Gilroy will add to its Hall of Fame this year a master golfer and a master politician as well as a master businessman and a master educator who left indelible marks on the city’s world famous garlic festival.
The brainchild of Gilroyan Bob Dyer, the Gilroy Hall of Fame began in 1983 as a way for the community to honor residents, some of them born 50 years or more before Gilroy was incorporated in the mid-1800s. All were deemed to have made a lasting contribution to the town.
The tradition stopped in 1994 and was revived in 2015.
Initially, the honor was reserved for the deceased, but later was opened up to the living.
The honorees will be celebrated at an Oct. 14 luncheon at Old City Hall restaurant from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Reservations can be made through the Chamber of Commerce website www.Gilroy.org.
George Archer (October 1, 1939 – September 27, 2005)
George Archer, was the 1969 Masters champion and a 25-year resident of Gilroy. Archer won 12 Professional Golf Association tour events after he joined the tour in 1964 and won 19 Champions Tour events. The 6-foot-5 Archer, born in San Francisco, became known as one of the best putters in PGA history.
He is best known for his win at the Augusta National in 1969, when the 29-year-old finished with a 7 under 281 total. He became known as the “Gilroy Cowboy” on the golf circuit because he lived at Lucky Hereford Ranch – once located off Day Road in Gilroy – where he helped out with odd ranch jobs when he wasn’t on tour.
“He put Gilroy on the map, before all this other stuff, the Garlic Festival and the outlets,” said Don DeLorenzo, owner of the Gilroy Golf Course and a friend of Archer’s. “People knew Gilroy first by George Archer.” Archer was known for his dry wit, took young golfers under his wings when he practiced on the golf courses of Gilroy.
Archer met his wife Donna in 1960 when he was playing in a golf tournament in Sacramento. They married in 1961 and moved to Gilroy in 1963.
Archer spent time with his daughters when he was not on tour and often let them come along to his golf tournaments. His daughter Elizabeth became the first female caddie in the history of the Masters not allowed to join – when she carried her father’s bag during the 1983 tournament.
Archer continued to play professional golf until he was diagnosed with lymphoma in 2004.
Don Gage (April 18, 1945 -)
Born April 18, 1945, Don grew up on a small farm outside of Gilroy and has been a lifelong resident of Santa Clara County. He attended local schools and earned his degree in Law Enforcement.
Don began public service in 1981 when he was elected to the Gilroy City Council, where he was well known for his support of law enforcement and youth programs.
He was a project manager with IBM for 30 years.
He served on the Gilroy City Council from 1981 until 1991 when he was elected Gilroy’s mayor. He was elected to the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors in March 1997, representing District One, which then had a population of over 330,000 and encompassed 70 percent of the county’s land area. While representing District One, Don was instrumental in widening Highway 101 from four to eight lanes from Morgan Hill to Highway 85.
He was elected to the Santa Clara Valley Water District in 2010 serving until 2013 when he was again elected Mayor of Gilroy serving until he resigned in December 2015. Don Gage served the South Santa Clara Valley and Gilroy for over thirty-four years.
Richard “Dick “ Nicholls (July 2, 1944 – June 15, 2005)
Dick was raised in Morgan Hill and went to live Oak High School. He worked for Ford’s Department Store and was Marketing Director for Falcon Cable TV which is now Charter Cable TV.
He is best known as the Executive Director of the Gilroy Garlic Festival Association from 1985 to 2005. He help shape and made the annual festival into a worldwide event bringing fame and fortune to Gilroy. Through his association with the Garlic Festival, he became president of the California Festival Association and director of the International Festivals and Events Association and was named to its Hall of Fame in 1996.
He was a past Director of the Gilroy Foundation, United Way and President of the Rotary Club of Gilroy.
Rudolph “Rudy” Melone ( January 29, 1925 September 17, 1998)
Born in Connecticut on January 29, 1925, Rudolph J. Melone was orphaned at age three and raised in the Bronx, NY. A Navy Seabee veteran of World War II, he entered the University of Portland, earning a Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in education.
Melone gained his doctorate at the University of California, Berkeley and later served as dean at Pima College in Tucson, AZ, and at the Skyline College in San Mateo, CA, before assuming the presidency at Gavilan Community College and effectively altering history for an entire community.
While serving as Gavilan’s president Melone approached Don Christopher, whose Christopher Ranch was, and remains, the largest shipper of garlic in the world, with the idea of: a celebration of “The Stinking Rose”, the pungent herb used by chefs worldwide. The Garlic Festival has been regarded by the national media as “the preeminent food festival in America.” Don Christopher said, “There would be no Gilroy Garlic Festival without Rudy,” Few people anywhere have left their mark in a community as indelibly as Rudy Melone.
He was a founder and initial director of South Valley National Bank and involved with numerous non-profits including the Italian Catholic Federation, the American Red Cross, four Boy Scout Troops, Gavilan Hills Church, the Hospice of Hollister, the Community Breast Health Project and the Gilroy Gators Swim Club.