Peter C. Boudoures – October 17th, 2009

101_0040A couple of weeks ago I turned off Hwy 128 where the public radio station is located and drove down the left hand fork back into the woods and along the creek. About ½ mile in I arrived at the Boudoures ‘compound’ and met with Pete Boudoures, the family patriarch, and father of Jim who runs his construction business out of this site and lives nearby with wife Linda. “I was not given a middle name when I was baptized but I wanted one so I have always included the ‘C’ which stands for Constantine, after my father; it also helps people not confuse me with my grandson who is also Pete.”
Pete, now 85 years old, was born in San Francisco in 1924, at the same hospital, U.C.S.F., where he would later train and then work as a surgeon. His parents, Constantine and Francis had both emigrated from Greece around 1923, bringing two children (a boy and a girl) with them. Constantine had actually been in the States much earlier when he was just twelve years old and had traveled across to San Francisco, staying with an uncle and working on the railroads, and experiencing the 1906 earthquake. He went back to Greece when he was eighteen and just after his return there, World War 1 broke out and he went in to the army. Following the war he met Francis and they were married.
Constantine headed to the New World ahead of his wife and two kids who arrived in New York’s Ellis Island a little later only to be separated because the children had measles and had to be quarantined. Francis was distraught at this, particularly as she spoke no English and could not understand what was going on. It was eventually sorted out and she made her way out west and the family was reunited. She gave birth to twins, Pete and his sister, a year later. Constantine started a grocery business with his brother on Nob Hill, and they lived nearby at Leavenworth and Clay Streets, in San Francisco. “I remember walking just a block away from our house from where I could see both the Bay Bridge and Grace Cathedral being built in the mid-thirties – I would spend hours watching.” Pete attended Spring Valley Grammar School and then Marina Junior High, going on to Galileo High School from where he graduated in 1942. I reminded Pete that this was O.J. Simpson’s school and he replied with a wry smile, “Oh yes, we’re very proud of that!”
Pete grew up in a family that still practiced in the traditions of the Greek Orthodox Church and had many Greek foods at home. However, unlike his older siblings who were four and six years older and struggled to assimilate, having spent their early years in Greece and knowing little English, he spoke it as a first language, only speaking Greek when at home with the family. “Most of our time was centered around the business and family. My Mother was ‘The Dean’ of Greek Pastry cooking with other ladies coming to our house to take lessons. We always had huge jars of Greek cookies at home – I should have been three hundred pounds when I was in my senior year at high school.”
Pete enjoyed school and from the early age of twelve or so he knew he wanted to go to Annapolis, to the Naval Academy, and be a navy aviator. “Everything I did at school was geared towards that goal and so when I graduated, with the Second World War going on, I applied, was accepted, and went on a waiting list. In the meantime I worked a couple of different jobs. Being a tall, strong young man people would assume I was a draft dodger and would say things to me on the street. Fortunately I could take pretty good care of myself.”
Pete worked as a ship-fitters helper down on the waterfront in San Francisco Bay, installing gun emplacements on freighters before, in September 1943, he was finally called up and reported to the Naval Air Corps for training, where he was to be for the next eleven months. Before he was through however the authorities realized they had too many pilots and the program was cancelled. “I went from almost being a naval pilot to be a simple swabi (regular navy).” For a time Pete attended the Naval School of Meteorology which led to his posting in the Aleutian Islands in the North Pacific between Alaska and the Soviet Union where he became an aerographers mate, manning a weather station. They made forecasts and passed the information on to the fleet. “It was the most boring job – I didn’t do anything heroic in the war! We just observed the weather, although we were always on the lookout for an attack. On one occasion I was talking to a guy on a different base, who had become a friend as a result of our frequent radio contact, when he suddenly said, ‘Pete! Pete!… Jesus Christ there’s a great big….’ We lost contact. It turned out his entire outfit at Ft. Glenn, on the other side of the island to us, had been wiped out by a huge tsunami. We were in Dutch Harbor on the other side of the island and were protected… I read a lot in those days and that was what kept me from going crazy. Some of my reading led me to thinking what an interesting job being a doctor might be and that’s when I decide to become one. I had all the requirements for pre-med from my days at Annapolis so when I came home after the war I went to U.S.F. for my pre-med before heading to the Midwest to attend St. Louis University Medical School.”
In the meantime Pete remained in touch with a group of friends from his childhood days. (There are about five couples from those days who are all in their eighties now but who still keep in touch with each other). It was at a wedding of one of these friends where he met up with a woman, part of the group, whom he had known as a friend since he was twelve. “We knew each other so well that we got engaged a week later!” This was Patricia ‘Pat’ Ward, a daughter of the Revolution, “not officially but certainly qualified to be one” whose great, great uncle had died in the Revolutionary War.
