Ignazio Vella passes away

Ignazio August Vella died peacefully at home on the evening of June 9, 2011.  Ignazio had very deep roots in Sonoma.

He was the great-great  grandson of Matilda Boccoli  and great-grandson of Maria Castagnasso, proprietors of the Toscano Hotel. His grandparents were Annie and Agostino Clerici, who owned a candy store on the plaza in the 1920s and 1930s. His parents, Thomas and Zolita Clerici Vella started Vella Cheese Company in 1931.

Ig attended Sonoma Grammer School until 1942 and graduated from San Rafael Military Academy, after Sonoma Valley High School suggested he attend school elsewhere, in 1946. He went onto the University of Santa Clara, graduating magna cum laude in 1950. After joining the Air Force Reserves he qualified for Officers Candidate School and went to Texas, completing his training in Dec 1953. He returned to reserve status and served until 1967. After OCS Ig returned to Sonoma Valley to work with his father at Vella Cheese.

Ig married Sarah Wright in 1952.  He and Sally had four children; Ditty, Chickie (Tom Bova), Thomas (Ella and Wallace Henry Sloan), and the late Sara Ann Vella.

In 1964 Ig was elected to the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors. He was the youngest ever Chairman of that Board. After being elected to three terms, The Board of Supervisors appointed him Manager of the Sonoma County Fair.

In 1981 Ig returned to private life, becoming manager of Vella Cheese, where he continued to work until May 26, 2011.

Politics were one love of Ig’s life and he continued to serve the community he loved as a Sonoma City Planning Commissioner, as a charter member of the SVCAC, where he remained in an advisory capacity until his death and as a member of the self appointed Gang of Five (they know who they were). He was honored for his community service by the naming of the Ig Vella Bridge.

Another life long enthusiasm was baseball. Ig played baseball at Sonoma Valley High and San Rafael Military. He coached a Sonoma Teener league for many years and loved to play with the neighborhood kids on Oak Lane. He listened to the Giants games on the radio until his death.

As a cheese maker Ig mentored many. He received innumerable awards and accolades for his many contributions to the cheesemaking industry. In 2006 the American Cheese Society bestowed upon Ig their first ever Lifetime Achievement Award. It was the only time in memory that he was rendered speechless. He was also a charter member of the Artisan Cheese Guild.

In addition to his wife Sally and three of hischildren, Ig is survived by his sisters Maria Giovana Vella and Zolita Vella, niece Artemis Millan, nephews Thomas Joseph Vella (Karen) and Paul Jacobsen (Sherry and daughter Shanti) as well as grandchildren Gabe Luddy (Stacey) Miranda Luddy, Ross Cannard (Kate Cherry), Marius Cannard, Shaina Vella, and Gia Vella DeSoto (Tyler) and great grandson Travis Danger DeSoto.

Special thanks to Nick Nicholson for his care and friendship.

Donations in his name may be made to Hospice by the Bay, 190 W Napa St., Sonoma CA 95476, Friends of Turkana, P O Box 135, Sonoma, CA 95476 or a cause of your choice.

There will be a visitation at Duggan’s Mission Chapel on Thursday, June 16 from noon to 5 p.m. Services will be held at St. Francisco Solano on Friday, June 17 at 11 a.m.


One Response to Ignazio Vella passes away

  1. Kevin McCartan says:

    Ig was my friend and mentor. He did not suffer fools gladly. I respected his opinion, wit, and honesty. He was a true and resolute keeper of the flame. A remarkable man. I’ll miss him. Thank you, Ig.