Santa Clara County Parks Champion Kitty Monahan, 89. dead on

Kitty Monahan, a beloved Santa Clara County conservationist, educator and historian who led efforts to protect the area’s parks for decades, died on July 25. She was 89 years old.

Monahan, who died around midnight at her New Almaden property where she had lived since 1972, left behind a long list of achievements, most notably the 4,000-acre Almaden Quicksilver County Park, where mercury mining in the county Helps to lead the purchase and protection of The 19th century marked the beginning of California’s gold rush economy.

Although Monahan was not married and had no children, those who knew her well said that the surrounding community stood as her family. In the days before his passing, Monahan had dozens of visitors to say goodbye to her New Almaden home.

“She was like our bonus mom,” said Chris Peretti, a close family friend of Monahan’s. “He never had children … we were his children.”

Peretti said that although Monahan had difficulty talking in his final days, he said “thank you” to each of his guests.

“She was always very much loved,” Peretti said. “But she was a very strong, independent woman. Even until she was older, she could throw a lump of hay faster than me.”

Born on December 4, 1932, Monahan grew up in San Jose and attended Notre Dame High School. She then served as a nun for the next two decades and spent time teaching in various locations across the state, including the South Los Angeles neighborhood of Watts. Friends say that he broke away from the church after disagreements with the leadership of Pope John XXIII.

In the early 1970s, Monahan became a math teacher at William C. Overfelt High School. Mark Fleming, who was Monahan’s student during his junior and senior years, described him as a “dedicated and knowledgeable” teacher.

“If you were slow, she would have worked with you, which I was,” Fleming said. “Beyond her math skills, she cared about the students. They were personal to him. ,

It was around the same time that even Monahan began to ramp up his conservation efforts. Along with other community members, Monahan worked to get Santa Clara County to purchase the 4,000-acre Almaden Quicksilver County Park for approximately $4 million. The area was once the largest mercury mine on the North American continent, the element used to separate gold from its ore. Mining operations began in the mid-1840s and lasted more than a century, generating profits of $70 million and improving the region’s economy.

Kitty Monahan, middle right, at the ribbon cutting of the San Cristóbal Tunnel, October 12, 1985. (courtesy tere johnson)

By the mid-1970s, she was informally known as the “Mayor of New Almaden” because of her advocacy for the region, said Michael Cox, who worked with Monahan for decades.

In 1983, along with Cox, Monahan helped found the New Almaden Quicksilver County Park Association, or NAQCPA, which to this day serves as an educational resource for the historic site and has about 400 members. The group quickly began consolidating the park’s facilities and helped direct the county’s purchase of a private collection of park historical artifacts and the 1850s Revival-style mansion known as Case Grande, both of which had Eventually the Almaden Quicksilver Mining Museum was formed.

“We were both obsessed with Almaden and both wanted the park to be developed into something more,” said Cox, currently the NAQCPA’s vice president. “Because of its rich history, it can become a learning center for young people and those who share in the social and geological history of the park.”

Cox described Monahan as having “a very positive outlook on things”, “tough,” “always smiling” and “tireless” in his quest to protect the history of the area.

“She kept a little calendar she wrote in,” Cox recalls. “She used to write small prints in each calendar square. There would be eight or nine things in it. She was constantly jumping from one thing to another.”

In the intervening years, Monahan would continue in his conservation efforts, establishing various groups such as Friends of Santa Teresa Park. He also served as a member of the Open Space Authority of Santa Clara County and the Horsemen’s Association.

Kitty Monahan At Her New Almaden Home In 2020.  (Courtesy Chris Peretti)
Kitty Monahan at her New Almaden home in 2020. (courtesy Chris Peretti)

In all, she spent 14,000 hours volunteering for the county’s parks, which were recognized through the Presidential Volunteer Service Award in 2014. Most recently, Monahan was given a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Santa Clara County Preservation Alliance in May.

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