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Santa Clara Has Mary Gomez to Thank for Its Neighborhood Parks

The 5.64-acre Mary Gomez Park and Pool, paralleling San Tomas Exwy. at 651 Bucher Ave., is an enduring legacy of the late Mary Sanchez Gomez. The Santa Clara native, born Nov. 22, 1922, passed away on Feb. 2 at the age of 95, just two months before the park’s 60th birthday.

Even on a breezy March afternoon with the temperature in the mid-50s and intermittent rain, Mary Gomez Park is popular with the neighbors. CJ Grewal, who was walking his two dogs, reminisced about the park.

“I’ve lived close by in the neighborhood about 30 years, and the whole community uses the park,” said Grewal. “I walk the dogs. When my kids were younger, we used to go to the swimming pool. It’s great to see new families come here now.”

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Payal Shah was supervising her seven-year-old son, Neil, and his three friends on the play equipment. Neil was eager to share what he liked about the park.

“I like the play structure and the nature—the redwood trees and bushes,” he said. “I like biking on the walkway and the basketball court. I like swimming over here. I like everything.”

The only park amenities Neil didn’t mention were the two tennis courts and the four picnic tables with BBQ facilities.

“It’s a nice park,” said his mom. “I love this park.”

The park was dedicated to Mary Gomez on March 29, 1958, in recognition of her successful efforts to establish a City Parks and Recreation Department. Today, it’s hard to imagine the city of Santa Clara without a Parks and Recreation Department and without a park in every neighborhood, but that was exactly the case prior to 1950.

Gomez served from 1950 – 1957 on the City’s first Parks and Recreation Commission, which, according to “Santa Clara Sagas” by Austen D. Warburton, formulated the policy to have a park in every neighborhood. Santa Clara now has more than 40 recreation areas and facilities—Central Park, neighborhood parks, special-use parks, recreation centers, an open space natural area and public pools.

Former Santa Clara Mayor W. J. Nicholson opened the Mary Gomez Park and Pool dedication ceremony with welcoming remarks 60 years ago. The Santa Clara High School Girls Water Ballet Group and Santa Clara Swim Club performed for attendees, followed by free recreational swimming for residents.

Mary Gomez, whose family roots went back to the Spanish province of Malaga, graduated from Santa Clara High School in 1939 and from San Jose State College in 1943. Also in 1943, she married James Gomez during his leave from the U.S. Coast Guard. They had one child, Mary Michele Barovsky, who resides in California. Gomez taught first and second grade in the Santa Clara Unified School District for 34 years and was Teacher of the Year in 1972.

Gomez was pre-deceased by her parents; John and Josephine Sanchez, who married at Mission Santa Clara in 1921; and her younger brother, John Sanchez, Santa Clara Postmaster from 1967 to 1984. She is survived by her daughter, cousins, nieces, nephews and great nephews and is interred at Santa Clara Mission Cemetery.

“Aunt Mary taught us that from our simple Spanish immigrant stock we could become well-mannered, civic minded, gracious, and well educated. She set an example for our entire family. We give thanks for the many ways she used her God given gifts to bless our family and our community,” wrote her nephew Glen Smith from Boise, ID, in an online memorial book.

Memories can be shared at http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/mercurynews/obituary.aspx?pid=188117987 and
https://www.dignitymemorial.com/obituaries/santa-clara-ca/mary-gomez-7750113#remembering.

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1 Comment
  1. James Cardoza 2 months ago
    Reply

    I grew up on Bucher ave in the 60s. Spent the better part of every summer day at Mary Gomez Park. In those days Parks and recreation was a huge deal. The staff kept dozens of kids entertained every day with fun and games. The best years of my life! the park, the pool, the fun, the games never ended. It was one long summer day with endless activities. We were so lucky to grow up in those magical years. No electronics, just imagination, outdoor fun and room to roam as a child without fear.

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