The Diridon family has had a profound impact on the Santa Clara Valley. As a long time County Supervisor, Rod Diridon Sr. became known as the “Father of Public Transportation” and one of the first conservationists in the Valley. His son, Rod Diridon, Jr. followed in his father’s footsteps when he was elected to the Santa Clara City Council eleven years ago. In his tenure as a city councilmember, and then as Santa Clara’s City Clerk and Auditor, he’s become a recognized leader, across California, in campaign finance reform and government accountability.
However, the Diridon family legacy in Santa Clara Valley dates back more than one hundred years to 1885, when brother and sister Wilford T. Cochrane and Alice Elizabeth Cochran (Middleton) moved to Sunnyvale and Lawrence Station (Santa Clara), respectively.
Alice and Rodney Middleton had two daughters, Alice and Juanita. Wilford and wife Mollie had a family of four, including Edwina, Elma, Marilda and Amory. Their eldest daughter, Edwina married Carson Benner and became Edwina Benner. Ms. Benner later became the first female Mayor of the City of Sunnyvale and in the State of California, and had an elementary school named after her. Her cousin, Alice Cochran married John Robinson Covert in 1911.
John and Alice traveled throughout California, he working as a miner, prison guard and tradesman, and she as a stenographer and secretary. John Covert’s primary skill was as a carpenter and contractor, having been a foreman on construction projects at the Hearst family’s Northern California “Wyntoon” estate. Among their children Rhoda, John and Barbara, Rhoda Covert was a talented singer, pianist and early civil rights activist. She was engaged and married to Claudius Diridoni in 1937 in Dunsmuir, California.
Claudius was born in Albany, near Oakland, of Italian immigrant stock, but returned to Italy, at the age of six, with his father and mother. He returned to America in his late teens to flee the oppression of Benito Mussolini in the 1930s. As an Italian immigrant, he worked with the Civilian Conservation Corps in Dunsmuir, California during the Depression. He then changed his name to Claude Diridon when bigotry in the railroad employment system kept him from being hired in that two-trade town (railroading and logging). After becoming a union member, Claude was protected from discrimination, thus starting the Diridon family’s long appreciation of organized labor.
Of their three children, Rodney, Claudia, and Tom, Rod Diridon was the eldest child, born in 1939. Though dyslexic, through hard work and determination, he was a good student and member of championship football teams in high school. While working his way through college as a railroad trainman, he attended Shasta Junior College and Chico State, each for one year. He then transferred to San Jose State University, where he was a student leader, and graduated with a BS in Accounting and an MSBA in Statistics.
Here, he met Mary Ann Fudge, daughter of Kenneth Richard and Bernice Fudge. The son of an immigrant Welsh mining family, Mr. Fudge became a successful automobile dealer and later the President of Spokane Securities, Inc., a member of the Spokane Stock Exchange. Born on May 17, 1941, in Wallace, Idaho, Mary Ann was a natural athlete and high achieving student. She was active in student government, and earned undergraduate and Masters degrees in Physical Education from SJSU.
Following college, Rod served two Vietnam War combat tours as a Naval Officer. Rising to the rank of Lieutenant, he served on Destroyers patrolling the coastline, offering Carrier protection and shore bombardment support. Rod and Mary Ann were married in Saratoga, California on the 4th of July, 1964, that being the only time Rod had leave from his tour of duty with the Navy.
On his return from the war, Rod and Mary Ann settled in Santa Clara Valley. Mary Ann became a physical education teacher at Homestead High School. Rod went to work for Lockheed, and later founded the Diridon Research Corporation, now located in San Francisco and known as the Decision Research Institute.
In September of 1969, Rodney John Diridon, Jr. and in the same month of 1971 Mary Margaret Diridon were welcomed into the world. The two siblings have been both brother and sister, and close friends their entire lives.
Mary Ann, having stayed home with the babies for a few years, returned to work in 1973 with the Professional Secretarial Service becoming the owner and manager in 1976. Later, she would be among the first group of women offered Rotary membership, and became the first female President of the large Downtown San Jose Rotary Club in 1998.
Rod Diridon (now, Sr.) was elected to the Saratoga City Council in 1971. Three years later in 1974, he was elected to the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors, defeating a 14-year incumbent. Throughout his 20 years on the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors, Rod Sr. co-chaired the early Parks Charter Measures, created the Los Gatos Creek Trail Board and was an ardent environmentalist. A most effective proponent of public transportation, Rod Sr. is considered the “father of modern transit” in Santa Clara County and credited with countless achievements including building the light rail system. The main train station in San Jose was renamed “The Diridon Station” in his honor, a fine tribute to a railroad family.
