This month, Livermore lost an adventurer and activist. She worked to celebrate cultural and racial diversity in Livermore and fought LGBT discrimination. She marched in “Black Lives Matter” and, while quick to smile, spoke passionately about religion and politics.
Val and her twin sister Valdonna were the youngest of seven children born to Eva and Andrew Andersen, a family with strong Danish heritage, in Tyler, Minnesota. Val’s ashes will be buried beside Valdonna, who lived only 10 months.
Val was always adventurous and outgoing. After graduating junior college, she and a friend took a steamer to tour Europe. In a German Cabaret club one night, they were chatting when the man in front of her turned around and said, “I can tell from your accents you are Americans.” It was Elvis Presley in his army days. Val and her friend spent a half hour chatting with him and his army mates.
After receiving a teaching degree from Mankato State University, Val and a friend drove from Minnesota to Anchorage, Alaska to look for adventure and romance. There, at a church mixer, she met the love of her life, Leslie Pace, who had driven a year earlier to Alaska from Los Angeles in search of adventure and rumored good wages.
She had caught Les’ eye by expressing an interest in hunting moose. Les was a fellow adventurer with a bold spirit and occasionally salty sense of humor. They were married in July 1963 and gave birth to two daughters, Kimberly (Kim) and Kirsten.
Early on, their fledgling family was extremely poor, but Les’ drive and charisma made him a top commercial real estate developer in Alaska during the oil boom of the 70s and 80s. Despite a childhood bout with Polio that robbed Les of his ability to walk easily, Val and Les led their family on many adventures.
They bought a 29’ fishing boat they christened “KimKir” and spent years exploring Prince William Sound and Resurrection Bay. Val loved fishing and the boating life. She was an excellent first mate in Alaska’s unpredictable waters.
One trip, they had anchored KimKir at the end of a narrow inlet that was only passable at high tide. Just after low tide, a freak gale whipped up and started dragging the anchor shoreward as tidewater slowly filled the passage. It was a race between the forces of nature. Val gripped the pitching bow with a sharp knife, while Les motored to keep the boat stable. Minutes passed and the tide rose. When the anchor finally gave out, Les gunned the engine and Val, in a single sweeping motion, sliced through three lines, freeing KimKir to brave the passage back to safety. The young daughters watched their parents wide-eyed from the cockpit, and both are avid boaters today.
In the early 80s, Val’s family and friends took annual rafting trips on Alaska’s wild rivers. They would be dropped off by sea plane on a remote river shore and then picked up downriver a week or so later. Val amazed her grandkids with tales of fish, bears, wrong turns, capsizes and water fights from these trips.
Val and Les were active at Central Lutheran Church of Anchorage and eagerly volunteered to open their home when the church sponsored a refugee family from Laos in 1979. The families forged a lifelong bond. Avon, Chan, Sue, Ann, Van and the rest of their family that followed them to Anchorage would always be family to Val.
In 1987, Val earned a master’s degree in Special Education and began a second career teaching special needs students at a head-start pre-school in Anchorage.
After Les died in 1995, Val taught for 10 more years in Anchorage but spent school breaks traveling between her daughters’ homes in Seattle and Livermore. For many summers, she loved visiting Holden Village Spiritual Retreat in Washington. She loved folk dancing at the Danebod Folk Camp in her hometown of Tyler, Minnesota. From the Mountains of Alaska to the Appalachian trail to Machu Picchu in Peru, Val took any opportunity to hike and camp.
In 2006, Val moved full-time to Livermore. She found a spiritual home at Asbury United Methodist Church and a new family of friends at Heritage Estates, where she lived for the rest of her life. She became a grandmother figure to many area families. One of her favorite places was Lakemont Pines in Arnold, where she helped raise grandchildren and delighted in the cedars and pines in summer and the firelight and deep snowfall in winter. There, she would lead her grandkids and friends on strenuous hikes to “Cougar Rock” and “Top of the World” until her late 70s.
Then, her bones started to weaken from undiagnosed multiple myeloma. Knee and back pain had entered her life, and her days of hiking and carefree walking were over.
This did not keep her from marching. As her wilderness adventures slowed, her community activism soared. From ushering at the Bankhead Theatre, volunteering at Open Heart Kitchen, promoting LGBT inclusiveness at the United Methodist church and rallying celebrations of diversity and condemnations of injustice, she took the wisdom of her broad life experiences and turned them toward leaving a better world for all.
Valborg (Val) Pace died peacefully at home of complications from multiple myeloma on Sept. 10, 2022. She is survived by her daughters, Kim (Mike) Snorsky and Kirsten (Eric Cummings) Pace; seven grandchildren: Laura (Colby) Snorsky , Jake (Mollie) Snorsky , Derek Snorsky, Molly Snorsky, Christine Cummings, Edison Cummings and Atticus Cummings; and three great-grandchildren: Tucker Snorsky, Mack Snorsky and Mick Snorsky.
In lieu of flowers, please consider donating to one of the many organizations or causes that Val supported, such as Holden Village https://www.holdenvillage.org or Open Heart Kitchen https://www.openheartkitchen.org.
A memorial service will be held at Asbury United Methodist Church in Livermore, California on Oct. 7, 2022 at 4:30 p.m.