In 1960, Joe Casalnuovo ’50 and his wife, Lorraine, purchased what you could say was a little piece of heaven in Sleepy Hollow near San Anselmo. "We were looking for a place to build a home," Joe said. "Just the name, Sleepy Hollow, sold me." But the spot also was surrounded by golden hills—a perfect place to raise a growing family. The two-acre parcel (they later bought six more and built their home in 1975) had once been part of Rancho Cañada de Herrera, a 6,658-acre land grant in 1838 from General Mariano Vallejo to a San Francisco Presidio soldier. Over time, the rancho was home to elegant mansions, dairy farms, a 1930s golf course and a secret storage site for WWII ammunition.
"We still turn up golf balls and pipes in the garden," said Joe, a retired real estate attorney. And what a garden it is. The Casalnuovos’ now-two-acre parcel is filled with a wondrous variety of fruit trees—from apples to figs, pomegranate, jujube and persimmons—as well as grapevines, holly, prickly pear cactus and herbs. “But the flowers are my pride and joy,” Joe said, smiling. On the sunny day we visited the Casalnuovos, Lorraine gathered for us large bouquets of dahlias, lilies, gladiolas and roses and bags full of fruit.
Joe and Lorraine now engage helpers in maintaining their expansive garden. Their grandson, Anthony Braddick ’14, stayed one summer to help in the garden and work on his educational research studies. Unexpected help came from torrential rains and a mudslide that carried the prickly pear down from the hillside where the Casalnuovos had planted it, to the edge of their garden where it’s easier to pick. "Mother Nature helped us out there," Joe said.
Powered by solar panels on the roof, the sprawling, sand-colored Casalnuovo home where Joe and Lorraine raised eight children seems to belong in the landscape, and reflects the values the couple hold dear. "We disagreed with the architect over the construction of the house," Lorraine said. "We wanted an open plan, with a big kitchen connected to the dining room." They weren't building houses like that then, but Joe and Lorraine envisioned huge tables full of relatives for holidays, with the kitchen open to all the festivity. The family photos everywhere in the house show how well their plan worked.
In fact, a wall in the den is covered with family photos, from Joe’s Italian immigrant father, his brother Sal, a beloved San Francisco barber, to the children and grandchildren who have filled their home with laughter and devotion. "We've been pretty lucky," Joe said.
- Joe Casalnuovo ’50 and Lorraine Casalnuovo
Joe and Lorraine’s son, Damian Casalnuovo ’75, granddaughter, Jaycee Casalnuovo ’13 and grandson, Anthony Braddick, a current student, are all Gaels. Joe, who recently retired as chair of the class of 1950, led his class in raising over $500,000 in scholarship funds for students.