Do Gooders

The Volunteer Wonder


Al Wright

Although Ron Ucovich, 67, officially retired from teaching at Hillsdale High School in San Mateo in 2006, he still keeps a full-time schedule volunteering—and continues to teach people almost every day through his volunteer gigs at places like the USS Hornet Museum and the Sierra Club.

“It’s good for my mental health,” says Ucovich, who also edits the Alameda Museum newsletter. “I have to learn about what I’m going to talk about first, then I can share it and even trade information with others.”

Ucovich volunteers for a different organization each day, Tuesday through Saturday. On Tuesdays he supervises and trains volunteers on the USS Hornet. To fulfill his duties, he’s studied wars, weapons, navigation and even decoding.

As an ambassador for the East Bay Regional Park District, his Wednesday post, he gives lectures to groups, mans a booth at street fairs and organizes archives.

On Thursdays, it’s off to the Sierra Club, where Ucovich began leading hikes in 1989. His group may visit tiny villages like Eckley, known for brick manufacturing (the waterfront is still littered with pieces of brick); the ghost town of Drawbridge, which used to serve as a resort for duck hunters; or Crockett, a town that developed because of its sugar refining.

At the Alameda Museum on Fridays, he answers patrons’ questions, gives tours, does research and writes articles about items like the museum’s buttonhooks and zippers for the newsletter. He particularly enjoys slipping in trivia like the tidbit about the inventor of the zipper, who died thinking his invention would never find a practical use.

On Saturdays, Ucovich narrates cruises on the Potomac, “F.D.R.’s Floating White House,” in Oakland. He’s constantly researching so he can offer talks on varying topics like the historic bridges of San Francisco or films made in the area so returning guests never hear the same talk twice.

“What I do is like teaching, which I did for 35 years,” says Ucovich. “I like sparking an interest in a subject and interacting with adults, and then I feel like I’ve accomplished something.”

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