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June 10, 2009 > History: The Grimmer Family

History: The Grimmer Family

Charles A. Grimmer and Martha Roberts, both of whom came from Ohio, were married in October of 1873 in San Jose. They lived in Pine Flat, in the hills east of the Alexander Valley in Sonoma County, where Charles was the postmaster. Elmo Miller Grimmer, their fifth child, was born in San Francisco on September 22, 1881. Elmo grew into a healthy talented adult, but could not decide what he wanted to do in life. It was after working as a miner that he finally decided to become a doctor.

He attended Jefferson High School in Chicago, Illinois, completing a medical student's course on May 4, 1904. This enabled him to qualify for entrance into medical school. He was accepted as a student at The Hahneman Medical College of Pacific in San Francisco and graduated on May 21, 1908. Grimmer received his license to practice medicine from the State of California on April 20, 1909.

Dr. Elmo Grimmer learned that there was no doctor in the town of Irvington because Dr. James Nellis, another graduate of Hahneman, had suddenly died. Dr. Grimmer took the ferry from San Francisco to Oakland, the train from Oakland to Niles, and then received a buggy ride to Irvington. He found Dr. Nellis' office and family home on Lincoln Street where Mrs. Nellis and her two daughters, Ethel and Mildred lived. Dr. Grimmer and Mrs. Nellis reached an agreement allowing him to take over the medical practice in Irvington where he remained.

Dr. Grimmer married Ethel Nellis in 1911 in the chapel of the convent behind Mission San Jose when she 16. They established their home and office on what is now Fremont Boulevard. In the 1920s, Dr. Grimmer built a home and separate office on Bay Street, across from the park. That building today is the office of Joe Betchart, the grandson of Mildred Nellis Wauhab. The Grimmers had three children, Elmo M. Jr. (Chuck), Martha, and Annamae.

A very caring person, Dr. Grimmer was an excellent doctor and "one of the most loved men in Irvington." When the telephone came to Irvington he had one installed in his house. The number was "Irvington1". He never hesitated to make house calls, even at night. Dr. Grimmer did not make appointments; patients just showed up at his office between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m., and he stayed until he saw everyone and also returned every telephone call. Payment for Dr. Grimmer's services was made not only in money but in produce and animals and he sometimes paid hospital bills for the needy. During WWII, Dr. Grimmer took over Dr. Eugene Grau's practice in Niles while Dr. Grau was in the service. He returned his focus to Irvington when Dr. Grau returned.

Dr. Grimmer was very interested in his community and its people. In 1946 he inspired the idea of a local hospital. Hr served as a Director of the Alameda County Waster District for over 20 years, as a Trustee of the Irvington Elementary School Board for 11 years, an Irvington Fire Commissioner, and leader of the Chamber of Commerce. Grimmer Boulevard and E.M. Grimmer Elementary School were named for him. He died on October 11, 1956 at age 75.

E.M. Grimmer,Jr. (Chuck) was born in San Jose on November 25, 1914 and grew up n Irvington. His early memories of the town included the monument that used to sit in the middle of the five corners intersection, the Costa Apartments, Maple Hall, Corey's Garage, the local mortuary, and the Leal Theater, where he saw the first movie shown there, "When Knighthood was in Flower".

He attended Irvington Elementary School and Washington High School. He studied for three years at the University of California Berkeley and four years at U.C.S.F. preparing for a career in dentistry. During Dental School he met Mary Elizabeth Folsom who was studying to be a nurse. They married on December 29, 1939.

Chuck joined the army in 1941 before the war. He was stationed at Fort Lewis, Washington, then Hawaii, the Solomon Islands, and New Guinea, performing general dentistry and oral surgery. While in Guadalcanal, he contracted jungle rot on his hands, which precluded further work as a dentist. He was sent back to the United States to recover. After his hands healed, he was stationed at Camp Roberts where he returned to his dental duties until the war ended. He was discharged with the rank of Major.

When Chuck returned to Washington Township, there was no dental equipment available for purchase, so he did farm work for Frank Cardoza for $1 an hour. He was finally able to purchase a cabinet, chair, and dental unit for $500 and rented space from Frank Botelho in Centerville where he began his practice in 1946. Six years later, he built an office at the corner of Peralta and Martha Avenue where he practiced until he retired in 1980. He served as a Trustee of the Washington Union High School District and was active in the Southern Alameda County Dental Society. Dr. "Chuck" Grimmer died on May 5, 2005 at age 91. Molly Sinclair wrote "he was a rare one" who put his patients at ease so that they enjoyed their visit to the dentist.

"Chuck" and Mary (Beth) raised two children, Dan C. and Terrance Elmo. Dan is married to his wife Elaine of 38 years. They have two sons, Matthew and Christopher. Chris is married to Merrill and had two daughters, Kaitlyn and Haley. Terry has one son, Terrance, Jr. (T.J.).

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