My Californian Family

Jeff retired and he now works four days per week as a 6th grade classroom assistant. That’s some retirement! At least I could understand that job, as opposed to the lifelong one in nuclear magnetic resonance at UC Davis. Jill teaches English composition to first year college students, after a life of teaching English in schools and universities and being a full time mum. They live in Davis, California.

As you might remember from the The Knowlman Family Post, I don’t have many cousins so it was great to have this visit. Jeff is my dad’s sister’s, Betty’s, son. He lived his childhood at 6412 Sonoma Mountain Road, Glen Ellen, California. He is one of the five cousins on my dad’s side. My dad, who was here for the start of the visit, told us that Betty was prone to strong ups and downs before she left England, but it is thought that the difficult birth of her first child, Sally, disabled from birth, brought them on stronger. Being told that your baby had cerebral palsy, with family being in far off England, must have been incredibly tough for Betty and Robert. Jeff grew up north of San Francisco, as mentioned, and remembered his mum moving from being perfectly fine to being in a state of deep fear. At one stage, the authorities decided that it would be better for Jeff to live under their care, so he did for a while.

Betty maintained a productive and beautiful garden, and that must have been a joy for her. She was also a devoted mum to Jeff. Robert, becoming increasingly well known through his books, hosted many of his followers, especially in the 1960s and 1970s.

Jill, Jeff’s wife, told us that it is rare to be a third generation Californian, because it’s a state of inward migration. With yet another English academic checking my posts, I feel increased pressure to produce clear and crisp prose. Jill is an accomplished potter, as you can see from her website, with an interest in functional pottery. Jill is a passionate liberal, and I’m not embarrassed to admit that I asked alot of questions about the Democrat opposition, and how to win next time. It was really good for Valentina and Sebastian to meet Jeff and Jill.

Jeff and Jill have two boys, Stephen and Nathan, aged 23 and 22 respectively. Stephen graduated in 2016 from UC, Santa Cruz with a degree in Film & Digital Media. He lives in the San Francisco Bay Area and is a freelancer who works on short films, documentaries, commercials, and TV episodes. Nathan graduated from UCLA with a degree in Civil Engineering. This summer he has a job in Civil Engineering working at a firm in Pasadena. The job is only for this summer though as he will start graduate school at Stanford University this September. He will be studying the Hydrology sub-discipline of Civil Engineering. It strikes me that good people in the water and movie sectors will never be short of work in California.

Note to people using national stereotypes about Americans – just about all the ones I have met through business, pleasure or family, have been kind, friendly and generous, including those who own a weapon and/or support Donald Trump. Much of the financial help we receive is from the US, and we have visitors from many states. I worked and travelled extensively in the US, and it was generally positive.

Betty lived at 6412 for fifteen years after Robert’s death. That was a long time, and I try to imagine her there. The local paper printed this obituary, and I am so pleased that I visited her and Robert.



Jeff’s visit to us prompted him to complete his writings about his childhood. They follow:

Jeff de Ropp’s recollections of growing up at 6412 Sonoma Mountain Road.


Author: Andrew Knowlman

I am a 50-year old father of two children, married to Jane. I live in Hertfordshire, UK. I was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis in April 2015.

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