My fellow columnist Bill Flodberg was known around Gilroy and
beyond as teacher, coach, philanthropist, and
an expert on long distance running.
“The time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race. I have kept the faith.”
– 2 Timothy 4:6-7, New International Version
My fellow columnist Bill Flodberg was known around Gilroy and beyond as teacher, coach, philanthropist, and “Running Man,” an expert on long distance running. The Mount Madonna Challenge Run for the South Valley Symphony and the Reek Run for the Garlic Festival were just two of the many local races which he founded to benefit local arts and charities. He completed his last charitable run just a few months before his death. He ran every day possible up until he was struck down by a pick-up truck during his final run down Monterey Street at age 75.
On the sunny Sunday afternoon of Aug. 27, a newly completed garden in memory of Flodberg was dedicated on Church Street. Friends of Flodberg’s attended the ceremony, at which United Methodist pastors Rev. Alison Berry and Rev. Eric Cho officiated. Berry, former Gilroy field hockey coach and pastor to Flodberg, traveled all the way from Grass Valley to mark the occasion, a labor of love made possible by Flodberg’s widow, Sheila.
Guests gathered in a semi-circle at the front of the garden to share memories of Flodberg and how he had impacted their lives and the community for good.
Rev. Berry used a well shaken bottle of spring water to christen the garden gazebo covered in trailing vines and flowers. It was the perfect touch for a man who relied on spring water to keep him hydrated on the many miles of trail he traveled in the great outdoors he loved so much.
Flodberg shared his expertise on running in a weekly Dispatch column for many years. In stories for such publications as “Runners World,” the “Register Pajaronian,” and “Out & About Magazine,” he wrote about techniques to keep going in spite of setbacks, how to ameliorate pain, and how to approach running (and life) in a holistic way. He described how gardening on his three-acre property in San Martin made him a better runner and vice versa.
The son of Watsonville mayor Fred Flodberg, Bill was a natural community-builder. He wrote numerous grant proposals to fund local artistic endeavors, and he promoted local arts events at every opportunity with his own time and money.
I remember Flodberg running to church in his shorts and then singing enthusiastically off-key from one of the back pews. But who cared? He loved music.
“To me, what made Bill unique and different was that although not an artist himself, he dedicated himself to supporting the local arts,” local arts developer Arline Silva said. “He supported the arts not for himself but with unselfish dedication on behalf of this community for over 30 years.”
He tried to keep it “anonymous,” but most of us eventually figured out that he was putting up his own money for matching grant proposals in order to encourage others to donate towards a project, whether it be a mission project at his church, a benefit for the Gilroy and Morgan Hill schools where he taught, or a concert by the South Valley Symphony.
Educator Lori Franke credits Flodberg as the champion who won the founding grant for her award-winning South Valley Suzuki String program, which has introduced hundreds of young people to the joys of learning to play the violin.
She was ready to give up in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles, but Flodberg singlehandedly overcame every challenge. One of the creative ways that Flodberg supported Franke was by convincing local businesses like Fresh Choice Restaurant to offer coupon books with 100 percent of the proceeds going to the Artist in Residence program.
Beautifully completed by landscaper Tom Tacci, the garden in Flodberg’s honor is located most appropriately in an area that runs between the main building of the Gilroy United Methodist Church Flodberg attended and Gilroy’s Music Academy, where students of all ages receive lessons in violin, voice, guitar, and piano.
I know I’m not alone in saying that he always enthusiastically encouraged me to attend a concert or a benefit every time I saw him. He absolutely did not know the definition of the word “no,” He would walk into a business and the owner would just look up and ask, “How much do you want, Bill?”
Flodberg taught me persistence in following one’s dreams and to always look for how to benefit others. He taught me not to give up in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds.
In his lifetime, Flodberg wrote over 500 articles; he logged over 100,000 miles on foot, and he raised over a million dollars for charity.
“The impossible dream? He lived it,” musician friend Allen Douglas described. “It was just normal to him.”
Running Man fought the good fight, kept the faith, and he always finished the race.