A wealthy Santa Rosa widow who had a soft spot in her heart for 4-H kids, cows and agriculture left a sizeable bequest that launched the 4-H Foundation of Sonoma County.
Today, the 4-H Foundation, a non-profit corporation established in 1982, is the community’s primary financial vehicle for supporting, promoting and enhancing the Sonoma County 4-H program.
It was the late Rosalie C. Rohr’s large and unexpected bequest in 1981 that brought community leaders together to begin discussions that would eventually lead to establishment of the 4-H Foundation of Sonoma County. Mrs. Rohr, the widow of Santa Rosa physician Dr. Silas M. Rohr, died on Nov. 15, 1978, at the age of 101 following a long and colorful life as a Santa Rosa socialite and philanthropist.
Throughout her life Mrs. Rohr supported agricultural youth organizations in Sonoma County. Additionally, she annually presented cash awards to the top Guernsey cattle breeders in the junior show at the Sonoma County Fair.
The Rohr estate, valued at $1 million at the time of her death, was left in a trust administered by Wells Fargo Bank. Mrs. Rohr’s will stipulated that the annual income from the trust was to be divided equally among four beneficiaries including the Sonoma County 4-H program. The other beneficiaries were the Sonoma County FFA program and two scholarships, one for Santa Rosa agriculture students at U.C. Davis and the other a music scholarship at the University of the Pacific in Stockton.
It was estimated that the annual income from the Rohr trust would be $15,000 to $17,000 for each of the four beneficiaries. Because the Sonoma County 4-H Foundation did not exist at the time, the money from the Rohr estate was to be held by the California 4-H Foundation, specifically to foster 4-H activities in Sonoma County.
4-H supporters believed Sonoma County 4-H needed its own foundation to receive the annual income from the Rohr trust and other bequests in the future. Members of the initial committee were Shirley Dempel, Harriet Polansky, Bob Sisson, Coston Crouse and Jim Groom. The committee met for more than a year to lay the groundwork for the foundation, which would became the legal entity to hold, administer and distribute charitable contributions directed to the Sonoma County 4-H program.
Mrs. Rohr’s generous bequest was the first but not the last to benefit Sonoma County 4-H Club members.