We don't just cover the North Bay. We live here.
Did You Know? In the first 10 days of the North Bay fire, nearly 1.5 million people used their mobile devices to visit our sites.
Already a subscriber?
Wow! You read a lot!
Reading enhances confidence, empathy, decision-making, and overall life satisfaction. Keep it up! Subscribe.
Already a subscriber?
Oops, you're out of free articles.
Until next month, you can always look over someone's shoulder at the coffee shop.
Already a subscriber?
We don't just cover the North Bay. We live here.
Did You Know? In the first 10 days of the North Bay fire, we posted 390 stories about the fire. And they were shared nearly 137,000 times.
Already a subscriber?
Supporting the community that supports us.
Obviously you value quality local journalism. Thank you.
Already a subscriber?
Oops, you're out of free articles.
We miss you already! (Subscriptions start at just 99 cents.)
Already a subscriber?

The "Follow This Story" feature will notify you when any articles related to this story are posted.

When you follow a story, the next time a related article is published — it could be days, weeks or months — you'll receive an email informing you of the update.

If you no longer want to follow a story, click the "Unfollow" link on that story. There's also an "Unfollow" link in every email notification we send you.

This tool is available only to subscribers; please make sure you're logged in if you want to follow a story.



Please note: This feature is available only to subscribers; make sure you're logged in if you want to follow a story.


What a life Ann Beach Burow is having.

A member of Sonoma County’s large and deep-rooted Pisenti clan, she has watched Santa Rosa grow and change since 1922, when it was a farm town home to fewer than 10,000 people.

“I always loved Santa Rosa, always will,” said Burow, who as a young wife lived and worked on a dairy on what is now very suburban Summerfield Road.

A lover of politics, along with books and music and family and nature, she was in bliss through the decades that she helped to run the county elections department. She was also indispensable to the Bennett Valley Grange, long a hub of neighborly activity and site of the monthly dances that Burow would never miss.

She is now within four days of joining one of humankind’s most exclusive and deservedly revered clubs. Friday, she’ll turn 110 years old.

Fewer than one in every 5 million people becomes a super-centenarian, someone 110 or older. Scientists with the UCLA-based Gerontology Research Center track and validate the ages of members of this small group worldwide, and keep a running list of those who attain the age of at least 111.

At present that list of names numbers only 50.

Burow is almost certainly the oldest person in Sonoma County and she’s within no more than a few slots of being the oldest Californian. That distinction appears to belong at the moment to Louisiana-born Andrew Hatch of Oakland.

No birth certificate has been found for him, so the Gerontology Research Center can’t certify his age. But less than two weeks ago, he and his family celebrated his 117th birthday, which, if accurate, makes him the oldest known person not only in California but in the entire world.

Ann Burow isn’t seeking to break any longevity records, but she does look forward to the blessings brought by each new day.

“The good Lord has been good,” she said at Vintage Brush Creek, the stately Santa Rosa care home where she’s lived the past four years. “He’s been very good.”

Burow was born in Oakland on Oct. 23, 1905, to Swiss-Italians James and Rose Pisenti, who’d ultimately give birth to 14 children, 12 of whom lived to adulthood.

Growing up in Oakland and then Pleasanton, the former Ann Mary Pisenti went to school only through the eighth grade.

“Everything she did was a learning experience for her,” said one of her two daughters, Gwen Sandstrom, who’s 87 and lives in Santa Rosa.

Books certainly have been key to her mother’s education and appreciation of life. “I’ve always been a reader,” Burow said.

And she’s always been a writer, one whose wonder, gratitude and sense of humor have shone through her graciously handwritten essays and recollections. She wrote once that as a girl, “I was tall and thin and looked like 6 o’clock, straight up and down.”

Her parents moved the family to Santa Rosa in 1922, when she was 17. No one else alive has a deeper perspective of how the city has grown and transformed the past 93 years.

Ann Pisenti had just turned 19 when she married dairyman George Beach in 1924. “He was a heck of a good man,” she said.

Beach ran a dairy east of Santa Rosa with his brother, Wes. “They got along like two peas in a pod,” Ann Burow said.

She wrote in one of the stories of her life that she’d been a city girl when she moved onto the dairy. “I really didn’t know a cow from a milk bucket.” But the farm life grew on her.

“I liked it,” she said. She and George Beach shared a ranch home where Strawberry School stands now. Their first child, Louella, was born in 1926, Gwen in 1927.

Their parents were active in the Bennett Valley Grange, a hub of community activity southeast of Santa Rosa since 1873. Ann Beach became the secretary and served in that capacity for 66 years.

“We had dances there every month,” she recalled with a smile. She loved to dance. And George? “He struggled with it.”

The Beach girls were nearly grown when their mother went to work in the county elections department in wartime 1944 , then worked up to the post of registrar of voters. She always looked forward to election night, when all the candidates would gather to follow the hand-tabulated returns.

In addition to volunteering at the Grange, Ann Beach was a pillar of the local chapter of Native Daughters of the Golden West. In 1952 she co-chaired the Admission Day parade in Santa Rosa that commemorated the 102nd anniversary of California’s statehood.

“That was a big day, a big day in Santa Rosa,” she said.

Her husband the dairyman died in 1970. Four year later, the widowed Ann Beach married Ray Burow, an affable salesman at the former Keegan Bros. Clothier. Through the 13 years until his death, he and his wife traveled several times through Europe.

“I’m a gypsy when it comes to that,” she said. Any favorite destination?

“Oh, I loved Switzerland.”

Friday will be a big day for her. Her birthday party will bring together members of a family that includes her two surviving siblings, Al, who’s 93, and Gene, 87; her two daughters, six grandchildren, 13 great-grandchildren and 21 great-great-grandchildren.

If the experience of the preceding 110 years holds, it will be another very good day for Ann Beach Burow.

Show Comment