34 MONTEREY COUNTY WEEKLY october 26-November 1, 2023 www.montereycountyweekly.com FACE TO FACE When 77-year-old Pat McNeill isn’t training for his next triathlon, he’s busy with projects. Not just little ones, but big ones—like restoring, mostly on his own, the 1925 historic home he shares with his wife, Lynn Hamilton. After that was complete, his pandemic project was converting a 1973 VW bus over to electric. If he doesn’t have a project going, he’s looking for one. The retired couple bought the home at the corner of Pearl and Figueroa streets in 2013, with plans to move from Salinas where they had both worked as teachers starting in 1984. Someone advised them to tear it down and start over, but they soon found out it was on the City of Monterey’s list of historic buildings and had to be preserved, at least from the exterior. It was McNeill’s chance discovery in the attic of a piece of board inscribed with the name of the home’s first owner, Tajuro Watanabe, that led the couple on a journey to learn more about their home and meet Watanabe’s grandchildren, who are still local. Their grandfather is considered a pioneer of the Monterey abalone fishing industry and later in life was one of the founders of the Monterey Peninsula Buddhist Temple in Seaside. The family owned the home until 1964 when they moved to another Monterey neighborhood. Watanabe died in 1989. Weekly: How did you discover the board with Watanabe’s name on it? McNeill: I was here in the ceiling… and I needed to move farther and I needed something to hold me up. I picked it up and turned it over and that was that [pointing to the board hanging on the living room wall], and it had been up there since 1925 or 1926. And that started this whole big thing: What would we learn about this place? We were at some friends’ house for dinner [about six weeks later], and I was telling the story I just told you. A woman I had just met a few minutes earlier—never before—on the other side of the table said, “That was my grandfather.” I was just floored. What happened to the Watanabe family during World War II? They had to leave, just go out the door and go to Salinas to the stockyard and were put on buses. They were separated—he was sent to Rohwer, Arkansas, and his wife and the two girls were sent somewhere else…It had something to do with the fact he was a fisherman and he had a boat, so [it was baselessly suspected by U.S. officials] he might have contact with the Japanese Navy. When you found out the home was historic, were you concerned about the requirement to preserve certain aspects? No, not really. We started out in anthropology—our majors. I was an archeologist for years. We understood historical rules, protecting Native American resources, and so on. That was a pretty easy transition. What’s it like to live in a well-known home? I don’t think there’s a month that goes by that someone doesn’t say, “I went to a party there,” “my friend lived there,” “I delivered a child there.” You’re 77 and doing triathlons? At my age it’s almost a caricature of the former triathlete [laughs], but it’s still, “Finish the course and feel good about it.” All that kind of stuff is age grouped, so you’re competing against people your own age. It’s fun and you get to know them. Although last couple of events I was the only one there. How many have you competed in? Oh, I don’t know. I started in 2006. Typically three or four a year. What do you like about competing in triathlons? Once you sign up for something, you feel like you’ve got to follow through. So it’s a motivator. If there’s no objective for me then it’s really easy for other projects to take over. What’s your current project? I just finished one, that was converting my sister’s riding lawn mower to electric. I’m looking for another car that would be a fun conversion. Perpetual Motion Restoring a historic home, converting a VW bus to electric—Pat McNeill always has a project. By Pam Marino Pat McNeill in front of the 1925 historic cottage he renovated, mostly on his own, using skills he learned from his carpenter father while growing up in Oregon. DANIEL DREIFUSS Sun - Thurs 12PM– 8PM Fri & Sat 11AM – 9PM 720 BROADWAY AVE. SEASIDE Call 831-899-1762 to order DINE IN / TAKEOUT / DELIVERY Using fresh, quality ingredients The Oven continues a tradition of New York style pizza, alongside signature San Francisco sourdough pizza. Come enjoy a slice today. Great Dough Great Pizza is Thin crust & Sourdough pizzas Salads & Calzones • Pasta • Subs Draft beer on tap • Wine • Dessert FRESH. LOCAL. TASTY. Fisherman’s Wharf FRESHEST SEAFOOD with PANORAMIC VIEWS Open Daily at 11:30am • At the end of Fisherman’s Wharf #1 www.rockfishmonterey.com • 831.324.4375 LIVE MUSIC Wednesdays 5–7:30pm