The Queen of Winters turns 100

The Rotary Club of Winters sponsored a 100th birthday party for Winters icon Bobbie Greenwood on Tuesday, Nov. 21.
Bobbie Greenwood gets ready to blow out the candle on her cake at her 100th birthday party on Nov. 21. Photo by Charles Wallace

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What started out as a small Rotary recognition party turned into a full blown birthday bash for Bobbie Greenwood’s 100th birthday.  The celebration was held at the Palms on Tuesday, Nov. 21, the day before her actual birthday.

Jessica Kilkenny was the organizer and Woody Fridae served as the master of ceremonies and presented a slide show and commentary on Bobbie’s life. Jessica beamed when she told about starting out with a small party, but soon realized that a lot of people wanted to attend. She had a hard time limiting the number of guests, but the size of the hall kept the number to a reasonable level. The Buckhorn served over 100 people that evening.

Woody’s slide show was a big hit, starting with the question, “Who is Barbara DeNure?” Of course, it is Bobbie Greenwood, who was born in Oxnard but grew up 20 miles away in Santa Paula.

“It would take an hours drive in the family Model T, owned by her grandfather, or a couple of hours drive in the family carriage from their ranch in Santa Paula to get to Oxnard,” Woody explained. There were slides of Bobbie’s siblings, father (her mother died when she was 5 years old), grandparents and cousins, and of course, pictures of Bobbie in a swimming pool.

Years later, Bobbie would say, “There was something about the town of Winters, with so many friendly Mexican families and the fruit and nut trees, that reminded her of home in Santa Paula…”

Woody continued his presentation.

“When one of her friends invited her to a beach house in Laguna Beach, Bobbie was eager to go. There she met a friend of a friend, the movie-star-handsome John Greenwood. The way Bobbie tells it, John said, ‘Come on, I’ll race you out to that raft.’” “John didn’t know how competitive Bobbie was and she kept up with him ever since!”

After his service in the Army in WWII and they returned to California, they bought the Baker Company in 1951, renaming it the Greenwoods Department Store. The store closed in 1985.

Bobbie was active in the Red Cross, helped build the first town pool and started the first swim team in Winters. She served on the Winters Recreation Commission for decades. She has promoted and been in charge of the American Field Service student exchange program for longer than people can remember. She was the Winters Citizen of the Year in 1966.

One of her AFS students from Norway in 1975 talked about what an influence AFS had on his live.

“I just had to be here,” Knute Swenson said.

Bobbie’s youngest grandchild, Quincy Harris, talked about what a great influence her grandmother had on all of the grandchildren. She joked that when she went to City Hall to ask for permission to use a facility, the first response was, “I’m not sure we can do that.” When she mentioned her grandmother, it happened.

Rotarian Larry Justice talked about her husband, John, being a charter member of the Winters Rotary in 1956. Bobbie attends most meetings, even today. Larry presented her with a Paul Harris pin, which means that the Rotary Club of Winters donated $1,000 in her name to the Rotary Foundation. She was also presented with a pink stone, cut by local Rotarian John Barbee.

“When John Greenwood passed away in 2007 we made Bobbie an honorary member of the Rotary Club of Winters,” Larry added.

Mike Sebastian blushed when he talked about volunteering to be the announcer at swim events, starting in 1978.

“I told her I would stick around as long as she did. Who knew we would still be working the meets in 2017?”

Son-in-law Jean Chevalier teared up when he said that the family had asked him to speak on their behalf. He talked about working at the Greenwood home in the country and meeting his future wife, Kim, over 35 years ago. He made points when he said it was the best thing that had ever happened to him.

There were the regular proclamations from the city, county and state governments. Major Wade Cowan read the proclamation from the city. Supervisor Don Saylor presented her a proclamation from the county and Assemblywoman Cecilia Aguiar-Curry represented both the state assembly and state senate, filling in for Senator Bill Dodd.

Cake and cupcakes were served and Bobbie looked happy to blow out the candle on the cake placed at her table. She kept it short and sweet, and thanked everyone who had helped her over the years and those that had been on her swim teams.

She introduced her daughters and their families, Danielle, Kim and Niki. The relatives that couldn’t make it on Tuesday night were at Bobbie’s home for Thanksgiving, with over 40 in attendance.

Happy Birthday, Bobbie.

(Woody Fridae contributed to this story.)


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