There were cards and gifts and cake and ice cream at Sam Seibert's 95th birthday party on Tuesday morning. Held in the city warehouse on Senter Road that serves as the repository for the San Jose Fire Museum's collection, the retired fire captain blew out the candles and posed for photos with friends and former colleagues.
"He's been a mentor for a lot of people," said Jim Carter, vice president of the San Jose Fire Museum. "He's done a tremendous amount of work to keep this fire museum alive."
Seibert's the oldest living San Jose firefighter and might hold that distinction in the entire Bay Area. His career with the San Jose Fire Department spanned 1946 to 1976, a period of tremendous growth and modernization for the city and the department. But people I talked to Tuesday said Seibert always kept his eye on the history of firefighting in San Jose, a tradition that goes back 160 years.
Considered the "founder emeritus" of the Fire Museum, he donated or helped restore several pieces in the enormous collection, including an 1810 James Smith Hand Pumper. And Seibert served as a tour guide in the museum's cramped quarters, showing visitors everything from a trophy case of firefighter headgear to vintage steam engines and ladder trucks.
Sadly, most people in San Jose don't realize that the Fire Museum's collection even exists. The museum leadership is continuing its long, slow quest to acquire the original Fire Station No. 1 on Market Street downtown to use as a public museum. The property -- in the hands of the Successor Agency to the Redevelopment Agency -- needs an appraisal before it can be sold to the Fire Museum, which would then have to launch a huge campaign to purchase and restore the building.
I hope they succeed. It would be a much better place to showcase the history of the "Guardians of the Garden City," and it would be a great place for Sam Seibert to have a birthday party.
MILESTONE FOR MUSEUM: The past few annual fundraisers for the San Jose Museum of Art have been eye-popping affairs that left people talking for days. So there should be a few interesting surprises Sept. 13 when the museum celebrates its 45th anniversary with this year's gala, "Full Spectrum 2014: Future Perfect."
The evening, chaired by Claudia Weber and Cornelia Pendleton, starts with a cocktail reception in the museum before moving outdoors to the Circle of Palms for a dinner and live auction. There should be some amazing, art-oriented entertainment, too, as is usually the case for the Full Spectrum galas.
Tickets begin at $500, and you can reserve a spot or get more information at www.sanjosemuseumofart.org/future-perfect.