LIFE OF SERVICE: Louise Farley’s
efforts continue beyond retirement
By GWEN HAGAMAN
January 31, 2019
An icon of the Merced and Atwater communities,
Louise Farley retired at the end of 2018.
Her most recent position was working to help individuals
and the community as a District Representative for State
Senator Anthony Canella’s office. As he reached term
limits and left
office, she decided it was a good time to retire.
However, everyone who knows Louise Farley understands that
her career of service will not be ending. Community service
is more than a job for her. It’s who she is.
“I appreciate being able to work where I could help
so many others,” she says. “You feel so gratified
when you can help.”
Farley began work in politics in Spring 1999 when she joined
the office of Congressman Gary Condit as a Field Representative.
Starting in June 2003 she served in the office of State
Senator Jeff Denham, continuing for two terms. She then
supported the two terms of Sen. Canella.
“People sometimes think all we (staff members) do
is give out certificates,” Farley smiles, “but
the constituent case work takes many hours and is critical
to the livelihoods and health of the people
While working for Congressman Condit, Farley helped many
people obtain passports, with every case successful.
“9/11 was a big deal,” Farley recalls. “I
saw on TV when the first building fell down. All of the
federal buildings were closed. It was quite an experience
to be there (at the Congressman’s office) during
the 9/11 aftermath.”
Farley also remembers a family tragedy she helped to resolve.
A local couple was very embarrassed to be the victims of
an internet scam. They were going to lose their home and
had no idea what
to do. Farley began making some calls to agencies who could
help with various aspects of the situation. Soon, the Rescue
Mission helped the couple move into a home the Housing Authority
helped to find. Central California Legal Services brought
the case to the Senator’s
office. However, the scammer was never found.
“We couldn’t change what had happened,”
Farley began, “but we helped this couple through their
emergency and they found a way to move forward with life.”
“Our office had 17 or 18 open cases at a time. We
were successful with 80 to 90 percent of the cases,”
Farley says. “We assured people their affairs would
be kept confidential. There was never a charge for helping.”
Farley says they handled lots of DMV cases. One from the
Modesto area involved a Southeast Asian man who couldn’t
speak English very well. He came in with a friend who could
help him communicate. The man lived in Ceres and worked
in Palo Alto.
“This man had gone to renew his Driver’s License
and was told his License was suspended,” Farley recalls.
“It ended up being a case of mistaken identity and
we were able to help him straighten it out.”
In another case, a woman’s License was suspended and
might be revoked. Her husband had cancer and needed her
to drive him to medical treatments. Farley was able to help
her work it out and keep her ability to drive.
The husband later brought flowers to the state’s district
office with a note saying, “Mrs. Farley took on my
wife’s problem as if it was her own problem.”
Farley has a personal understanding of “problems”
and how things that happen can affect families. She was
one of six children in her family.
Her parents had bought a home and managed to pay for it.
But life brought a tough turn – her father caught
polio and died. Mom was a teacher and worked through raising
her children alone.
“Mom often said to choose something to do that your
family could do with you,” Farley said. This outlook
had a big influence on how Farley and her husband raised
her own family.
Young Farley had graduated from Fresno State and was working
in Madera at the UC Cooperative Extension as a 4H Youth
Advisor. “One day a handsome young man walked into
the office,” she said. She and Jim Farley married
a year later and made their home in Atwater.
Unfortunately, Jim Farley was also working for the UC Cooperative
Extension in Merced and the policy of the day prevented
married people from both working there.
So Farley started a 22 year career as an Adjunct Professor
at Merced College.
During the same time, Farley was working with the Mountain-Valley
Council of Camp Fire Girls. She helped lead the 1975 conversion
to Camp Fire USA, where boys were allowed to join. This
is one of her proudest accomplishments.
“In only about two years, 40 percent of our membership
was boys,” Farley explained. “Outdoor activities,
sports and meaningful service projects all helped boys enjoy
the program. These activities were good for both genders.”
In April 1995, Farley became Executive Director of the Atwater
Chamber of Commerce, where her heart still beats strong.
She plans to help there during her retirement.
“I want to help revitalize the Chamber to retain and
recognize its members. And I want to recruit more members,”
Farley said. She pointed out that the Chamber building used
to be Atwater City Hall with the Library in the upstairs.
“Working with Atwater High students, we did a survey
and made some plans for ‘Super Saturdays’,”
Farley disclosed. “We’ll choose different venues
in town where businesses will have sales and special
The local 4H groups will find help available from the Farleys.
First though, Jim Farley has a special surprise trip planned
for his wife. They are devoted to the Central Presbyterian
Church. And they plan to spend lots of time with their very
special grandson Jake.