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Paul Grunland


We were deeply saddened to hear of the recent death of our longtime friend and Berkeley Historical Society member Paul Grunland on February 2, 2018, at the age of 93. 

Paul had led BHS walking tours at least once a year from 1997 to 2017. Their themes included Paths of Northeast Berkeley, Berkeley’s Last Land Acquisition, the Alameda-Contra Costa County boundary, the Maybeck Estates in Kensington, and the Rocks of Thousand Oaks. He was a treasure trove of knowledge of these areas and compiled informative souvenir books to accompany each tour.

Paul was also active in the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association, El Cerrito Historical Society, and Berkeley Path Wanderers Association He participated in Willard School and Boy Scout Troop 6 of Berkeley alumni events as well as numerous other activities in Berkeley, Kensington, and El Cerrito. Several months ago he had moved into the new Belmont Village senior community in Albany with his wife of 62 years, Peggy.

Remembrances from Berkeley Historical Society volunteers:

It is still very hard for me to believe that he is gone. At 93, Paul was still such a force of nature, full of enthusiasm and plans, desire to connect people and foster civic organizations.   

Paul was involved in so many organizations in the Bay Area and beyond that I wouldn’t know how to catalogue all of his contributions. I know he was an active Sierra Clubber, knew intimately the history of Berkeley’s parks and creeks, was always interested in BAHA’s preservationist activities, and had prepared richly-illustrated and annotated walking tour guides, as well as oral histories. 

Certainly his enthusiasm was remarkable. But his heart was also. The last time I saw Paul, just a little over a week ago, he gave me the kind of bear hug you don’t expect from a 93-year-old. It was emblematic of the way he embraced life itself, and, particularly, his wide circle of friends and companions. 

I guess Paul’s devotion to oral history was an expression of this deep appreciation of other human beings—often of what hardships they had overcome and to what impressive heights they had risen.  Perhaps having survived WWII, and knowing so many who did not, Paul was all the more appreciative of what a life could mean. 

In just a few months at the Belmont, Paul had discovered a new treasure in his companions there, and he hoped I would record some of their stories.That was truly Paul. Paul was an avid historian, but with one foot always planted in the present and the other in the future. I hope we can carry on his work and spirit. 

We are indebted to Daniella Thompson for her blog post celebrating the contributions of Paul Grunland. 

 — Jeanine Castello-Lin

Paul and I spent a lot of time together over the years. He was always inviting me to lunch or breakfast at the golf course, usually with his wife, Peggy. We went to a lot of meetings, including the Oakland Heritage Association and the El Cerrito Historical Society. Together we designed multiple-page walking tour handouts. I miss him calling with “I have an idea for this….” Paul was always five projects ahead of me in creating plaques and awards to people he thought were important. Too bad we were never able to do his oral history.

One highlight I remember was our four-day driving trip to the Bennett Juniper Tree in the Sierras with his friend Hank Abraham. Paul was also active with Boy Scout Troup 6 and is greatly missed by them, too.

— John Aronovici

Paul Grunland was both energetic and compassionate. He was genuinely interested in others and made each of us feel valued. Paul enthusiastically threw himself into researching, writing booklets, planning tours, and attending social events and lectures. He accomplished far more in his life than most. He gently pushed us to do our best and had us walking along creeks, scrambling over rocks, and climbing to the top of the Selby Summit. When we got there we felt all the better for it. I’m sure he is up there with the eagles now checking out the thermals.

 — Linda Rosen

Paul approached me with an idea, too, before I became very involved with BHS. After a talk by Daniella Thompson at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Kensington in 2011, he suggested a walking tour including the church and its environs. We collaborated with Dave Weinstein and together led a walk for the El Cerrito Trail Trekkers. It was a pleasure working with him and encountering him various times since. I hope to be as active when I’m in my 90s!

— Ann Harlow

Similar to others who knew Paul Grunland as a colleague and friend, I feel great loss in his passing. As colleagues in oral history, we had worked together—especially on the Kenneth Cardwell oral history, published by the BHS in 2011. His ability as an interviewer was integral, especially his work with the narrator and later with me. Paul also worked diligently to recruit the two oral historians who took over from me as the BHS Oral History Coordinators in late 2010, Jeanine Castello-Lin and Tonya Staros. As a friend, he will be irreplaceable.

— Therese Pipe

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