After getting married in 1948, Pat and Pete moved into a house in the Sunset District of San Francisco for a few months before heading to St. Louis where they were to remain for four years. “We liked St. Louis except for the weather in the summer. We’d leave as soon as school broke up and head back to S.F. and did that every summer for seven years. The people there were wonderful and it was a good experience although there was not much going on compared to San Francisco.”
After their time in the Midwest, Pete, Pat and the children, there were three kid at this point – Bea Ann, Jim and Christine – returned to San Francisco and soon added two more – Mark and Irene. Pete began his residency at U.C.S.F – where he’d been born. “I eventually went into practice at my own office downtown and would use the hospital for surgeries. My specialties were general, thoracic (chest), and vascular surgery and over time I got to train many others.
During his years of residency and private practice in San Francisco, when not working or with the family, Pete could probably be found on the golf course. With his busy workday ahead of him, he would often tee-off at dawn at Harding Golf Course in the City and be in his office by 9am. He did this every weekday for many years and when he moved to Anderson Valley he continued to play both at Little River, Ukiah and two days a week drove down to Rohnert Park to play with old friends. “I gave my son Mark a cut-down 4-wood and he used it for every shot no matter where he was on the course – there is nothing that compares to teaching a kid something at a young age.”
“After many years I became disenchanted with surgery and the hospital politics so I moved out of it and went to Stockton where I ran an Emergency Room for ten years from 1978-88. I work for two straight weeks at a time then come home for a few days. It was a good move and I enjoyed it but in 1988 I had a heart attack and decided to quit. There are many ‘tight’ moments in an emergency room and I knew what would happen if I stayed in practice. I didn’t think I wanted to challenge it and risk anything happening.”
Many years previously, in the late sixties, Pete and Pat had decided they wanted a home in the country. After seeing many places they came across the site just south of Philo. “It was not far off Hwy 128, had a creek and lots of redwoods. It was perfect so we bought 143 acres for $43,000 in 1968. It had been the sight of an old mill and had a few broken down shacks and a large barn for drying wood – we used the woods from the shacks to build the houses here…I was in practice in San Francisco so initially we’d come up just for one night at a time and camp with the kids. Our eldest son Jim announced at an early age, ‘this is where I’m going to live’ – and he did just that, becoming a self-taught carpenter, cabinet maker, welder, machinist, and excellent house builder. We had built this house together by 1979 and were now coming up for weekend visits. In 1988, following my retirement, we moved here to live full-time.”
“I love it here, despite being a city boy. It is the greatest gift I have had, next to my wife, Pat. We used to go back to the City more but rarely do these days. Until a year or so ago, when I turned 83, Pat and I were still playing golf a couple of times a week in Windsor, an hour and a half away… I have other interests to keep me busy, such as my woodcarvings, and I’ve picked up my classical guitar again.”
“Over the years we’ve traveled a lot – to England, France, Italy, Mexico, Canada, Hawaii every couple of years. We went to Greece a few years ago, to my forefathers’ town, and met up with 23 cousins. We also did a six-week tour of the States in 1997 and have been to New Mexico and Arizona a few times too. We did that St. Louis thing for eight years in a row, every time looking forward to our return to the fog. We don’t go there now…. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else than right here – heaven’s no… I was always kept busy here too – there were always endless jobs to do on a piece of property like this and for years I maintained the roads and dealt with the firewood, the water lines, and continued to do finish work on the house. We don’t socialize much in the Valley – Jim, Linda, and our other son Mark represent us here. Of course, now family takes a lot of our time – we have 12 grandchildren and 9 great-grandkids… Other than that I sit around here, in that comfortable chair with a phone, a dictionary and an almanac, sometimes watching the birds just outside.”
I asked Pete for his brief responses to various Valley issues…The Wineries? – “It’s kind of sad. The Valley has been converted into one huge winery, There is the one predominant industry here and many people involved in it do not seem to contribute much”… The Valley’s School System? – “I like it. They seem very considerate of the kids and many people give a lot of their time. Our grandkids have done very well coming out of the local schools”… The A.V.A. Newspaper? – “We subscribe. Except for when Bruce went away I have always liked it. I’m glad he returned. It keeps you in touch with Valley events”… KZYX & Z local radio? – “We can’t get it here – can you believe that? (They are next-door neighbors). We can only listen if we’re in the car which isn’t very often”… Tourism? – “Well without it the Valley would struggle. The roads here (Hwy 128 and Hwy 253) from outside keep many away I’m sure. If you suffer from car-sickness then I’d advise people to stay away.”

