A native of Clovis, Judith Preuss was raised in what was considered at the time to be a rural area off Pollasky Avenue. She was the daughter of first generation Italian Americans, Ermengildo and Aurora Grossi.
“We were a very close knit family,” says Preuss. “We lived in two houses on the same property. When my father passed away, my mother had to go to work at the corner grocery store, but my grandparents were always with my two brothers and me. We had a tremendous amount of love – not much else, but we were happy.”
After graduating from Clovis High School, Preuss attended the University of California at Los Angeles and California State University, Fresno. After studying light opera, (Broadway Musical Style) for six years with Mercedes Edwards and ballet for 14 years with Fresno’s Melita Sorina, thoughts of performing in Broadway musicals were on the Mezzo Soprano’s mind until she met Charles E. Preuss, a farmer in Clovis. They married and Broadway’s loss was Clovis’ gain.
Agriculture was an intense interest of the couple, though Judith did have her own ballet studio for three years.
Her three daughters prompted her interest in 4-H activities. For 13 years she was the leader of the Dry Creek 4-H, followed by being the Fresno County 4-H Core Council President and Fresno County 4-H All Star Program Counselor.
For 16 years, Judith and Charles participated in the Clovis Farm Bureau Agriculture Display at the Fresno District Fair and acted as Directors of the Agriculture Building.
During her employment at the Clovis Chamber of Commerce, she was Co-Director of the Miss Clovis Scholarship Association. She was Vice President of the Chamber of Commerce for 19 years. In 1989, she was awarded the Top 10 Clovis Professional Business Women of the Year, then in 1995, she received the Clovis Professional Business Woman of the Year Award. Then, in 2007, she was presented the Leadership Clovis Alumni Award.
Her list of accomplishments continue.
She has been an author, co-writing the paper, “Understanding, Fostering and Managing Creativity of the City of Clovis” and “Images of America-Clovis,” and a photographer, who took photos of the wildflowers along Highway 168. After serving as chairwoman of the Federal/State/County/Clovis City Committee that established the Sierra Heritage Scenic Byway and the Wildflower Trail, the Clovis Chamber of Commerce chose to rename the trail the “Judith Preuss Wildflower Trail,” after her retirement in October 2003.
She is a Charter and active member of Soroptimist International of Clovis; a member of the Fresno County Selective Local Board (2003-2015); appointed to serve on the Fresno County Citizens Review Panel for Measure B (2010-2017) Library Tax; and she serves as Treasurer of the Clovis-Big Dry Creek Historical Society. She is an active member of the Clovis Rodeo Association and recently served on the eight-month City of Clovis Economic Development Strategy Advisory Committee (2013-2014.)
Judith became active in community activities two years after Charles passed away when she retired and needed to keep busy.
“Volunteering seemed to be the best way to do that,” she says. “I was also extremely interested in city politics, and Clovis City offered a lot of committees to get involved with.”
After living in the area as long as she has, the biggest change in Clovis she feels has been the growth. “And thanks to a perceptive City Council and staff, it has been done the right way,” she says. “Unfortunately, a great deal of the growth has been in farmland being developed for housing. We have the most fertile soil in California and we are growing houses instead of food.”
Asked what advice she would give today’s youth, she responds, “Stay close to your family. Help where ever you can. Respect all your relations. Stay in school and study hard. And give back to your community. It is never too early to start volunteering. The rewards will be tremendous.”