere from three to five individuals could be singled out annually for recognition, he said.

Categories for nominees include Agriculture, Business, Community Service, Cultural, Professional, Education, Public Service, Political, Military and “other.”

Forms can be found under “Nomination Forms” on the homepage of the Gilroy Chamber of Commerce website at They also can be picked up, and must be dropped off, at the Chamber office, 7471 Monterey Street., Gilroy or the Gilroy Historical Museum, 195 Fifth Street, Gilroy.


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