Text by Lisa McEwen I Photos by Cory Media Group
Vicki and Steve Worthley’s charming white Victorian-style home has housed and nurtured their family of four children for the last 27 years. Inviting and spacious, it has aged gracefully and today is set up to continue welcoming their growing family, which now includes five grandchildren.
Surrounded by orchards and breezy eucalyptus trees, the Dinuba home is set back from the road and, driving in, guests are greeted by a quintessential country scene — black-eyed Susans spilling over the entry sidewalk; elegant, fragrant rose bushes flanking the front yard, and a huge, wrap-around porch playing host to a gorgeous glass double front door.
A children’s fort sits under a shady tree, and a broad expanse of green grass not only encourages dogs to lounge but grandchildren to run to their heart’s content.
While Vicki was babysitting, Steve met with Lifestyle Magazine one recent morning to share the story of the home, which sits on land that his family has owned since 1914. Their grandchildren, ranging in age from 5 months to 6 years old, represent the sixth generation of Worthleys to call this spot home (or a home-away-from-home!).
His childhood residence is just a short walk away, allowing him close proximity to his 87-year-old mother, who still lives there.
Tulare County roots run deep for the Worthley family. Readers will remember Steve most recently from his 20-year tenure on the Tulare County Board of Supervisors, including serving five terms as chairman. He also devoted 16 years to the California Air Resources Board and, today, runs his legal practice out of his home office. Vicki, also a Dinuba native, is a recently retired school administrator. But the title they both love best is grandparent.
THE VIEW FROM HERE
Steve’s office is conveniently located just off the foyer, which allows clients
to meet with him privately without walking through the rest of the house. Giant picture windows afford Steve an impressive east-facing vista.
“There is no better view of the Sierra and the Great Western Divide,” he said. He is able to gaze upon the mountain range, completely unobstructed by trees or power poles, watch the sunrise or just see who is pulling into the driveway, inevitably greeted by one or more of their dogs.
Married after Steve graduated from McGeorge School of Law, Vicki and Steve established their first home in a 1919 bungalow in downtown Dinuba. Their family grew to include three children, and the couple felt that it was important for them to attend a K-8 school, namely Monson-Sultana Elementary School.
As the story goes, Vicki encouraged Steve to talk to his parents about purchasing part of the parcel to build a home, giving them more space and in-district access to their desired school.
At the time, there was a significant theft problem in the area, and his reply to Vicki was, “We’re just going to get robbed if we live out there.” No sooner did he say that than the couple’s home in town was burgled — twice.
His parents agreed to the purchase, warning them that there was “nothing but weeds on the property,” Steve said. Interestingly, when Steve was growing up, it actually housed his dad’s 16-cow dairy.
Plans were set in motion for the move, which included first finishing the remodeling that they had started on the bungalow.
“When you live in a home like that, you’re in a constant state of remodel,” he said with a laugh. “You’re 98 percent done, but there’s always that 2 percent. As we were finishing that 2 percent, we kept asking, ‘Why didn’t we do this work for ourselves?’”
With the bungalow sold, the couple and their children, ages 11, 8 and 3, moved into a 32-foot travel trailer on the property and broke ground on their new home.
Pouring over page after page of home design magazines, the couple had selected a set of plans designed by an architect from Texas. Steve noted wryly that the two-story, four-bedroom, three-bathroom home is designed to withstand hurricane-force winds (not that there are any of those in Dinuba). It also has a giant basement and a first-floor master suite to accommodate the couple as they age in place.
With Vicki as general contractor, the couple spent most of 1992 watching their dream home come alive. By Thanksgiving, though, life in the trailer was cramped and cold, so the family shifted to Steve’s parents’ home. They moved into their new home on Dec. 31, 1992, and four months later welcomed their fourth child.
At the front door, an ornately painted sign reads “Green Gables.” It is not only a nod to Vicki’s favorite childhood book series, “Anne of Green Gables,” but also the original color of the home’s gables now faded to gray.
As the years passed and their children grew up and excelled, they slowly left home to attend college at campuses throughout the state. The couple is extremely proud of their children, Jon, Liz, Will and Andrew, all college or university graduates. While they enjoyed a brief respite as empty nesters, they are thrilled that the home is filling up again with grandchildren and their requisite gear, such as playpens, cribs, carseats and toys.
Entering the home, visitors notice recent updating of fixtures, paint and flooring. Family photos documenting milestones through the years line the walls (children on one side of the foyer, grandchildren on the other).
One room that received the most attention is the kitchen, which under-went an extensive remodel in 2015.
“It’s the heartbeat of the home,” said Steve, who enjoys cooking the family’s meals. New additions include a revamped kitchen island for prepping food, stove with six-burner range, pendant lighting and granite countertops. The kitchen looks out over the open concept family room and breakfast nook, which are flooded with natural light from a bank of windows that line the 1,300-square-foot wrap-around porch. The view includes towering eucalyptus trees, a vast backyard lawn and an open field on the west side of the home. It’s safe to say that the Worthleys enjoy a 360-degree view of their property.
“We have considered adding window coverings, but we really do appreciate being able to see out,” Steve said.
Even though they have central heating, a wood-burning stove in the family room keeps the family cozy during cold winter months. Now that Steve is spending more time working from home, he said he enjoys building a fire in the morning and stoking it throughout the day.
Another room that received a major face-lift recently is the master bedroom. Cool gray tones on the wall are accented with bright white wainscoting throughout the room. Bamboo flooring creates a clean, contemporary look. A sign declares: “Grandchildren welcome. Parents by appointment.”
Next, the couple look to update the master bathroom, which includes separate vanities and closets. The room’s Shaker-style cabinet doors will likely remain, with fresh finish and new knobs, Steve said.
Upstairs, three bedrooms and a bathroom round out the spacious accommodations.
As chief caretaker of the yard, Steve said he enjoys spending as much time
as he can outside. There is plenty of opportunity for admiring the gardens, succulent pots, barbecue area or playing a pick-up game of pickleball.
In 2015, daughter Liz was married in the backyard, and they were able to accommodate more than 250 guests on the expansive lawn.
Their grandchildren also love having plenty of room to explore and play, riding their trikes and pushing wagons under the shady trees.
“The grandchildren have the run of the place. But we just have to make sure they don’t run away,” Steve said with a chuckle. “They are learning what their boundaries are.”
As the couple soaks up time with their grandchildren, they have recently also had a little more opportunity to reflect on the past 27 years in their home. They are celebrating their 41st wedding anniversary this year.
As dogs wander past and giant elephant garlic bulbs sway in the wind between rose bushes, Steve surveys the wide entrance to the home, lined with retired, rusty farm equipment used by his grandfather.
“While we loved our I Street bungalow, we can’t imagine moving back into town,” he said. “We enjoy the country. I have loved coming back to the place where I grew up and the quietness of the country. We have come to truly appreciate our home and country living.”