Mission College honored a long-time Santa Clara family with the dedication of the Von Raesfeld Fire Tower on Sept. 12. The Von Raesfeld Family has been committed to public service in Santa Clara and the region for decades and through generations. For example, the Von Raesfeld Family includes three firefighters who went to Mission College.
Don Sr. and the late Celine Von Raesfeld raised nine children. Three of the sons — Myron, Darryl and Marty — are graduates of the fire services program at Mission College and became firefighters with a combined 70 years of fire-related services.
“The Mission College program is one of the best in the country,” said Marty Von Raesfeld, who retired in 2014.
Several other Von Raesfeld children were also in public service: Colleen became a sergeant in the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office; Donna spent 30 years as a Union City school teacher; and Don Jr. drove for the Valley Transportation Authority. The Von Raesfeld family also ran Coast to Coast Hardware on Franklin and Monroe streets in Santa Clara for 20 years and Celine Von Raesfeld served on various committees dedicated to the improvement of Santa Clara.
Don Von Raesfeld Sr., himself, spent five decades working in Santa Clara. He started as Water Superintendent. Following that he was promoted to Director of Public Works and then City Manager (1960-85). After leaving City Hall, Don Von Raesfeld Sr. served on the City Council from 1988 to 1992.
As City Manager, Don Von Raesfeld Sr.’s vision for the area North of 101 — then known as “North of Bayshore” — was anchored by Mission College, the Santa Clara Convention Center and California’s Great America. Great America’s 1976 opening was followed by Mission College in 1979 and the Convention Center in 1986.
David Rose, a faculty member for the Fire Protection Technology program, emphasized how valuable the partnership between the community, local businesses and Mission College’s fire program has been.
“The partnership has been beneficial to all parties and Don Sr. was an instrumental part of this with his early vision of Santa Clara and the area North of 101,” said Rose. “The area is now home to spots such as Levi’s Stadium, retail establishments, tech companies, Great America, along with homes. The area would be vastly different without Don Sr.’s input.”
The fire tower dedication began with a speech by Mission College President Daniel Peck.
“[The Von Raesfeld Family’s] dedication to saving lives truly inspires future generations of first responders,” said Peck. “Mission College is fortunate to count these community leaders as alumni.”
Santa Clara Mayor Lisa Gillmor presented Don Von Raesfeld Sr. with a Proclamation certificate, and longtime friend and former Santa Clara Mayor, Gary Gillmor, shared some anecdotes about their years working together.
The tribute included a rescue demonstration by current Fire Protection Technology students, showing the rescue of a fire survivor (a dummy) from an upper floor.
The fire tower dedication event concluded with a christening of the building using a fire hose.