Palo Alto Weekly

Cover Story - April 30, 2010

Fred and Marcia Rehmus

Palo Alto couple exemplifies good citizenship with years of active involvement

by Karla Kane

Married for nearly half a century, Fred and Marcia Rehmus reckon that between them they've racked up 94 combined years of volunteer experience. Just a bit short of hitting the collective 100-year mark, Fred said he's sure they'll keep active enough to join the "century club" soon.

"One hundred years?" Marcia said with a grin. "I plan to have many more!"

That spirit of enthusiasm for community involvement has led to the Rehmuses' longtime participation in numerous local organizations in a range of fields, including art, education, gardening and health, benefiting everyone from kids to college students to the elderly.

"I feel extremely fortunate to have lived in this area for a long time and gotten to know so many people," said Marcia, who moved out west from New England in the early 1960s. Volunteering "builds connections with people, organizations and community issues."

A 30-plus-year resident of Atherton (the Rehmuses moved to Palo Alto's Classic Residence by Hyatt senior residence four years ago, and spent some early years in Denver and Seattle), Marcia's made her mark on the community in many ways.

She's served on boards in the Menlo Park and Sequoia school districts, PTAs and parents' clubs at Stanford University; presided over Palo Alto's Gamble Garden board (and was involved with numerous boards and committees there); served on the Avenidas board and helped found the Avenidas Village program; and currently serves on the Breast Cancer Connections board, to name a few involvements.

Marcia considers her work with her three children's schools, Gamble Garden and Breast Cancer Connections especially meaningful.

"Being involved with the public schools was very important to me. And Gamble Garden is such a wonderful, unique place," she said, as she looked out upon her own lush patio garden.

Marcia has found that true interest and passion are required to be an effective volunteer.

"Volunteering is fun! It keeps you thinking and creating. It keeps you young. I only get involved with things I know I'm going to enjoy," she said, adding that one of the responsibilities of a community leader is to find and inspire others to carry on the work in the future.

"I believe you should always be looking for your replacement and surrounding yourself with good people. I love to meet people and get them interested in leadership roles," she said.

"Don't get on her list," husband Fred joked of his wife's recruitment abilities. "She's indefatigable."

Fred's good humor is one of many characteristics that have made him a successful leading citizen in his own right. With a professional background in financial planning, the Stanford Graduate School of Business grad has served in various capacities on Stanford's Cantor Arts Center membership board, the board of the Oregon Shakespeare Company, several Stanford University alumni boards and parents' organizations, and many more.

A talented artist (his handmade birdhouses won a Sunset Magazine award), his love for the intricately carved artwork of native cultures of the Pacific Northwest has led him to become a major advocate for and patron of the Cantor Arts Center, which now features the Rehmus Family Gallery for Native American Art.

"Cantor's the most successful university museum in the country," he said, proudly.

In 2002, Fred was instrumental in the gift of the "Stanford Legacy" totem pole, decorated with symbolic representations of the Stanford family story, installed on campus.

"I wanted one at home in Atherton but Marcia objected," the avid collector said, smiling at the memory. While many pieces of art decorate their apartment, most of them are kept at Fred's office. Commissioning the artwork for Stanford was "a joint effort with the university, the artist and us," he said.

And his artistic interests aren't limited to crafting, carving and Shakespeare.

"He cooks, too!" Marcia said.

Though Fred and Marcia don't tend to volunteer with the same groups, they enjoy other activities together — annual trips to Maui and Lake Tahoe are favorites. They also love spending time with their six grandchildren.

"A grandparent — that's just the greatest thing you can be," Marcia said.

For the Rehmuses, a lifetime of working toward community improvement and involvement has been a no-brainer.

"To have the community you want, you have to step up," Fred said.

"Money is one way, but time is even more important," Marcia added.

Quite simply, for the Rehmuses, "it is the core responsibility of a good citizen to be involved," he said.

Editorial Assistant Karla Kane can be e-mailed at kkane@paweekly.com.

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