December 31, 2020 Annual Year-End Letter

We've noticed a number of polls out there asking people to come up with a single word to sum up the year 2020. "Hindsight" pops to mind. According to Webster's, "twenty-twenty hindsight" is "the full knowledge and complete understanding that one has about an event only after it has happened." Anyway, we started writing this letter in November, and may add more once we reach the end of the year...


We kicked off January with a lovely Italian dinner out with Vonnie, Margo and Michael. Soon after was pizza with Dean and Mark & family, then a visit to the Getty with Jim & Lissa, dinner with Carol & Scott, and a fun trip to Disneyland. We also enjoyed a visit to the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento (and a nice dinner) with our niece, Emma, while she was attending U. C. Davis. Normally we wouldn't include these details, but they are all strikingly poignant now, since they represent the last times we ate out with friends and family - these are cherished memories! Sigh.

A Nutter's Woodpecker across the street

On the Meadow Loop walk


We saw the end of Tom's 37th season at the Wawona Hotel January 4th, and the end of his 35th season at The Ahwahnee March 9th. Then COVID-19 closed the hotel. Around the same time, an inspection of the electrical wiring at the Wawona Hotel forced the hotel's shutdown for the whole year. From March 13 to June 11, all of Yosemite National Park was closed.

On March 27th, we premiered the first of our series of weekly Wawona Journal videos online at You Tube. Two of Tom's usual appearances went virtual at the Old Town Music Hall and the West Coast Ragtime Festival.

Two cosmic events marked the year: comet Neowise in July, and the conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn in December.


Comet Neowise above the Wawona Hotel Annex from the golf course, July 19.

Jupiter and Saturn dancing at the mouth of Yosemite Valley, Dec. 24, seen from the Yosemite Chapel


We cancelled several planned trips, most notably a stay at Death Valley and an extended trip to Olympic National Park. We took some day-long drives on Yosemite's Tioga road to celebrate Diane's birthday in August and our anniversary in October, including a drive to the eastern Sierra to see the fall-colors. Otherwise, we confined our trips to monthly visits to the grocery store in Oakhurst, where our goods are delivered to the back of our truck.

At Ellery Lake, Tioga Pass

Red Tailed Hawk in Tuolumne Meadow 

Autumn on the June Lake Loop

Smoke over Wawona, September 5th


From September 6th to the 22nd, the Creek Fire threatened Wawona, putting us under an evacuation warning, during which we were packed and ready to leave our home. 

Fortunately the fire stayed about 12 miles away and we didn't have to evacuate, but smoke from the fire filled the Wawona basin and forced us to remain indoors with our air-filters running full-time.

It is reported that the fire destroyed 856 structures. We were fortunate, this season.


Cottonwood, Dogwood, Aspen, Japanese Maple, and Maple - in our garden

First snow, last leaves


Water Skeeter in Big Creek pool


This year we lost cousin Genevieve Agatha Mary Donovan Gibson, aged 97, to COVID-19. 

We said goodbye to Bill Field, who with Bill Coffman created and ran the Old Town Music Hall and introduced Tom to the vintage music that would define his career. 

Also we marked the passing of a long-time acquaintance, Bob Bradford. Complex, often aggravating, Bob had a good heart and was a unique and interesting character - and he loved cats. He always seemed to be around, from the beginning of Tom's career at the Maple Leaf Club around 1976. In 1983 Bob helped the Wawona Hotel's manager to bring in a lineup of pianists to play through the summer. Tom was the second in the lineup, and was promptly hired full-time.


Our thoughts and prayers are always with our family, especially with those who are dealing with serious health issues--and we are grateful that so many of us have remained safe and well this year.

Thanksgiving chicken on dad's 1959 Kenmore rotisserie





We noticed our cottonwood and aspen trees starting to leaf out around April 25th, then dropping their colorful leaves around mid-October.

Gophers ate up the tulips and some of the other bulbs, and badly damaged an ornamental pear tree (we'll see if it survives). Diane has been waging war on the gophers, and Tom is planning to join in her efforts.

We are surprised to see so many people in the park at this time of the year. Normally it's very quiet here, but it looks like lots of people want to be in the mountains during this time of pandemic.

We'll continue to be hermits, and busy ourselves with projects until we're comfortable with venturing out.

We wish all a love-filled and safe 2021.


Tom & Diane  

P.S. Diane just received a sweet remembrance of her career teaching art at Beverly Hills High School: "We extend holiday greetings to you and Tom. I often think of the times I visited your classroom. I always left the room feeling that you were a master teacher. I suspect that you are remaining most creative with your works of art." 

- Sol Levine, former Principal and Superintendent of the Beverly Hills Unified School District

Wild Turkeys in the yard, two days before Thanksgiving 


At the head of the Wawona Meadow 

December 24 - moon over the Yosemite Chapel 

One of Diane's latest watercolors

Us at Tunnel View, May 25th (Memorial Day), when Yosemite was closed to the public by the pandemic

Casting our shadows on Diane's birthday in Tuolumne Meadow