He's often seen in the background — a small black camera in one hand, the other jutting out to hug just about anyone who walks by. Fitting, the since longtime resident has become an expert on the history of Rohnert Park. He knows just about everyone, past and present, in town.
Now, Tim Danisi, who is president of the Rohnert Park Historical Society, has put his memories into writing. His recent book, commissioned by Arcaida Publishing, hit the book stands this week.
You know the ones — they're called the "Images of America" series — the sepia cover depicting some iconic image of the featured city. Rohnert Park's image is a photo of the Southwest Shopping Center. No way you can tell that the city's first shopping plaza is now largely vacant; then it was bustling with commerce and with all the hope of a new city.
The book's tells the introduction:
"Fifty-five years ago, there was no Rohnert Park, only a vision in Paul Golis’s mind. In 1962, just five years after construction of the first homes on land between Cotati and Santa Rosa, the community of Rohnert Park was incorporated. With a population of 40,000 today, the city has matured into more than simply a bedroom community. The planned neighborhoods Paul Golis and Maurice Fredericks designed for the first two sections, known as A and B, each included a school, pool, and park. These designs inspired many future city planners."
According to publishers and the author himself, Danisi, 57, who lives in C Section, moved to Rohnert Park in 1988 from Anaheim at the age of 19. He was born in Virginia and raised in Ohio. He calls himself 57 years young — and that's apparent from the bright smile that often flashes across his face and the unwavering energy he has at just about every event here.
For the last eight years, Danisi has been gradually collecting photos and stories — everything from the founders of Rohnert Park, to openings of local businesses to local arts fairs. However, Danisi says most of his work was done over the last six months.
When asked about his ultimate goal, Danisi says he wanted to put out a book on the city's history that was accurate, had interesting photographs and that would give an idea as to how a farm field would rapidly turn into a city in just a few years.
"I wanted people to learn a little of the people responsible for the building of the city," he says. "But also for them to see what the residents, city staff and the elected officials did with some of their time between 1960 and the present."
The book gives a comprehensive look at the last 50 years — from the development of A Section, to the contsruction and then demolition of the Southwest Fire Station and the growing interest in City Center Plaza — where city officials are vying to grow a vibrant downtown.
There are ribbon-cutting ceremonies (the city had many with all the new streets and bridges built, Danisi says), but some of his favorites are of the library on Hunter Drive that opened in 1976. Then there's the talent shows, and the view of Alicia pool in 1960 when there were no school, houses or trees looking east to the Sonoma Mountains, he recalls.
Editor's note: Check out a photo of the book's cover to the right. And mark your calendars for May 19, when Danisi will be at the Rohnert Park-Cotati Regional Library to discuss the book and answer questions. Books are on sale at Northlight in Cotati, at Oliver's and at more locations not yet announced. We'll update you when we get more details.