Jasper O’Farrell, for whom O’Farrell Street in San Francisco is named, donated the redwood lumber and a lot from his 1843 Mexican Land Grant, Rancho Estero Americano, to construct the church. It was built by shipbuilders around 1860 and is the oldest church in continuous use in Sonoma County.
Ansel Adams made the church the subject of a black and white photograph in 1953 titled “Church and Road,” and we have hung a copy on the wall in the living room wherever we’ve lived over the years — San Francisco’s North Beach, San Anselmo in Marin County and Nevada City. The church is located next to Potter School, which was the setting for the schoolhouse scene in Alfred Hitchcock’s film, “The Birds.” Hitchcock attended services there during its filming.
The town carries a special meaning for our family: My parents lived in Bodega Bay for years, and my father was born in nearby Sebastopol. His father came to the area from the Ticino region of Switzerland and was among the immigrants who helped establish the Italian Swiss Colony winery. They bought some Gravenstein apple orchards.
My parents are buried in the cemetery in Bodega. (Cartoonist and Peanuts creator Charles M. Schulz also is buried there. A memorial bench honors the beloved characters he created). At our wedding reception, near the water in Bodega Bay, my Chronicle coworker Don Clark (now retired from the Wall Street Journal), his wife and friends played classic Irish music. Our life-long friend Anita Minard was the caterer. We kept it small, about 60 people. It was a very memorable day.