The ‘go-to guy’ for county vets
Steve Bosshard, boss of Toys for Tots, also has active role in many veterans duties
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By Jud Snyder  June 7, 2013 12:00 am

The name itself sounds like a labor union delegate. You know, “Steve Bosshard … I’m crew chief on this job. I’ve got my own hard hat. Where’s yours?” A philosophy professor at a small liberal arts college in New England he ain’t. 

Bosshard’s for real in another sense. “I’m Swiss and German descent and my parent’s and grandparent’s names – they were raised in the Alps – where Bosshard’s spelled the same way it is here.”

Here’s another clue: His phone answering device begins with a few choruses of the U.S. Marine Corps battle hymn, “From the Halls of Montezuma to the Shores of Tripoli …” Then comes his husky voice. 

Steve’s special cap

Add in one more clue. He’s rarely without his red baseball cap and a “Toys for Tots” slogan emblazoned above the brim.

Put ‘em all together and you have a good sense of where Bosshard stands in his working shoes and casual wear. A lot of people remember the years he spent in organizing and volunteering with NOAH, Neighbors Organized Against Hunger, where he’s still on call to assist on special tasks. 

Bosshard was raised in a military family. His father was a career officer with the U.S. Air Force, attaining a rank of Lt. Colonel. Born in 1945, Bosshard’s schooling took place wherever the USAF posted his father, who died when Steve was 13 years old. 

“I finished up my prep school studies at San Rafael and Redwood high schools in Marin, thought about the future, and joined the Marine Corps in 1964 when I was 19.

“They shipped me down to Camp Pendleton near Oceanside. The big USMC training camp is Parris Island in South Carolina and the guys from there used to tease us, calling us ‘Hollywood Marines,’ but we could handle that,” he grinned. 

Serving his country

Sent to Vietnam for 16-months duty in August of 1965, his regiment was shipped to Vietnam and Steve saw action and wasn’t sent back to California until December of 1966. He’s not the type to discuss his ‘Nam experiences. But he came back with hard-earned buck sergeant stripes on his sleeves.

“I had four years of active service and two years of inactive service with the Marines. Then I left and used the G.I. Bill to get a degree from Santa Rosa Junior College.” This led to a 33-year career with the San Francisco Police Dept. 

Meantime, he heard about the U.S. Marine Corps League, based in Santa Rosa Veterans Hall across from the county fairgrounds. 

He played an active role with them for 10 years now, so active he’s been commandant of the countywide group for the past seven years. “I’m training someone to take my place as commandant if they’ll let me step down.”

Besides the USMC League, Steve’s also treasurer of the Redwood Empire of the First Marine Division Association, member of the Third Marine Division Association, Military Order of Devil Dogs, co-chairman of  the Sonoma County United Veterans Council, American Legion Post No. 456 and the American Legion 40&8 Club. 

He also volunteers to drive veterans to Ft. Miley in San Francisco several times a month.

Was busy Memorial Day

You sort of get the impression Steve’s the “go to” guy for veterans. You know, stop him on the street and tell him your VA problem, if he can’t answer it, he’ll tell you where to go and who to ask for.

The USMC League is a highly visible support group for returning veterans from Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as WW2 and Korea. Steve’s assignment is to  keep in touch not only with returning veterans, but with families of hospitalized veterans or parents whose sons or daughters did not return from foreign countries.

“I was very busy Memorial Day with ceremonies held in Santa Rosa’s Memorial Park, where the Gold Star Memorial Bench was unveiled honoring veterans killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, I acted as emcee for the ceremonies, helped finding and setting up flags and a lot of detail work to make the ceremonies as smooth and memorable as possible.”

A divorced father, Steve and his “better half,” Carolyn, are proud of his three children. His daughter Tracey is a career Master Sergeant with the USAF, Lance, his son, is a retired USMC veteran, and son, Scott, a U.S. Post Office worker, are living in RP. 

Steve and Carolyn are living in the same D Section house they bought 35 years ago. Tracey’s stationed in Texas. “I also have four grandchildren, don’t forget,” he boasted.

Toys for Tots tops his list

These days, Steve is gearing up for his No. 1 campaign – Toys for Tots. “You could say I’m the coordinator for this countywide program. It’s a big job.

“We’re providing about 9,000 packages for kids. They’re delivered to agencies like Salvation Army, Catholic charities, Redwood Gospel Mission, the Volunteer Center in Santa Rosa and other groups. They handle the distribution part.”

A cool breeze ruffled the pages of Steve’s “to do” folder at a table outside a Starbucks coffee shop on Golf Course Drive.  

“You know, I have a tendency to laugh about life and all the occasions, exciting, glorious and sad decisions it brings. Otherwise, all you can do is cry. I prefer not to cry.”

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