To end the interview, as I have being doing each week, I posed a few questions to Pete many of which are from a list originally devised by French Interviewer and Culture “Expert”, Bernard Pivot, and featured on television’s “Inside the Actors Studio with James Lipton”…
What is your favorite word or phrase? – “Love”

What is your least favorite word or phrase? – “Toilet”

What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally? – “It used to be golf until a couple of years ago…As a former surgeon, I am excited by what Obama is trying to get done on the health care issue. It is a very important effort and if it doesn’t get done we’ll be really screwed.”

What turns you off creatively, spiritually or emotionally? – “The suffering of children…Less seriously, but still annoying, is when a group of people speak a language around a person who does not speak that same language. It is poor manners.”

What sound or noise do you love? – “Cello playing by Yo Yo Ma”

What sound or noise do you hate? – “Hearing a parent screaming at their kid.”

What is your favorite curse word? – “That’s easy – ‘oh, shit’…”

Is there a film/song/book that has greatly influenced you in some way? – “I guess some of the books I read that glamorized the doctor profession enough to induce me to become one… There was a film about the naval academy at Annapolis but I can’t remember it now… I love the folk singing by Andrea Bocelli, better known as an opera singer.”

What is your favorite hobby? – “As I mentioned, golf used to be a big part of my life. I started in my mid-twenties and played for nearly sixty years – that’s a lot of ‘oh, shit’s!”

What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? – “The thought of being a fighter pilot was something that excited me for years. Those Blue Angels really inspire me… On another level, plastic surgery might have led me to going abroad and doing some good with kids who had cleft palates or hair-lips. A couple of my friends did that.”

What profession would you not like to do? – “Anything that would have meant me getting up early in the morning.”

What was the happiest day or event in your life? – Marrying Pat…and second to that the day I graduated with my M.D. degree.”

What was the saddest? – Perhaps the death of a dear friend from my days at medical school. Knowing him and what he stood for made him very special and his passing very sad.”

What is your favorite thing about yourself – physically/mentally/spiritually? – “My sense of morality, a feeling for what is right and wrong. My sensitivity to the suffering of others.”

Finally, if Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? – “I hate to think what he might say…May be he’d say, ‘Well Pete, I never thought you’d make it – but here you are’… I’ve been blessed and feel I can go to church anytime by just walking outside into the redwoods – that is my church.”

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Published in: on October 28, 2009 at 4:28 pm  Comments (4)  

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4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. This is my Uncle Pete, the twin brother to my mom. He died in his sleep 10/2/10 at home. There was no indication that he would pass.

    Memorial service was held yesterday at 10/9/10 at HIS church as he stated in his article…his redwoods at the ranch.

    We love you, Uncle Peter.
    6/13/24 to 10/2/10

  2. Uncle Pete….without words my heart is full of tears and love…

  3. My Great Uncle Peter the twin brother of my Grandma Helen.
    Good Job Peter you made a difference in the lives of the many people that are lucky enough to have known you. If we had more “Real Men” like you this world would be a much better place !!

  4. Thank you for your guidance in my younger years and your love for sports!


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