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At the age of 81, Mary Grizzle shows no signs of slowing down. Hailing from the Azores, an autonomous archipelago located about 1,000 miles west of mainland Portugal, her family migrated to California’s Central Valley in 1949 and eventually settled in Santa Clara in 1957.

Mary attended high school in Santa Clara, where her fondness for the region blossomed into a deep passion. Becoming a staunch advocate for the place she came to love, she embarked on a career in the aerospace field at Lockheed Martin and dedicated 14 years of service to the County of San Mateo. Notably, Mary played a pivotal role in reviving the Santa Clara Parade of Champions, a cherished tradition that brought the entire city together.

Although officially retired, Mary remains an active force in Santa Clara County. She currently serves as a full-time crossing guard at Bowers Elementary School in Santa Clara and holds the position of Co-Chair at Reclaiming our Downtown, a grassroots movement formed in 2016 with a membership of 4,500.

Recently, we had the privilege of sitting down with Mary to delve into her background, share why it’s so important for her to support Mission Point and explore her profound passion for Santa Clara.

Q. What do you like most about Mission Point and how does it help meet Santa Clara’s needs?

A. I’ve been engaged with Mission Point for several years, and the team’s dedication to listening to the community has resulted in an impressive plan that addresses its diverse needs. This comprehensive approach includes the provision of various services, green spaces, and essential housing, particularly in an area of Santa Clara which currently lacks these amenities.

I particularly like the envisioned openness of the proposed plazas, which will create a central hub for future residents, tenants, and community members. The inclusion of underground parking is also noteworthy, freeing up more space for neighborhood parks and trails and fostering a pedestrian-friendly environment for walking and connecting.

These amenities hold significant importance for this part of Santa Clara, especially considering the vibrant activity around Levi’s Stadium. There’s a need for a nearby space where people can not only access fantastic food and open areas but also live and work with convenient access to public transportation. The vision presented by Kylli is promising in creating an inviting and aesthetically pleasing environment. This project is poised to become a highlight, a focal point in this specific part of the city.

Q. Tell us about your background and the many projects you are involved in that contribute to the enhancement of Santa Clara

A. My connection to Santa Clara has always been driven by a desire for the city’s prosperity and the well-being of its residents.

Originating from a humble background, my father worked as a dairy farmer in the Central Valley for many years. As he aged, we sought a less physically demanding job for him, which led us to relocate to Santa Clara, where he eventually found employment at a lumber company. My cherished memories of growing up in the area include a vibrant downtown that served as a gathering place for families, offering entertainment like movies at the local theater and wonderful food from local mom-and-pop shops. Unfortunately, this atmosphere changed with the demolition that took place during the post-WWII urban renewal movement, which ultimately failed.

Motivated by a passion to rejuvenate our historic city, I was an active participant in founding a local movement led by a small group of volunteers, Reclaiming Downtown. I take pride in the fact that this initiative garnered unanimous support from the Santa Clara City Council, leading to a unanimous vote to approve the Precise Plan, Form Base code and the accompanying environmental impact report.

In addition to my efforts in revitalizing Santa Clara, I played a significant role in resurrecting the Parade of Champions in our city. I also enjoy being politically engaged and attend city council meetings to voice opinions aligned with what I believe is in the best interest of our community.

Q. What are your favorite accomplishments?

A. Definitely the recent approval from the city to restore our downtown is a great source of pride. My family and many of the local residents were devastated when it was destroyed. When we launched Reclaiming our Downtown, there was hesitancy among many to discuss it, as it brought back painful memories of properties being confiscated or destroyed without restoration.

In addition to my involvement in the downtown restoration, I find great pride and fulfillment in my role as a crossing guard, a position I’ve held for two years. These kids are the pride of my life, and I derive immense joy from providing them with positive energy as they enter or leave school. Playing the music of their choice and offering a supportive hug on challenging days is a truly rewarding experience.

And lastly, supporting projects like Mission Point, which will create a lasting place for future generations to come together and enjoy.

Q. What’s next for you?

A. I really look forward to getting shovels in the ground for projects like the downtown restoration and Mission Point. The process will demand time and dedication, but the eventual outcomes will undoubtedly be highly rewarding.

Leaving a lasting legacy is important to me, as I’d like to contribute to the creation of a city that my grandkids and future generations can fully enjoy.

In addition, I am committed to continued advocacy for issues I believe are crucial for our residents. My father instilled in us the principle that “if you see something wrong, don’t sit in the background and say, ‘look at that…’; you need to do something about it.” This mantra guides my daily actions, as well as those of my siblings and family members, as we actively strive to make a positive impact.