Fall 2013

[Alumni News]

Valeria Van Zanten

Celebrating a Special Centennial

Valeria Van Zanten

Long-time resident Valeria Damm (Del Ponte) Van Zanten celebrated her 100th birthday with family, friends and former students in Crescent City. She was born on Aug. 19, 1913.

A life-long resident of Del Norte and Humboldt counties, Van Zanten graduated from Humboldt State in 1934. Her 100th birthday is in the same year as HSU celebrates its centennial. She began teaching at Klamath Union School near the Klamath River. Jim Fisher, 87, of Ukiah, Calif., one of her former students there, attended the birthday celebration with his wife, Lillian.

“Valeria still remembers the time I hid a snake in her desk drawer when I was in fifth grade,” said Fisher. “It’s a good thing she didn’t have me in her first year of teaching or she might not have continued.” Fisher recalled his disappointment when Van Zanten was later forced to resign her first teaching post when she married. Van Zanten retired from teaching, working as a librarian and school administrator in 1973 and traveled to many places around the world. She was honored in 2011 by the Zeta Iota chapter of the Delta Kappa Gamma Society International, an organization for women educators, for 50 years of membership. Van Zanten was raised by Swiss immigrants who homesteaded 200 acres near Klamath, Calif., and attended the one-room Terwah School in Terwer Valley. She graduated from Del Norte High School in Crescent City. “My mother is very lucid about dates and other memories,

but is very frustrated by her loss of vision and hearing,” Van Zanten’s daughter Maurya Smith said. “She did make a comment after the birthday party that she felt a lot of love and was very overwhelmed with so many family members and dear friends that came to celebrate her 100th birthday.”