Alameda Loses its Elder Statesman
‘Lil caught the Westbound’ as Arnerich wanted it said
Anthony “Lil” Arnerich
June 23, 1929 – March 9, 2018
Former Vice Mayor
The Island City’s elder statesman, an East Bay civic leader for decades, Anthony “Lil” Arnerich passed last Friday morning. Arnerich’s acheivements in the service of this city go well beyond his eight years as Vice Mayor and Councilmember.
An Oakland native, Arnerich attended McClymonds High School. Casey Stengel, who later went on to coach the New York Yankees to greatness, signed young Lil to the Oakland Oaks in 1948. Two years later Lil began working for the Park and Recreation Department in Alameda. He stayed on the job for 36 years, “retiring” in 1986.
In 1988 Lil was appointed to the City Council. The following year he won a seat in his own right, as well as the title of vice-mayor. He served the city as its vice-mayor until 1991 and remained on the City Council until 1996.
In 2014, Mayor Marie Gilmore chose to honor him with a formal proclamation. His children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren turned out to witness Gilmore declare the week of June 29 to July 5, 2014, “Lil Arnerich Week.” (“All Things Arnerich,” July 10, 2014).
“Lil Arnerich spearheaded a number of initiatives including an ordinance to limit public comment at City Council meetings to a reasonable time of three minutes or less,” Gilmore read.
Lil also backed an amendment to the City Charter that forbids the city from selling recreational lands, which include parks, golf courses and other open spaces without a vote of the people.
The city will best remember Lil, however, for his contributions to Alameda’s youth. To thank him for this and his other accomplishments the city renamed the Upper Washington Park Baseball Field to Arnerich Field.
In his remarks following Gilmore’s reading of the proclamation, Lil reminded the audience that he vetoed naming the field “Lil Arnerich Field,” insisting that it be named “Arnerich Field” for his family.
Lil and his wife, Norma were together for more than 70 years, and Lil reminded everyone that he took issue with the saying “Behind every great man stands a woman.”
“Norma has never been behind me, but always at my side,” he said.
Lil truly loved this city. He was known to read several local newspapers daily to keep abreast of important topics. He’d then take his new-found knowledge to a local coffee shop, or the Elks Lodge, where he was a member for many years, to discuss the topics and take action. In his later years, Lil still supported efforts at the Alameda Recreation and Parks Department, especially the Elks-sponsored Hoop Shoots.
The nickame “Lil” was bestowed on him based on the fact that he was the youngest of six brothers.
Lil’s handwriting and calligraphy was impeccable. As a former professional sign painter, he would occasionally create original signs for purposes he felt like supporting in recent years, including for the campaigns of Kevin Kennedy and Kevin Kearney.
He would contribute to the conversation on the Alameda Sun Opinion page quite often, and would recite his experience as a copy boy at the Oakland Tribune. He loved and cared about the Sun, and I, personally, was quite touched to be asked to transcribe Lil’s final letter to the editor, which he penned in support of this newspaper. (“Sun fans write in,” March 1.) He often reminded me about the paper’s important role in shaping public opinion.
Lil knew the end was coming. “I’ve got a letter, but you better not wait til Tuesday,” He said on the phone one Friday about a month ago. “I might not be here then.” When I asked him if he wanted help writing an obituary, he said in reference to his “hobo” days, “I don’t want anything fancy in the paper, just tell them ‘I caught the Westbound.’” The staff at the Sun will miss our friend and neighbor’s visits, often accompanied by fresh donuts and the announcement: “Meals on Wheels.” In one of his last acts, Lil made sure to renew his subscription to the Sun.
According to local sources, Lil is survived by his wife, Norma, his four children, 12 grandchildren and 19 great-grandchildren. His relative, Newell Arnerich, currently serves as Danville’s mayor. His son, Ken, is Alameda High School’s varsity baseball coach. Serving the community and sports definitely run in the Arnerich family.
A rosary was held yesterday at St. Philip Neri Church. A funeral mass has been set for today, Thursday, March 15, at 11 a.m. at St. Philip Neri Church, 3101 Van Buren St. Following the mass a public reception will be held.