Mary Margaret Diridon graduated from Santa Clara High School in 1989 where she also was involved in student government and was the leader of the Song Girl troupe. She went on to Santa Clara University, graduating with a degree in Psychology, then to San Jose State (the fourth Diridon to attend SJSU) where she earned a Masters Degree in Social Work.
Rod Diridon, Jr. was raised in Santa Clara. He graduated from Santa Clara High School in 1988 and San Jose State University in 1993 with a degree in Political Science. Rod Jr. was a student leader throughout his education and worked his way through college as a mechanic and political consultant.
Following college, Rod spent a year in the classroom as an on-campus substitute for Lincoln High School and as the drummer in a rock and roll band. He then worked for 3Com Corporation, first as an Intern, then rising through the ranks to Global Community Relations Manager for that large, multi-national corporation. Rod was a five-term Democratic Central Committee member and two term Santa Clara City Councilmember, serving as Mayor Pro Tempore and Chaplain.
Following an unsuccessful bid for the State Assembly in 2002, Rod Jr. was elected Santa Clara’s City Clerk in 2004 and appointed City Auditor in 2006. Diridon has distinguished himself as one of the top policymakers in Silicon Valley. Working in the diverse areas of education, campaign finance reform and public safety, Diridon has been a force for legislative and political change. In 1997, Diridon co-chaired the successful $145 million Santa Clara school bond measure, providing money to fund new state-of-the-art science buildings and performing arts centers at each city high school.
Diridon has received international, state and local awards for his work to foster excellence in government, leading Santa Clara’s ethics and campaign finance reform programs. These efforts fostered fairness in government by reducing the influence of money in politics, limiting contributions and spending during elections, and prohibiting former elected officials from misusing their relationships as lobbyists for City contracts. Rod has shared these best practices as an instructor for ethics and democracy programs with the Technical Track for Clerks at UC Riverside, which have became a model for statewide government reform.
Diridon also led the revitalization of downtown Santa Clara, seeing the first phase completed and phase two successfully planned. As one of the founding members and later the Chair of the County’s San Tomas/Saratoga Creek Trail Committee, he spearheaded the effort to create the trail and parks along the San Tomas Creek. He also supported the building of a new state of the art Santa Clara Senior Center.
Active in the community, Diridon served on the City of Santa Clara Library Board of Trustees, on the Board of Directors for KTEH, the local public television station, the Board of Fellows of Santa Clara University and the Board of Directors of the San Jose Symphony. He was also the founder and President of Opus 21, an organization supporting the arts in Santa Clara County. He is currently a board member for the Santa Clara Firefighters Foundation.
Diridon has been honored for his community work by the Santa Clara County Boy Scouts, the City Clerks Association of California, the International Institute of Municipal Clerks, the Silicon Valley Manufacturing Group (now the Leadership Group), the San Jose Rotary Club, the San Jose Exchange Club, the Junior Chamber of Commerce, the Democratic Century Club, the California Assembly and Senate, and the US Congress.
After an amiable separation from Mary Ann in 1999, Rod Diridon, Sr. married Dr. Gloria Duffy in 2001. Dr. Duffy is the President/CEO of the Commonwealth Club of California and was Deputy Assistant Undersecretary of Defense during the Clinton Administration leading nuclear disarmament treaty negotiations. Currently, Rod Sr. is the Executive Director of the Mineta Transportation Institute and a member and past Chair of the California High Speed Rail Authority Board. Gloria and Rod Sr. live in Santa Clara, travel frequently and enjoy volunteering for important community causes.
Mary Ann Diridon and her partner live on Bainbridge Island off the coast of Seattle where she continues to provide secretarial services to select clients. An avid golfer, she has been the Captain of the Wing Point Golf and Country Club women’s division and has won several state and Club championships.
Mary Margaret Diridon married Steve Ormsby in 2005. Steve works for Lockheed Martin at NASA Ames, helping to fly research experiments and train astronauts for space missions. Mary Margaret is the former Director of Counseling Services for the YWCA of Silicon Valley. A Certified Life Coach, she now owns and operates Diridon Coaching, helping to “empower people to create and live balanced, brilliant, successful lives.” She and Steve live in San Jose and have two children, Alexandra and Aaron.
Rod Diridon, Jr., now 38, owns a home in Santa Clara. He continues as the full-time City Clerk and Auditor for the City of Santa Clara. He is a licensed paramedic, composes and plays music, and restores vintage automobiles.
Rod was married to community and political activist, Sabra Foley in 2009. A successful political fundraiser, she is a former staff member for Senator Joe Simitian and the Hillary Clinton for President Campaign. Sabra has earned a degree from UC Berkeley in Communications as well as a Masters Degree in Public Administration from SJSU. She is currently the Director of Development for the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Library. Sabra lives with Rod in Santa Clara and they have two children, Avery and Rodney.