Longtime Los Altos community leader Mary Prochnow is slated to be honored Thursday as a “Hometown Hero” at Community Services Agency’s annual breakfast fundraiser. The event is scheduled for a 7:15 a.m. start at the Computer History Museum, 1401 N. Shoreline Blvd., Mountain View.
“Hometown Heroes” recognizes individuals, businesses and organizations for their contributions to CSA and the community. The nonprofit CSA provides a safety net for thousands of elderly, low-income and homeless individuals in Mountain View, Los Altos and Los Altos Hills each year.
This year’s other honorees include:
• Atlassian, a global software company whose employees volunteer at CSA.
• The Mountain View Central Seventh-day Adventist Church, host site for CSA’s Empty Bowls soup supper fundraiser and organizer of the inaugural Empty Bowls event in 1990.
Prochnow, a realtor who has lived and worked in Los Altos for four decades, has a long history of public service that includes membership in the Rotary Club of Los Altos and four years on the Los Altos City Council, from 2014 to 2018, including a 2017 stint as mayor.
“Pragmatist,” “smart,” “regal,” “thoughtful,” “community leader,” “caring,” “funny,” “generous,” “wise” – those were just a few of the adjectives supporters offered when describing Prochnow.
Born to first-generation parents from families with limited means, Prochnow credits her mother and father for instilling in her a solid set of values.
“They were wonderful role models, always leading by example and fighting for the rights of people who were treated unfairly,” she said.
Prochnow’s mother left high school to help care for her eight siblings. After Prochnow’s father died, her mother became a successful realtor and brought daughter Mary along to land auction sales for early training.
Prochnow grew up in San Francisco, attended Notre Dame de Namur University and after briefly considering the religious life, married an artist and had a daughter who has since followed in her realtor footsteps.
She’s been a trailblazer in both her volunteer and professional life.
When Prochnow first started her career in the mid-1960s, women were still primarily homemakers or in female-dominated professions such as nursing and teaching. But at 26, she went to work for Merit McBride Realtors, where she helped expand the business from nine to 22 offices throughout the Bay Area and managed 500 agents.
In 1974, she was named vice president, moved to the South Bay in the early 1980s and opened her own firm, Mary Prochnow Realtors Inc., in 1990.
She was one of the first two women who joined the Rotary Club of Los Altos after the international organization began to admit women in 1985. Over the years, she amassed many honors and distinctions, including the Los Altos-Los Altos Hills Joint Community Volunteer Service Award, the Board of Realtors Public Service Award and the 1992 Los Altos Realtor of the Year award for “unselfish, dedicated and superb leadership and service.”
Making a difference
In a life of service, Prochnow is proudest of her role in the Rotary AIDS Project, producer of the award-winning documentary “The Los Altos Story” in 1990, which profiled three Los Altos Rotarians whose lives were changed by the AIDS epidemic.
“The AIDS video project was the greatest opportunity I ever had to make a difference in the world,” she said. “It definitely changed attitudes at a time when there was a lot of fear, a lack of understanding and a bias against people with the disease.”
Prochnow said she was “delighted” to be selected as a 2019 “Hometown Hero.”
“There are so many people who form the fabric of our community and make a difference in our daily lives who are struggling to get by,” she said. “While we are beginning to address the issues of affordable housing, the reality is that progress is slow-going and a little bit at a time. I am so grateful for the work CSA does to support our neighbors in need.”
Individual tickets for the breakfast are $60.