Keep Martinez’s Rich History Alive!
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Two more articles below… Enjoy!
Recently I had the pleasure of speaking with Wade Finlinson, an Integrated Pest Management Coordinator (IPM) at Contra Costa Health Services, in their Hazardous Materials program. Quite a title indeed but a delightful and very informed man who took it upon himself to posthumously honor a man who was not only a pioneer in the field of biological control of pests but an environmental activist as well.
This man was Robert van den Bosch, or Van, as he was known by his friends, and he was born and raised in Martinez at 1315 Court Street. (For those of you who remember her, Sheila Boyer Grilli resided in the house on Court after Van and his wife, Peggy, passed away. Van was a 1939 graduate of Alhambra Union High School.
Andrew Gutierrez, a student of Van’s as well as a close friend, describes him as “…a truly remarkable man who was passionate about biological control, pest management and environmental activism.” Dr. Gutierrez also describes Van as “…extremely bright and intuitive, an impeccably honest moral man, deeply loyal to his wife Margret van den Bosch (Peggy), to family friends and to the University of California…”. “…he was the epitome of justice refusing to be denied. He had a strong, competitive spirit that expressed itself in sports and later in his professional career. And although smaller than all of the rugby players at Cal, who referred to him as ‘Mouse’ due to his small stature, he liked to compete against the bigger guys and win. He was a jock to the core.”
However, he is also described as “compassionate, nurturing and supportive, and was unassumingly wonderful with students.”
Professor van den Bosch was a disciple of Rachel Carson, author of Silent Spring, and like her, he was demonized by many of his peers in the field for daring to confront the huge chemical industries and their rampant use of pesticides on crops.
Harriett Burt, a Master Gardener herself and well versed in environmentally friendly ways to control garden pests, wrote an excellent article on him in the 2012 Martinez Historical Society newsletter, in which she delved into many details of his life.
The Martinez Museum also owns a copy of Professor van den Bosch’s book titled The Pesticide Conspiracy, in which he passionately describes the underbelly of what he calls the “pesticide Mafia” and their somewhat Machiavellian approach to agriculture.
But back to Mr. Wade Finlinson. Although Wade began his time at IPM in August of 2019, it wasn’t until around February of 2022, while leaning back in his office chair, that he really took note of Van’s obituary from an issue of Nature magazine that had been placed on the wall of his office by his predecessor, Tanya Drlik.
While reading it more thoroughly, Wade noticed that Van’s birthday was March 31, 1922 and that this year would mark the 100-year anniversary of his birth. Wade then went into action, checking with his manager about the possibility of sending a resolution to our County Board of Supervisors. The purpose of this resolution would be to commemorate Professor van den Bosch’s birth and to celebrate the values of responsible pest management in our County and in our State.
With no time to lose, Wade prepared a letter for the Board after interviewing a few of Van’s former students, and on March 28, 2022, his letter was put on the Board agenda consent calendar. It was voted on and unanimously passed on March 31, 2022.
The Clerk of the Board of Supervisors designed and created the formal resolution and this was given to Wade Finlinson.
However, Mr. Finlinson felt that the Resolution honoring Professor van den Bosch should reside in the Martinez Museum as a tribute to this man who Professor Emeritus Paul R. Erlich, President of Stanford’s Center for Conservation Biology lauded for suggesting, “…constructive, ecologically sound alternatives (including the limited use of selective pesticides when required) to its increasingly dangerous reliance on chemicals.”
Mary Goodman and Kathy Braun were pleased to receive the Resolution from Mr. Finlinson and it now hangs on a wall at the Martinez Museum.
Martinez has produced many important and colorful personages and Professor van den Bosch is a fine example.
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