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Coffee with Joan 5-7-2020

Coffee With Joan

Joan Sullivan is a Artist, Historian & Author. She is a classically trained artist who discovered a love of history through painting who produced “Picture the Past,” a monthly show featuring local ranches and other areas of historical interest which aired locally for over 10 years. Find out more at

May 9, 2020

I’d like to think there are some old timers left who remember Zelle Defenderfer, the Queen of Baywood Park, as she was lovingly referred to. Zelle was a mainstay of the community. She founded The Baywood Park Women’s Club (BPWC), an organization that has had a lasting impact on the community.

I was one of the last members to join the organization, and when they disbanded, they donated their remaining funds and the building on 7th Street in Baywood Park (the former Coastal Presbyterian Church) to Cuesta College. For several years I attended Cuesta College’s recognition of donors to the institution that included the BPWC. On one occasion I attended the awards ceremony with Ken Defenderfer, Zelle’s son.

The Diefenderfer story began in 1931 when a brochure distributed by the late Richard Otto, Baywood Park developer, filtered back to Lincoln, Neb., and fell into the hands of Ralph and Zelle Diefenderfer.

“I had a sister in Fresno, but she hadn’t heard about Baywood, so we came out in 1932 to look it over for ourselves,” Zelle said. “We bought the house we now live in and the boat concession which went with it. The children and I stayed on to manage the concession and Ralph returned to work with the CB&Q Railway in Lincoln. We traded the concession for the lot next to the house in 1935 after our son, Gerald, had graduated from San Luis Obispo High School and all of us returned to Lincoln. When Ralph retired in 1951, we came back to stay.”

Then Zelle, quickly became the organizer of the South Bay activities and a grandmother for the entire community. She made friends with Elsie Hewitt, county home advisor and arranged for a group meeting of women in the South Bay. The Baywood Park Women’s Club was the outgrowth, organized with Mrs. Diefenderfer as charter president. No building was available for club or community meetings.

“We’d never have had a clubhouse here in Baywood if it hadn’t been for her. She was the motivating factor. And she still is. We have a nice building for the community and it’s well kept, said Rilla Flannery.”

The clubhouse and community building at 1335 Seventh St. brought Mrs. Diefenderfer one of her titles.

Reference: All About Baywood Park 1994 by Joan Sullivan

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