RIO VISTA — Phil Pezzaglia just stepped down from a 22-month term as president of the Rio Vista Chamber of Commerce.
The term usually only lasts 10 months.
Pezzaglia said he never had any intention of becoming president, but somehow fell into the role anyway.
The position worked out for Pezzaglia because of his vast knowledge of Rio Vista’s history.
“It gave me a different perspective on how to do things,” he said. “This complemented dealing with downtown businesses.”
Karen Smith, executive director of the chamber of commerce, said that Pezzaglia brought a truly unique perspective to the position of president. Smith worked with Pezzaglia since she came to the chamber in July and said she’s sad to be losing such a “dedicated and smart” president as well as a good friend.
“He has so many different ways of looking at things (in Rio Vista) because of his historical knowledge,” she said. “He’s so connected and so embedded in the community.”
Pezzaglia happened to fall into his role as a historian. More than a decade ago, Pezzaglia became interested in knowing more about his family. He knew little things such as when his family came to Rio Vista – 1871 – or that his grandmother used to ride a horse to school.
His family is originally from Ireland but his great-grandfather emigrated from Canada to Rio Vista in the 19th century to start farming.
Growing up in Rio Vista, Pezzaglia was always inquisitive about the different townsfolk, the history behind their families and behind his town. It wasn’t until many years later that Pezzaglia started looking into the town’s history.
One day while waiting to pick up his wife from work, Pezzaglia decided he needed a little project to keep himself occupied. Remembering his fondness for history, he began looking through old newspapers to find out more about his genealogy.
His part-time hobby soon turned into a research project as Pezzaglia dug deeper into the town’s history. More often than not, Pezzaglia made interesting historical discoveries about Rio Vista that somehow were forgotten, he said.
For example, Rio Vista had once been a popular spot for filming silent movies. Famous author Jack London used to regularly vacation in Rio Vista, a virtually unknown fact until Pezzaglia found a small news clipping about it, he said. And in the 19th century, a nearly complete skeleton of a long-mouthed mastodon was discovered in the Montezuma Hills, yet there was very little information on it, Pezzaglia said.
His interest in the region’s history continued to grow the more he read about it.
“You read something then you start wanting to read more and more,” he said.
Pezzaglia became so interested in local history, he frequently pitched the idea to write about the town’s history to the local weekly newspaper. Today, more than 12 years and 600 articles later, Pezzaglia established himself as something of a town historian. He knows the town’s history by heart and can cite random facts, such as the top five oldest Rio Vista businesses in chronological order.
Pezzaglia has written a book on Rio Vista as part of the “Images of America” series and is ready to publish another in the same series. The book “Images of America: Towns of the Sacramento River Delta” explores the history of towns along the Delta including Rio Vista. The book will be available March 11.
Now that Pezzaglia has stepped down as president of the Rio Vista Chamber of Commerce, he has more free time to spend with his wife and daughters. He also has more time to devote to the Rio Vista Museum Board of Directors as well as the Sacramento River Delta Historical Society board – and, of course, time to delve into one of his many “projects” he has on his plate.
Reach Heather Ah San at 427-6977 or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/HeatherMalia.