By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Family Donates Portrait To Van Allen
With the arrival of some special visitors on Thursday, the family at Van Allen Elementary School got a little bit bigger.

Named after a one time San Joaquin County Superintendent of Schools, descendants of Lawrence Cornelius Van Allen made a stop at the rural campus on Thursday afternoon to bring a portrait of their ancestor to hang in the school.

School secretary Louise Spurgeon was contacted by two of the descendants last spring, who were looking into the possibility that their school was named after Van Allen. When they learned it was, the offered the portrait as a gift to the school.

Making the trip were grandson Raymond Van Alen, great grandsons Bryan Van Allen and Ronald J. Loar, great granddaughters Linda Parks and Evelyn Aldred, Loar's wife Mary, and great great grandsons Pete Van Alen and Zaniel Van Alen.

The Van Alen name with one 'l' came about as the result of family feud, said Bryan Van Alen, who still lives in the area, in Lockeford, and whose son Zaniel was at one time a student at Van Allen Elementary.

Spurgeon has remained in close contact with the family over the past several months, planning for the special day.

"We're very honored to have you here," Van Allen Principal Scott Ferreira told the family members, who were front and center in the school's multipurpose room for the Thursday presentation. The audience included not only the Van Allen students and staff, but also some former teachers and administrators invited back for he special occasion.

"It's very important to keep in contact, to stay in touch with your family history," Bryan Van Alen told the students. "We just appreciate the Van Allen school, our history."

A retired teacher and librarian, Evelyn Aldred gave the students a bit of a history lesson, detailing how Lawrence Cornelius Van Allen came to settle in the San Joaquin Valley from his home state of New York.

"He loved to read," she told the students. "Read as much as you can, that's how you learn."

The original Van Allen school was constructed near Wagner Road in 1861 and moved closer to its current location in 1873. In 1913, a two-story school was built on the current spot for $5,600 and in 1953, many of the current classrooms were built on the existing school site. An administrative office was added in 1960 and the most recent renovations were in 2006, with construction of the multipurpose room, the new kindergarten-first grade wing and the new administrative center.

"The community of Van Allen is a family," Ferreira told the crowd. "Parents are an integral part of our school."

That made it fitting, he added, that many members of the Van Allen family were there for the presentation of the portrait.

As it was unveiled, the students applauded in appreciation and Ferreira said the portrait will be hung in the foyer of the multipurpose room so all can enjoy it.

Aldred journeyed from Texas to attend the festivities and Parks from Reno, while the others are elsewhere in California.

"I am absolutely delighted," Parks said of the warm reception given to the family. "This is far more than I thought would happen."

After the portrait was unveiled, students had a presentation of their own, providing each family member in attendance with a gift bag of Van Allen items from T-shirts to key chains, a 'favorite Van Allen recipes' cookbook and some regional treats including fruit and nuts. The gift bags were brightly decorated by different classes on campus.

Van Allen was born Dec. 5, 1828 and passed away on April 26, 1899.