Mission Preservation Foundation Board Members

Gretchen Stroscher Thomson

Mission Preservation Foundation
Member, Gretchen Stroscher Thomson

Gretchen Stroscher Thomson's roots in the San Juan Capistrano community go back more than a century.

Her grandparents, William and Frederica Stroschein (who would later change their name to Stroscher), arrived in San Juan in 1887. They purchased a ranch and lived in a farmhouse across the street from the Mission. At the time, the town consisted of little more than the Mission, a general store, several saloons and some adobe residences.

The Stroscheins did not share the Catholic faith of many of San Juan's residents; they were German Lutherans. They banded together with local Protestants and built the town's first Protestant Church, which would later become Community Presbyterian Church.

Ms. Thomson's grandfather also served on the town's first public school board, which built the town's first public elementary school.

The Stroscheins were close friends with Fr. St. John O'Sullivan, pastor of the Mission 1910-33. When O'Sullivan's sister would come down from Los Angeles to visit her brother-priest, she would stay with the Stroscheins. The Stroschein's son (Ms. Thomson's father), Herbert, sang in the Mission choir, despite being a non-Catholic.

Herbert became a dentist and moved to Santa Ana. The family frequently visited San Juan Capistrano, and were regular visitors to its old Mission. She remarked, "As a girl, I remember strolling through the Mission gardens, and enjoying the flowers, the pepper trees and the fountains."

Ms. Thomson attended both Stanford University and USC, and became a professor of history. She taught at USC and for community colleges. She now works in land development and property management, as her family still owns parts of San Juan Capistrano. She is married and has three grown children.

Today, she lives part-time in Monarch Bay and part-time on a ranch near Stockton in Northern California.

She is pleased to be a part of the effort to preserve the old Mission today: "As a historian, I recognize the importance of the Mission, both to California's history and that of the United States."