Posted by Cathy Gowdy on Friday, July 03, 2015 at 07:47:22 :
Point Reyes Light
June 5, 2003
Sis Arndt, 83, dies; pioneer environmentalist
By Larken Bradley
Point Reyes Station resident Sis Arndt, a trailblazing protector of West Marin’s natural resources who began espousing a "green" philosophy decades ago—when the word simply referred to the color in a box of crayons, died at home Friday, May 30, from respiratory failure. She was 83.
A resident of Point Reyes since early childhood, Mrs. Arndt began advocating in the 1950s for the restoration of salmon and trout habitats in the Papermill and Lagunitas Creeks where ranchers had built seasonal dams to irrigate pastureland. The property owned by late rancher Waldo Giacomini, which Mrs. Arndt and her family lived on the edge of, has since been purchased by Point Reyes National Seashore, whose plans include restoring it to marshland.
Mrs. Arndt’s conservation efforts often stirred the caldron of controversy. In 1996 after receiving a Citizen of the Year award given by the Point Reyes Business Association and the West Marin Lion’s Club, she told the crowd gathered in her honor, "I wish to thank all my friends... and my enemies too."
Also a caretaker of the elderly and infirm, long before public services were available to local residents, Mrs. Arndt provided a self-administered, one-woman social service agency.
She cooked, cleaned, and shopped. She delivered meals and mail. She washed, ironed, and picked up prescriptions. So well known was Mrs. Arndt for her selfless service that strangers from over the hill and beyond asked her to check in on frail seniors, her nephew Fred Rodoni reported.
"She was a sweet, sweet lady who just would do anything for anyone, any time of day," her daughter Sissy Dreesmann said Tuesday.
Added her nephew Dennis Rodoni, even while ailing in recent years, "she was still offering blood and a lung," should someone in need appear.
Before her retirement, for nearly 15 years Mrs. Arndt coached girls’ sports and taught physical education at West Marin School, where she was also a custodian and teacher’s aide.
Born on Oct. 20, 1919, in Butte, Montana, Adeline "Sis" Rodoni moved with her Swiss-Italian family to Point Reyes Station when she was six years old. At the site of what is now the Western Saloon, her parents operated an establishment named Rodoni’s, which functioned as a boarding house, short-order restaurant, ice cream parlor, and saloon.
The family’s boarding facilities served as weekday housing for Tomales High School students including Joe Mendoza, who attended Tomales High School and whose family operated a ranch on the remote Point.
During World War II while her father and brothers served in the military, her mother fell ill and the business was sold.
A member of Tomales High’s class of 1937, young Sis and her brothers were fanatical baseball fans. She played softball until age 56, when asthma prevented her from sliding into home plate any longer.
While she was a girl, old Oakland Oaks’ hitter Buzz Arlett dedicated a homerun to young Sis and her brother Pat, as the two listened to the game on the radio. Awestruck, the youngsters later learned that the saloon’s Coca Cola deliveryman had informed the athlete of a baseball-crazy family living in Point Reyes Station, which prompted the dedication.
In 1940 she married Lawrence "Lefty" Arndt, a commercial fisherman who regularly stopped in Point Reyes Station on his nautical excursions between Santa Cruz and Eureka. Mr. Arndt went on to open Arndt Saw Sharpening, attracting customers from far and wide who came for his expert, friendly service. Mr. Arndt was also famous for the eye-catching, abalone-shell towers he had posted outside the family home.
At the time of his death in 1998, the couple had been married for 59 years.
Mrs. Arndt first presented herself as a community activist in World War II during America’s fight against Italy. "She helped to harvest artichokes after her Italian friends were banned from crossing Highway 1," historian Dewey Livingston told The Light this week.
Added Livingston, "she was an icon of Point Reyes Station history."
In the 1950s she withstood opposition from townspeople in campaigning for the installation of streetlights in Point Reyes Station. The Volunteer Fire Department later gave her a special award for her efforts.
Mrs. Arndt’s love of West Marin and memories of its early, pristine conditions may have been at the root of her activism, friends speculated. She often spoke of sailboats that floated freely down Peppermill and Lagunitas creeks. She was motivated by the desire "to try to restore things to where they used to be," her daughter said.
When she encountered an underdog—whether fish, animal, or human, she took action.
Mrs. Arndt and fellow activists including Anne West and Jean Atwood succeeded in getting CalTrans to stop spraying pesticides on West Marin’s roadsides. Together they staged a demonstration at Pacific Lumber’s mill in Humboldt County, protesting the cutting down of redwoods.
"She was one of the strongest environmentalists I’ve ever met," Atwood remarked. "She’s like a modern saint."
Added Jules Evens, former president of the board of directors of the Environmental Action Committee, "Sis was a staunch and vital defender of the environment."
She was also a gracious Swiss hostess, "You never said ‘no’ to food even if you had just eaten," her daughter said with a laugh. For family gatherings she was known to prepare a special risotto or polenta accompanied by venison or beef stew.
Added her daughter, "she loved her Swiss history."
Also an avid organic gardener, a few days before her death she transplanted 30 tomato plants.
Mrs. Arndt was predeceased by her brother, Pat Rodoni; and a sister, Eureka Rodoni, who died at six months of age.
She is survived by her son, Otto "Pat" Arndt of Point Reyes Station; daughter, Adeline "Sissy" Dreesmann of Los Gatos; brothers, Fred Rodoni; and Rod Rodoni; and sister-in-law, Nola Rodoni, all of Point Reyes Station; five grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren.
A memorial gathering will be held at 1 p.m. Saturday, June 21, at Love Field.
The family has suggested that any memorial contributions be made to the Inverness Garden Club Scholarship Fund, Box 724, Inverness 94937; or to Sister Mary Jane Mast, SHF Pastoral Ministry, 23233 Lyons Ave., Santa Clarita, CA 91321.
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