Leonore Rooney Daschbach: Reflections on a life well spent in Atherton
A visit with Leonore Rooney Daschbach, who’s lived in the same house in Atherton since she was six years old, is recalling a time that is no longer — and one that, in many respects, is the same.
“Growing up, there were only boys on my street except for Sis [Whelan Lussier],” she recalls, “so we were stuck playing with them. We rode our bikes everywhere — all the way to Palo Alto to go to a movie. That was before the Park Theater opened. I think Harry [Whelan] and I were there at the opening.”
A conversation with Leonore is filled with family remembrances and talk of long-standing traditions and friendships, a fact underscored by daugher Laura Daschbach Pitchford: “I am guessing that between the Whelans and the Daschbach families there are at least a dozen Godparent/Godchild relationships. When we were kids, everyone thought we were cousins so we all just went along with it and told people that we were!”
Then there’s the relationship with Jane Rothchild Turner, who Leonore met when they were girls. Grown with children of their own, over the past 50 years their respective families have vacationed together, packing up station wagons to head to all parts of the country. In recent decades, with a third generation now involved, the trips have been closer to home at Lake Tahoe. (Pictured below is the gathering last year at Tahoe.)
Husband Howard (to Leonore’s right, above) came into Leonore’s life shortly after he’d graduated from Stanford Law School. “People said I was too tall for him,” she recalls, “but it all worked out. I’d been to college and also to Europe a couple of times. I was ready to marry and settle down.”
They had six children in 10 years, all of whom attended St. Raymond School except for Laura. (She missed the cut off age and went to her mother’s alma mater, Sacred Heart from kindergarten through 4th, then to St. Joseph and back to Sacred Heart for high school.) The connection to St. Raymond continues through the latest generation, and in May the school field was officially named the Leonore and Howard Daschbach Family Field in honor of the couple’s long commitment to the school.
Early in her life Leonore gained a love for horses and dogs — lots of Golden Retrievers, but some terriers and other breeds including a Basset Hound named Solo. “I actually paid money for him,” she says. “For whatever reason he’d take every opportunity to get out the gate.”
Recalls daughter Laura: “It’s the only time I remember my Mom yelling, when one of the dogs got out. Mom did most of the driving, and the dogs would sometimes get the front seat and my Dad would be in the back.” Added Leonore: “Dogs don’t get mad at you.”
While she was growing up, her father kept a couple of horses on the nearby Odell property. She remembers a time when she would ride not only at the Circus Club and on the Sacred Heart campus but all over Atherton. “I was going to run away once and take the dogs and horses,” she says.
Leonore suffered a stroke in 1994, and while it affected her speech and mobility somewhat, she has few other ill effects — her eyes, in particular, sparkle a vibrant blue. “It was the first time I’d ever been hospitalized,” she says, “except for having all six kids on the other side of the building. People say unkind things about Stanford, but I spent a month there — a week recovering and three weeks in the rehabilitation unit — and I think it was great.”
Through all the years and all the family mischief — a painting that her mother collected shows the knick of some flying object out of one of her children’s hand — she’s stayed steadfast in her appreciation of the town that she’s made her life in. “Horses, dogs, and an occasional child — it’s been a wonderful life. I love it here.”
Top photo of Leonore Rooney Daschbach by Scott R. Kline
Daschbach/Turner clan photo by Laura Daschbach Pitchford