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One Night Only in LA, at the Beverly Hills Women’s Club: The History of the De Büren Family

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Written by M:)

April 6, 2011 at 3:39 pm

Art Show with Jean-François de Büren at the Historic Beverly Hills Women’s Club

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Our very own Helvetic.LA contributing editor
, designer, writer, historian, genealogist, and aspiring filmmaker, Jean-François de Büren has been passionate about his family history for as long as he can remember.
For the past 10 years he has actively worked on the story of his Swiss, Argentine & American roots. Jean-François’ presentation will cover his 800 year family story as well as highlight his current creative endeavors surrounding his heritage.

Soldiers and Statesmen. Adventurers and Artists. The History of the de Büren family.

Covering over eight centuries of history, in the United States, Switzerland and Argentina, the de Büren family saga is replete with passionate tales of soldiers, statesmen, adventurers and artists. From the blood-drenched battlefields of Europe to the steaming jungles of South America, from the fertile pampas of Argentina to California’s Central Valley,  the tale of the de Bürens reads like a great novel — evoking the grand sweep of history as well as its telling details, bursting with complex intrigue, fascinating personal stories, and the most compelling of family dramas.

In addition to the presentation Jean-François will showcase family heirlooms, as well as engravings, drawings, sketches, watercolors and sculpture made by family members during the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries.

Jean-François grew up in Northern California is a dual Swiss and American citizen and is active in the local Swiss community. He will publish this year his great-great-grandfather’s journals chronicling a two-year journey through the Americas of the 1850s.

As a companion to the book, Jean-François aims to retrace his Ancestor’s expedition for a documentary film. He is also writing a screenplay for a feature film set in Switzerland that centers around his deaf-mute ancestor. Additionally, Jean-François writes about Swiss emigration to California, and is currently working on the Swiss-American version of the popular Swiss board game Helvetiq.

WHEN: APRIL 8, 2011, 6:00 – 9:00 pm

WHERE: Beverly Hills Womens’ Club
1700 Chevy Chase Drive
Beverly Hills, CA 90210

6:00pm Cocktails & Light Buffet
7:00pm Presentation
$ 40. – Members & Guests
$ 60. – Non-Members & Guests after April 5
RSVP by April 5, 2011: info@bhwomensclub.org

Access to the Parking lot is off Benedict Canyon,
just south of the Clubhouse.

Would you kindly forward this PDF to potentially interested family or friends, and invite them to join Jean-Francois de Büren’s soirée?

“The Grand Tour” Preview (PDF)

Jean-Francois de Büren, April 8th, Beverly Hills Womens Club (PDF)


Written by M:)

March 22, 2011 at 10:22 pm

Trend(Watch): Designed in California – Made in Switzerland!

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Written by M:)

March 8, 2011 at 12:35 am

Posted in Swiss-California Stories

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21st Century Ticinesi in California: the Dairy Farmer

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Written by M:)

January 23, 2011 at 1:44 pm


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On Friday evening I was priveleged to attend the book signing for Westward by Swiss author Susann Bosshard-Kälin at the Robert Mondavi winery. The book revolves around 15 portraits of Swiss women who immigrated to the United States in the 20th century. “The fifteen stories show women standing between two worlds, two cultures, and two languages, – but above all people who have shaped their lives and world with a zest for life, with humor, courage, equanimity, and wisdom.” The event specifically honored two of the California-Swiss women interviewed in Westward, Anna Conti-Tonini and Margarit Mondavi Biever Kellenberger.

Robert Mondavi Winery

The event was held in a private room at the winery which opened onto a breathtaking vineyard. The sun set slowly over the hills, bathing the room in an amber glow as friends of the honorees mingled and drank wine.

Historian Loe Schelbert, an eminent scholar on American immigration and the Swiss in the United States originally provided the author with the idea for the book. Schelbert noted in an early conversation with Bosshard-Kälin that “documentary sources of women emigrants are little known, although women acheived just as much as men either by themselves or as mothers or partners.”

After conferring with Schelbert at his home near Chicago, Bosshard-Kälin went on a muli-year journey across the U.S. in search of unique Swiss immigrant stories. One of her daughters also tagged along and is responsible for the wonderful photos within the collection.

The author signing copies

Anna Conti Tonini, one the women interviewed would immigrate to California and marry a man whose family had also come from Ticino. She still has vivid memories of the Ticino of her youth. “Milking was a daily task, and in the summer making hay was the main task for us children. Two cuts yearly, one at the end of May when the meadows were full of flowers, the second cut in July or early August… We had little money, but we lived well… We never went hungry. We fed ourselves from our own vegetables, potatoes, milk, butter and cheese.”

In a great passage, another interviewee, Magarit Mondavi, wife of Napa Valley legend Robert Mondavi, summed up her love of Switzerland, appreication for the United States and outlook on life this way: “I have lived in Switzerland but a quarter of my life. And yet something from that time remains in my heart. I like to travel every year to my old homeland. But I feel American through and through. The opneness and freedom in this country are wonderful. I could realize my dreams. Bob told me many times, ‘If you have a job that you like you don’t have to work another day in your life. And then, do it as well as you can.’ These were good tips from Bob. In my life, I have found much I like to do, much that give me joy.”

