Grace Borello, a talented homemaker who raised her children on a Marshall ranch and was known for her generosity, high spirits and warmth, died on Sept. 13. She was 92 years old.
Grace was born in Marin to parents who had immigrated from Sombrerete, Mexico. After growing up in San Anselmo, she bought a ranch with her husband in Marshall, where they raised sheep. After her three children left home, Grace moved to Point Reyes Station, where she lived out the remainder of her years as a beloved member of the community, making art and volunteering her time to her church and local organizations.
“Grace thought with her heart: She was there for everyone and she was there for me,” said Ismael Gutierrez. “When I moved to West Marin, she was the first person I met who was able to speak Spanish. She became my mentor and she was a really good mentor. She said, ‘Work hard, and it’s not easy, but if you work hard, you can accomplish what you want.’ She was a very nice, compassionate lady. She was an angel.”
Grace was born on Aug. 21, 1928 to Silvestre and Maria Cervantes. The couple moved from the state of Zacatecas in Mexico to Arizona where Silvestre and his brothers worked in a copper mine before settling in Marin around 1912. They raised Grace and her two younger siblings, Silvestre and Irene, in San Anselmo. Grace’s father operated a successful construction company, building houses, roads and putting in water lines.
Grace graduated from Tamalpais High School and started work at a phone company in San Francisco, commuting every day from her family’s home. She met her husband, Bob Borello, at a movie theater where they were with a large group of friends. Bob had grown up on a dairy in the Olema Valley and was attending the San Rafael Military Academy at the time. They married in 1950 and moved to Forest Knolls.
Six years after their marriage, the couple bought an 864-acre ranch in Marshall, where they raised sheep for wool and meat, along with chickens, goats, rabbits and ducks. They had three children, Rob, Rick and Linda, who describe an idyllic childhood, with their mom at the center.
“My mom taught us to enjoy the beauty around us,” Linda said. “We were always sent outside to play. If it wasn’t raining, we better be outside having adventures. And my mom would do the same thing her mother did: If we were too far for us to hear her, she’d wave the dish rag so we’d see her and know to come home.”
Linda said her mother was skilled in the kitchen. “Growing up, every single day, there was always something fresh coming out of the oven when we got in the door. She was a good cook, but an excellent baker and could make a pie like nobody’s business,” she said.
While Bob ran the family’s second business, a construction company, Grace kept the books and often took charge of the ranch. Spanish, which was her first language, came in use when they hired extra workers who came from Mexico or Arizona twice a year to shear the sheep.
Linda describes a flourishing ranching community that would often hold gatherings on the peninsula. Once she was old enough to go to school in Point Reyes, she said she knew everyone in town.
“That’s when Point Reyes was huge with kids. The schools were jam-packed. And when we went into town after school, every single shopkeeper would come out. Everyone knew you and everyone had kids too: They were keeping an eye out,” said Linda, who has worked for Shoreline Unified School District for the better part of two decades.
Grace went to her sons' Little League games through high school, served was a 4-H leader and volunteered at the school. “Her heart was always open. She was always healing kids, or animals, or seeing the good in everything,” Linda said. “Whatever challenges came up, she made the best of it. She was a phoenix rising.”
Grace helped raise several other children besides her own: a friend’s son, a nephew and a foster child. The open-door ethic was something Grace inherited from her own father, who always made an effort to support military men during her childhood, often bringing them home for dinner. “You lent a helping hand—that’s what you did,” Linda said.
Friends of the Borello children were also taken with Grace. “The best way to describe Grace is the mother I would have liked to have,” Elke Reinhardt said. “It always seemed to me that she was the warmest, most attentive wife and mother. She was really one in a million. She was easygoing, positive, and always took great care of herself—a naturally really beautiful woman.”
The one bit of makeup Grace wore, Linda recalled, was hot pink lipstick, showing off “a smile that lit the room.”
Alma Rodoni, a family friend, said Grace was a beautiful person inside and out. “As a child hanging out at their house, I remember her as a very calm, loving and sweet person. She was a kind of hands-off mom, and we’d report in for lunch and dinner. We were on the ranch doing kid stuff, running around on bikes or foot, playing games, just able to be kids.”
Nancy Crivelli, who also grew up with the Borellos, called Grace a lovely homemaker and a talented artist. Nancy’s aunt, Loretta Joyce, ran a pottery business with Grace for years out of Loretta’s basement in Point Reyes Station. They taught lessons, using greenware and firing all the materials themselves.
In 1975, with all of their kids out of the house, Grace and Bob divorced. Bob kept the ranch until he was killed by a drunk driver in 1992. Grace lived in Point Reyes Station, until moving into an assisted living home five years ago. She never remarried, and she pursued a variety of endeavors close to home. She worked for numerous artists and shopkeepers, making jewelry for Anne Dick and working in the Greenbridge Gallery. Up until her last years, she volunteered with the thrift store and helped fundraise for Sacred Heart Church.
Noel Kostelic knew Grace from Sacred Heart. “She poured love into her kids and her grandkids. She was one of those kind, quiet, strong ladies in the community who just got things done. You can see that in her daughter, Linda, and her granddaughter, Mindy.”
Jim Joyce, the son of Grace’s good friend Loretta, added, “If you talked to 100 people about Grace, you wouldn’t find one person who had one bad thing to say about her. She really lived life by her name: She lived her life with grace. She did what you are supposed to do when you are on this earth. If she isn’t in heaven, then we are all certainly in trouble.”
Grace is predeceased by her brother, Sil, and her sister, Irene. She is survived by her children Rob, Rick and Linda Borello; her grandchildren Gina Cortez, Brian, Brandon and Melinda “Mindy” Borello; her great-grandchildren Sianna, Cassie and Robbie Cortez and numerous nieces and nephews.