Entrepreneur and philanthropist Henry Trione the last of city's power brokers

  • Henry Trione, 91-years-old, has had a hand in shaping Sonoma County through his business and philanthropic activities in the 1950's-60's and remains socially active today.

A turning point in Henry Trione's life came as he sat for three hours on a park bench in San Francisco, contemplating his future after World War II.

It was 1946 and despite the jubilation of defeating Germany and Japan, there was gloom over the United States. Many thought the nation would slip back into the depression of the 1930s, and Trione, 26, the son of a Humboldt County baker, considered whether his Navy lieutenant's rank held the key to economic security.

Fifty-five miles north over the new but little-used Golden Gate Bridge lay Santa Rosa, a community of ranchers and merchants that had grown by the equivalent of several dozen families a year since the turn of the century.

Trione and the city he helped shape in the postwar boom, enriching both the man and the place, would soon be united by the decision he reached that day to leave active Navy duty for his real calling.

"I was oriented to private enterprise," Trione said at his hillside Santa Rosa home with a commanding view of the Oakmont subdivision and the Valley of the Moon below.

Casually dressed in an open-collared shirt and slacks, Trione, 91, points out the home's all-redwood interior and massive stone hearth made of cobblestone from adjacent Annadel State Park.

A short, stocky man with a patrician nose, Trione speaks softly but succinctly, sizing up questions and recalling details, except for some dates, in short answers.

Trione referred to his triple-bypass coronary artery surgery 15 years ago and a recent aortic-valve replacement. An avid polo player for 35 years, Trione now gets most of his exercise by walking.

An entrepreneur, philanthropist, horseman and great-grandfather, Trione is the last of the power brokers who transformed Santa Rosa from a town where ranchers drove cattle through the streets into a regional center of trade, finance, education and entertainment.

He was honored Tuesday at an event reflecting Trione's multifaceted achievements: celebrating the 50th anniversary of Empire College, which he founded, with a keynote speech by the head of Wells Fargo Bank, which Trione helped grow, held at Wells Fargo Center for the Arts, which he helped create.

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