Bosshard-Kälin’s collection of interviews are both touching and inspiring. They are a testament to the human spirit and should not be missed.

Copies of Westward can be purchased through the Swiss American Historical Society, Book Editor, 2523 Asbury Avenue, Evanston, IL 60201.

Written by jdeburen

September 19, 2010 at 1:28 am

Swiss Hotel Sonoma

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Swiss Hotel Plaque

One of my favorite spots in Northern California is the Square in Sonoma. It is right in the heart of Sonoma wine county, is a great place for a picnic with the family and is rich with history. The square was the Pomo and Miwok Indians’ sacred meeting ground, the site 1846 Bear Flag Revolt and home of California’s Northern-most mission.

On the North side of the square sits the Swiss Hotel. The structure was first built by Don Salvador Vallejo, brother of Mexican General Mariano Vallejo. It was later occupied by various pioneers and in 1861 became the house of Dr. Victor J. Fauré, French-born vintner of prize-winning wines made from the grapes of the Vallejo family vineyards.

Swiss Hotel

Its life as a hotel started as a stagecoach stop in the 1870’s. In 1882, it was purchased by the Toroni family and was initially called the Ticino Hotel, serving railroad passengers and employees who stopped in Sonoma for the night. It would later become the Swiss Hotel in 1909 when an establishment of the same name on the West side of the plaza burned to the ground and the Toroni’s took the name for themselves. Hank Marioni is the fourth generation of his family operating the Swiss Hotel as a hotel and restaurant.

The interior lobby is adorned with family photos, deeds, tax bills, and even a birth certificate from Ticino. It has a wonderful back patio and has a great old California feel. It is a wonderful piece of California and Ticinesi history.

Memorabilia Adorns the Walls

An interesting wine anecdote for those that like Zinfandel. Vallejo’s wine-maker, Victor Fauré is considered the father of California Zinfandel. Early on many different vareitals were planted in Sonoma, but one winter the frost was cruel and the only varietal to survive was Zinfandel. General wisdom was that the grapes were to acidic and would not make a good wine, Fauré disagreed. “Later, after they tasted the young wine Fauré made from the grapes, Sonoma vineyardists quickly developed a solid respect for this strangely spelled variety.” (1)

(1) Zinfandel: a history of a grape and its wine, Charles Lewis Sullivan

Written by jdeburen

September 17, 2010 at 8:42 pm

90th Anniversary of the Stanislaus County Swiss club

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Just south of Modesto in a eucalyptus grove nestled between corn fields and diary farms stands the Stanislaus County Swiss Club. The club which was founded in 1920, celebrated its 90th anniversary this past Sunday.

1925 Photo of Club Founders

“The first Swiss club in San Joaquin Valley was formed in Stanislaus County in 1920 at Yori’s Grove, Modesto California.  It was a social gathering of the Swiss Italians and the Swiss Germans. The spirit of the fellowship as expressed in the Swiss motto, ‘One For All And All For One’, has been passed down from one generation to the next.” (1)

“Early organizers of the club went all over the area collecting $1.00 original dues from the Swiss people. The first picnic was held on a railroad platform near where the club makes it home today, Yori’s Grove. Farming then was mostly grain land and volunteer pastures. The days of the early Swiss were filled with hard work and also a lot of fun. There was more time for visiting and more time for friends.” (2)

Ott Family Band

I was lucky enough to be seated next to Janiene Yori, granddaughter of Antone Yori after whom Yori’s grove is named. Yori had donated the land in 1920 to start the club. At the time all Swiss from the San Joaquin valley, primarily Italian Swiss and German Swiss came to the club. During his speech on the background of the club, Ed Sciarini made mention of a rift that would eventually occur between the Ticinesi and the German Swiss in matters of honor and sport surely fueled by too much local wine.

“The Swiss German people were more active in sporting events such as ‘schwinging’  (Swiss wrestling) and the tug-of-war contests. Tug-of-war contests were made up of two teams; the Swiss Germans on one side and the Swiss Italians on the other. The contests were taken very seriously and it was reported that this competition contributed to the division of the two groups into the present separate clubs.” (3)

Edwin Genasci and his prize Swiss cow

As a result of this rift the Stanislaus County Swiss Club is mostly Ticinesi while the San Joaquin Valley Swiss Club in Ripon is mostly German Swiss. That being said, the 90th anniversary event at Yori’s Grove was truly a Swiss event. There was accordion music, talerschwingen, a Swiss wrestling demonstration, and a parade of cows. In a scene reminiscent of the Sound of Music (Austrian reference I know, stay with me), came the terrifically talented Ott family whose children sang, played music and yodeled all the while in traditional Swiss attire.

It was a memorable event, and as a newcomer I was treated with great warmth by all those I met. I came away feeling that those in attendance were proud of their Swiss heritage and wanted to stay connected with Switzerland. For those in Switzerland who may not understand what the Auslandschweizer mean to Switzerland, I think this club is a great example of what needs to be celebrated.

(1, 3) San Joaquin Valley Swiss Club History Page

(2) Stanislaus County Swiss Club History Page

Written by jdeburen

September 7, 2010 at 9:30 pm

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