Generosity in Action

Living with Love & Service

Ginny Solari Mazry’s grandmother Alene Murphy Solari lived in a fabulous house down a long dirt road in the middle of nowhere. At least, Merk Road in Corralitos felt like the middle of nowhere to Ginny, who was raised in Sacramento before she moved to Aptos in 8th grade. The house was fabulous because nobody worried about tracking in dirt or sand. The kids slept in sleeping bags on the living room couch and the chaise lounges on the back porch.

On the long summer days, “Puddy,” as she was known, would pile her grandkids into her old Buick for adventures. Some days it was to Capitola Beach to ride the Merry-Go-Round and eat Wright’s pink popcorn blocks. Other days it was to the old Lambert’s market in the East Lake Shopping Center in Watsonville where each kid got to pick their own box of whatever kind of cereal they wanted—the more sugar the better. Ginny recalls, “One of my sisters got Cap’n Crunch. Another sister got Cocoa Puffs. And it was ours for the whole week and we didn’t have to share.”

It wasn’t until she was older that Ginny understood that Puddy’s house was tiny and the fun shopping outings they had at garage sales were because Puddy knew quite well how to stretch a dollar. Widowed in 1929 with three young children, Puddy and her children lived in San Jose with friends while she attended teacher’s college. Once credentialed, she moved back to Watsonville, where she had once lived with her husband and young family, and began a long career as an elementary school teacher. By the time Ginny and her siblings began to visit in the 1960s, Puddy had never remarried, moved out to Corralitos, and she was still working part-time as a substitute teacher.

What Ginny remembers most is the love. A grandmother of eight now herself, Ginny reflects, “It’s the joy of being a grandparent. You don’t have to do the day-to-day discipline!” But it was also Puddy’s sheer strength, resilience, and independence that inspires Ginny to this day and has helped her navigate her own life of service, adventure, motherhood, and new beginnings. “Puddy never sweated the small stuff,” Ginny says, “She didn’t have that luxury.”

(Header photo: Ginny Solari Mazry, seated far left, with her siblings, cousins, and grandmother, Alene "Puddy" Murphy Solari.)

Ginny was a candy striper at Dominican in the 1970s.

Being Good to the Community

A lifetime of volunteering for Ginny began in high school when she started out as a candy striper at Dominican Hospital. She loved it. “I liked being around elders. I would take them magazines and deliver flowers, and just visit with them.”

Giving back to the community is what the Solaris have always done. It never felt like a chore, it was just something Ginny and her siblings did. “My parents were very firm in this,” Ginny says, “My father always used to say, ‘The community has been good to us, and we need to be good to it.’”

Ginny’s parents had an unwavering work ethic. Before marrying Ginny’s father Dick, Mary had gone to college and worked first at NBC News and then Bechtel Construction. After the children were born Mary became a stay-at-home mom. “That’s just what was done in those days,” says Ginny, “but she loved working and volunteering and so did Dad.” Ginny’s father often worked three jobs as a teenager, helping Puddy make ends meet. In the morning, Dick and his brother would deliver papers. After the last bell of the day rang at Watsonville High School, Dick would go to his locker and put on his janitor’s uniform. And at night, he did the closing shift at a nearby gas station, finishing his homework in between helping customers.

Dominican Hospital, as it turned out, became a central part of service for the Solari Family. Eventually, after a successful career at Granite Construction, Dick sat on the hospital’s Board of Directors, and Mary served on the Dominican Hospital Guild. Today, Ginny has come full circle and is also on the hospital’s foundation board.

Ginny with her children in Venezuela circa 1980. From left to right: Ricardo, Juan Carlos, Cristina and Andres.

