Noe Valley Voice February 2004

Florence's Family Album

Reminiscences by Florence Holub

I recently attended a memorial gathering for a friend and neighbor, Claudia Duggan, who passed away at the age of 58. She died as she lived, surrounded by her loving family in her charming home on Sanchez Street. At the memorial on Nov. 1, the family created a beautiful afternoon of friends, flowers, and food--a tender tribute to the lovely lady of the house. On the coffee table in the living room, a framed photograph of a smiling Claudia stood before a low row of votive candles, which shimmered and flickered throughout the day. It made me feel like Claudia was there.

I didn't know her well, but Claudia once touched me deeply by making me a wreath as an expression of thanks for the stories I'd written in the Voice. Later, in November 1997, I wrote this column about the connection between her family and another in Noe Valley-- with equally long roots. I hope you will enjoy it, and help me remember the gracious lady who left us far too soon.

Totally Noe Valley

For three generations, two families--the Peras and the Duggans--have lived happily in our valley.

For the Peras, it all began when Guido Pera's father, born in Lucca, Italy, was operating an Italian restaurant in North Beach, with his son's help. One evening, an attractive young lady, Janet Malcolm (born in Scotland), came to dine at the restaurant with her brother and a few friends. Guido was immediately enchanted by this damsel with the charming Scottish brogue and irrepressible sense of humor. In fact, he was painfully smitten.

Janet and her family returned often to the restaurant, and Guido's heart swelled with each new encounter. Finally, he grew bold enough to ask for her hand in marriage. When she declined, he asked again--every time she walked in the door!

Janet's sister Jean couldn't help but notice the anguish of this tall, dark, and handsome gentleman. Jean urged her to please "be kind" and seriously consider his proposal. Janet had always thought of herself as kind, she later told me. And besides, she liked Guido, too. So after rejecting her suitor dozens of times, she consented at last. Thanks to Guido's persistence, a wedding date was set. I'm glad to report the marriage proved to be a long, successful union.

The first of Guido and Janet Pera's many homes was located on top of the 21st Street hill in Noe Valley. It was and still is a beautiful little vintage Victorian, where their son Angus was born and grew up. But before long, they found it a trifle small for the three of them, especially when Janet's relatives--her mother, two sisters, brother, niece, and a cousin from Hong Kong--came to visit. Janet also loved to entertain on a large scale, and saw herself doing so in the house of her dreams--a large Mediterranean manor that stood just below the crest of the hill.

One afternoon when 12-year-old Angus was on his way up the hill from school, he spotted a "For Sale" sign on the manor. Breathlessly he rushed home to inform his mother, who immediately dashed down the hill to talk to the owner, who had just become a widow.

Always a superb saleslady, Janet persuaded the owner to look no further for a buyer. The Peras purchased the house, remodeled it, and were living graciously in it when Leo and I moved into the brown shingled house across the street in 1955. They became our friends, and we found them to be the best of neighbors--generous and helpful.

Meanwhile, son Angus had grown up to be a handsome hunk. He graduated from high school and was preparing to register for military service, like all young men of his generation. However, he chose not to be drafted as a foot soldier in the regular army. Instead, he enlisted as a paratrooper and was shipped off to North Carolina for basic training. The training was rough, but Angus passed with flying colors. He then sent for Mariann, his adorable girlfriend back home, and they got married soon thereafter.

When he finished his stint in the service, Angus returned to Noe Valley with his bride and their baby son, Vincent. Six years later, the couple purchased their first home, high up on 26th Street, where their second son, Arran, was born.

Over the years, they were a great comfort and help to their parents, who were suffering the ailments of aging. When Guido and then Janet died, Angus and Mariann decided to move into the large family home with their two sons, three cats, and an aging Weimaraner named Cecil.

Once again, my man Leo and I were (and still are) blessed with friendly, helpful neighbors by the name of Pera!

For the past 10 years, Arran Pera has gone steady with Melissa Duggan, a pretty, green-eyed blonde he met in kindergarten.

Like the Peras, the Duggan family has lived in Noe Valley for three generations. Fifty years ago, Melissa's grandparents came from Ireland and settled in the Mission. They lived in several locations in Noe Valley before ending up in a house at the corner of Alvarado and Sanchez streets. Three children grew up in that house, and Tom, Melissa's father, was the youngest.

When Tom was a strapping young man, he happened to see a photograph of a blonde beauty named Claudia in the Polytechnic High School yearbook. He couldn't get the photo out of his mind. So with the help of a friend, he finagled a date. Tom and Claudia got along so well that eight years later they were married at St. James Church on Guerrero Street.

The Duggans' home for 30 years has been a handsome post-Victorian house on Sanchez, a few doors below Hill Street. Every time I pass it, I look to see what new creations Claudia has made to adorn the front door. She is famous throughout the neighborhood for her beautiful wreaths and dried-flower arrangements.

Tom and Claudia have raised two daughters in this house: Heather, who is married and lives near Sacramento, and Melissa, who in 1996 became engaged to our neighbor, Arran Pera.

On July 5, 1997, Melissa and Arran took their nuptial vows in an elegantly appointed formal wedding at St. Philip's Church on Diamond near 24th Street (where they both went to school).

Waiting at the curb after the ceremony were two fine antique cars, a black 1931 Ford coupe and a red 1936 two-door Ford, which had been carefully restored by Tom Duggan, the father of the bride. These elegant vehicles carried the bridal party across town to the reception, to the delight and cheers of pedestrians along the way.

At the lavish reception, held in the banquet room of the Maritime Museum at Aquatic Park, the best man, Robert Moser, summed up Arran and Melissa's love story charmingly:

"I have been friends with Arran since kindergarten at St. Philip's Grammar School," he said, "and we shared many great times. I remember wreaking havoc in Douglass Park after school, and in the summer, riding bikes all over Noe Valley, and of course swapping cop stories [both are on the San Francisco police force]. I also recall second grade, when Arran started chasing this cute little blonde-haired, pigtailed girl around the schoolyard. After 10 years of pigtail-pulling, he realized he was getting nowhere. So he finally asked her out, and now, after dating her for 10 years, he has finally had the good sense to marry Melissa. Knowing Melissa myself, I realize that Arran is marrying an intelligent, kind woman, who looks radiant today."

After returning from their honeymoon in Portugal, this couple--third-generation San Franciscans--made their home in Noe Valley, of course! m

Editor's Note: Melissa Pera would like to thank all her mother's friends and neighbors in Noe Valley for their kind condolences. She also suggests that any donations in Claudia Duggan's name be made to the Alliance for Lung Cancer Advocacy, Support, and Education (ALCASE), Unit 78, P.O. Box 4800, Portland, OR 97208; or to the charity of your choice.