Mary stands strong 65 years after earthquake nearly toppled statue

Reno Taini ’59 stands in front of the statue his father saved.

The Crusader Staff

Reno Taini ’59 stands in front of the statue his father saved.

Ethan Vargas ’23, Staff Reporter

Before the 1989 earthquake in the San Francisco Bay Area, there was the forgotten earthquake of March 22, 1957, which was then the most powerful earthquake to hit San Francisco since 1906.

The quake measured a 5.3 magnitude and was also known as the Daly City earthquake of 1957, since the Westlake District in Daly City was the hardest hit, including the Lake Merced area.

The quake rocked for 30 seconds. During that time, the base of Riordan’s statue of Mary in the center of Riordan’s courtyard started to tumble. The school gardener, Gaspare Taini, saved the statue from falling.

The quake may be a foggy memory 65 years later, but Gaspare’s son, Reno Taini ’59 (a sophomore at Riordan at the time), remembers it vividly. “When school was let out at noon, my father got me to go with him and help secure the very shaky statue. He did very quick work to keep the statue propped up, improvising and using materials available. Then we went and got more, longer poles. They were a good 12 feet and made of bamboo.”

He went on to say, “In those days, they were used as the core for rolled up carpets. Yep, right down on Ocean Avenue near Mission Street. That store loaded us up, and back to Riordan we went to really prop that statue up. My father worked fast and I just followed his orders as usual. In a short time, it was very secure, but the pedestal was crumbled and cracked on one side. The base was left for the next day’s work.”

That statue and base were later refurbished in 2019, when a plaque was installed detailing the statue’s history, and commemorating Reno and his father Gaspare’s efforts to save it. The refurbished statue still prevails today, 65 years later, thanks to the heroic efforts of the Taini family.