Motherhood & Adventure

After attending Cabrillo College, Ginny transferred to San Jose State where she met Alberto Mazry, a foreign exchange student from Venezuela. After graduation, Alberto’s student visa ran out and Ginny, in love and ready for adventure, married him and moved to Venezuela. Ginny started out teaching English and volunteering at a local orphanage. She also became a mother and by the time she was 28, she had four children. Once her kids were in preschool, Ginny started working again but amidst political turbulence in the late eighties and early nineties Venezuela wasn’t a safe place for a foreigner to live. She says matter-of-factly, “There were tanks in the street, and it was also the end of my marriage.” Ginny and her children moved back to Aptos.

It was culture shock for all of them. Ginny’s children, ages 7 to 12, were Venezuelan. They had limited fluency in English and suddenly were in all English-speaking schools. “When I moved back here in 1991,” says Ginny shaking her head, “I’d never used a computer. I’d never used call-waiting. And I’d never even used an ATM.” Ginny quickly adapted thanks to Cabrillo’s student re-entry program which she attended at night as she worked during the day doing accounting and data entry.

Ginny with daughter Cristina at a 2011 Community Foundation event.

Rooted in Philanthropy

The bulk of Ginny’s professional career closely intertwined with her service to community when she started running the Solari Family Foundation, built thanks to a lifetime of Dick and Mary’s hard work. For 25 years, until they sunsetted the foundation, Ginny worked closely with nonprofit partners learning the ins and outs of their work and how best the Solari Foundation could help. A founding trustee of Community Foundation Santa Cruz County, Dick also encouraged Ginny to work in close partnership with us, specifically around the staff’s expertise and connections to the nonprofit community. After years of volunteering on the Community Foundation’s program committee she also served on our board from 2007 to 2015 and was recognized as an Honorary Trustee in 2022.

The trust that the Community Foundation has built over the last 40 years matters, reflects Ginny. “Basically, I think of the Community Foundation as the mothership. Every community needs a mothership—a nexus for our community. As the needs of the community changed, the Community Foundation was there to change alongside it. You saw that during COVID and the CZU fire, and most recently, in response to the winter storms and floods.”

Ginny was instrumental in building the Community Foundation’s physical mothership, the headquarters at 7807 Soquel Drive in Aptos. As a trustee she helped govern the organization through the building campaign phase, lent the Foundation money for construction, and even sponsored the staff work room as a reflection of her support of the team that does the daily work of helping Santa Cruz County give philanthropically.

Creating Access to Opportunity

A focus for Ginny’s personal philanthropy has been supporting women. At Dominican she was a founding member of Women of Wellness, a women-centered giving circle. She’s also very involved in the President’s Circle at the Cabrillo College Foundation, particularly in the Women’s Educational Success (WES) program, and with United Way, Ginny is part of their Women in Philanthropy group. At the Community Foundation, Ginny was an establishing donor of our Fund for Women and Girls, an endowed fund to ensure that women and girls have resources and opportunities to thrive. Since the fund was established in 2016, $1 million has been given in grants to local nonprofits supporting women and girls’ education, health care, safety, and joy.

“I’m very drawn to women helping women. Part of that comes from my time in Venezuela where I could see that daughters were never going to have the same opportunities as sons. Here in the United States too, women are the underdogs. I think of my mom. She loved us kids, but I think if times were different and she had other options, she probably would’ve loved to continue working. Gender roles defined her life.”

Ginny with (almost all of) her grandchildren. When this picture was taken, the two youngest weren’t born yet.

Living Life Looking Forward

In October of 2018, Ginny was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer. After an intense and difficult treatment, Ginny is in remission and full of gratitude. Someone asked her recently if after being so sick and getting such a scary diagnosis, did it change how she wanted to live her life?

She reflected and said to her friend, “I don’t think I’ve had a lot of failures. They were just bumps in the road. It’s all just made me who I am.”

It’s not that Ginny doesn’t have any regrets. “Of course, there are things I wished I did differently. But it’s all how you become who you are. You have to live your life looking forward rather than backwards.”

What’s forward in Ginny’s life now is continued service to her community and loving her grandchildren with all her heart, piling them into her car, and taking them on life’s adventures.

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