Talking computers was how Gene and Michelle first met back in 1996, but it didn’t take long to realize they had much in common beyond IT. They both worked at an engineering firm in Emeryville where Michelle worked as a Computer Support Specialist and Gene was an Engineer. “I remember Michelle was really nice (and pretty) when she gave me training on the company’s computer network. During a work event, our common friends decided to introduce Michelle and me, while not talking about computers. We got along well, so I decided to ask her out,” says Gene. After a few years of dating, Gene says he decided to propose on a romantic San Francisco outing, “I planned it so we would take a walk along Chrissy Field and I would propose with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background. After dinner, I suggested we take a walk. She had a long week and just wanted to chill, but I convinced her to go. We walked along the bay and I stopped and got down on one knee and proposed. She had no idea it was coming.” Michelle says it was Gene’s relationship with his family that sealed the deal. “Gene’s parents were in town to visit San Francisco, where Gene was living at the time. Our second date was playing tourist guide and showing them San Francisco. I felt comfortable with the whole family instantly, and we continue to be close. I am very lucky.” They had a small Catholic wedding at the Church of Santa Maria in Orinda.
Gene was born and raised in Butte, Montana and was the middle child of two older brothers and a younger sister. As a mining city, Butte could be an eyesore to anyone who wasn’t born there, but the people of Butte are its greatest asset and have always been known for being friendly, hardworking, and willing to help a neighbor. Michelle was born in Concord, CA and grew up in Concord and Martinez. She is the youngest of five sisters and has a large family that led to big family get-togethers for holidays and special events throughout the years.
In late 1994 and while living in Idaho Falls, ID, Gene attended a conference in the Bay Area that changed the course of his life, “It was the week of the NFC Championship game between the 49ers and the Cowboys and it was so incredible how much excitement, energy, and opportunities there were in the area. I remember looking out of the airplane window as it took off from SFO and thinking how much I loved being in the Bay Area. I decided then it was my new goal to find a job and move here one day.”
One year later, Gene moved to the Bay Area and started a new job as a project engineer with Levine-Fricke in Emeryville. He lived in a studio apartment in SF just minutes to Chrissy Field, the Golden Gate Bridge, and all the restaurants and bars along Chestnut Street and Union Street. Michelle was living in Berkeley at the time. In 1999 once the couple were engaged, they moved to Dublin so that Michelle would have a shorter commute to the Silicon Valley and eventually bought and lived in several houses in San Ramon.
Gene and Michelle have two children, 20-year old Michael and 18-year old Bridget. Michael is a U.S. Marine and is stationed in Germany performing signals intelligence. Michael loves snowboarding, hiking, and paintball. “Michael has always been a history buff, especially the World War II era, and is an excellent marksman, so I think that led to his desire to join the military. At the end of Boot Camp, he was nominated by the other recruits and drill sergeants as ‘Most Improved Recruit’. We were really proud of him and I know it meant a lot to him,” says Michelle. Bridget recently graduated from Cal High School. She’s been accepted to three colleges and plans to pursue a degree and a career as a graphic design artist. Bridget is like her mom in that she has the artistic gene and has been drawing and writing stories since she was very young. She likes playing the guitar, listening to music, drawing, and snowboarding.
Two rescue dogs complete the family: Astro and Peanut. Astro is a Tibetan Terrier mix who follows Michelle around everywhere. Peanut is a Havanese Terrier mix who is very sweet and loves to patrol the yard at night and hunt for anything that moves.
Gene graduated with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Petroleum Engineering from Montana Tech in Butte and a Bachelor of Science Degree in Secondary Education with an emphasis in Physical Science and Physics from Montana State University. After graduation, Gene was offered a job as a staff engineer with a small start-up engineering firm in his hometown. After two years of working for the startup firm in Butte, Gene moved to Idaho Falls where he worked as a Project Engineer in support of the U.S. Department of Energy’s environmental cleanup at the Idaho Engineering National Laboratory (INEL). In 1995, Gene moved to the Bay Area to take a job as a project engineer with a Bay Area consulting firm, Levine-Fricke. Gene was assigned to work on the environmental cleanup of former Naval bases at Hunters Point Shipyard and Treasure Island. In 2001, Gene left Levine-Fricke to take a position as a partner and principal engineer with a start-up company called 4LEAF, Inc. 4LEAF has grown to 250 staff and seven offices nationwide and provides construction management, public works inspections, building department services, plan review, and planning services to cities, counties, states, and federal clients. Gene earned his California Professional Civil Engineer’s License in January 2003.
Michelle was attending San Francisco State University when she was offered a job at C-Cube Microsystems in Milpitas. She worked her way up in the company and became a senior network administrator. She was responsible for implementing new network services in C-Cube’s offices around the world and fell in love with her job. After the birth of her first child, she decided to be a stay-at-home mom. Michelle stayed at home until Bridget started second grade when she decided to go back to work part time with San Ramon Valley Unified School District as a computer systems assistant. Michelle currently works for The Coder School in San Ramon which teaches computer coding to children. She loves working with children.
Michelle has endless hobbies. She loves to sew, quilt, crochet, embroider, paint, and is trying new things all of the time. Michelle writes about her creations in the Blackhawk Living Magazine Craft article each month.
Gene’s main hobbies are golfing, snow skiing, water skiing, bocce, walking the dogs, listening to music, trying different beers and wines, enjoying new restaurants, and doing projects around the house. He closely follows the 49ers, Giants, Warriors, Sharks, and Cal Bears football.
“Gene is not the kind of person who can go on vacation and sit in the sun on a beach and read a book. He’d rather be doing something active,” adds Michelle.
The family joined the Blackhawk Country Club in June 2006 and enjoyed all the fun that came with the membership, “We loved the area and it exposed us to all the events the club had to offer. In 2014, we started playing Bocce and playing more golf,” says Michelle. Gene says “we were making more and more friends in Blackhawk and spending a lot of our social time at the Club. I thought it would be more convenient to live inside the gates and within a few days, our real estate agent, Floria Hakimi, got us an appointment to see a listing on Fox Creek Drive before it had its open house. It was so peaceful, we made an offer the next morning.”
Tragically, the Barry’s real estate agent, Floria, was killed two days later in a plane crash. “We had known Floria as our agent and a friend for 20 years, and we were just devastated. After a lot of mourning, we decided that Floria would want us to move forward with purchasing the house. We ultimately closed on the house and moved into Blackhawk in early November 2018. We love living in Blackhawk because of the abundance of wildlife, the beautiful landscaping, rolling hills, great golf courses, the Fitness Center, and the sense of community we share with other Blackhawk residents. We really love living on Fox Creek Drive and our neighbors are awesome. It is the neighborhood of our dreams and we can’t speak highly enough of our neighbors,” says Gene.
By Megan Scott, Resident since 2010
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