Shannon and Jesse vanZee have an amazing love story. For Jesse, it was love at first sight: a Sunday night college worship service at Cal Poly made all the more impactful when Shannon walked in the door with a mutual friend. Jesse was able to get the introduction that night, but had to wait a couple weeks until they were at a Christmas party together to really make his impression on her. They spent the whole night talking, right up until they realized they were the last guests and the hosts of the party were ready to turn in for bed! At 1 am, Shannon called her mom and said, “I just met the man I’m going to marry!”
Three years of dating and they were ready to take the next step. Jesse proposed with a self-written song at a camp in Santa Cruz, where they both previously worked as counselors. They loved every minute of planning their wedding and their future lives together. About four months before the wedding, Jesse was diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia in a later stage of progression. After some pretty serious lows, he found a doctor at Stanford who was interested in his case. The school was a site for a trial for a new drug that saved Jesse’s life. He went into remission a year later and has been miraculously living in remission for the last 14 years.
“Due to these health issues, having children was not easy for us and required a lot of help from doctors and IVF. We didn’t even know if we would have one child, and God saw it fit to bless us with five!” Their children: Emmerson, Landon, Asher, Luke and Rhett are great kids and the perfect continuation of their love story.
Jesse earned his BS at Cal Poly in Biological Sciences. He is a Director at US Cancer Management Corporation, which owns and operates cancer centers in California. Previous to that he was a sales rep for different medical companies. Shannon earned her BS in Recreation, Parks and Tourism. It was Shannon’s degree and subsequent career in event planning that brought the vanZees to the East Bay. Shannon worked for the City of San Ramon planning community events. She then became an event coordinator at Crow Canyon Country Club and eventually the Catering and Events Manager at Il Fornaio in Walnut Creek before deciding to stay home full time.
Both Jesse and Shannon are very involved at the kids’ school. Shannon is using all of her skills in event planning for the annual Montair Auction, put on by the Montair Foundation. No doubt it’s going to be a huge success in 2022, raising money for supplemental educational programs and keeping Montair running smoothly! Jesse is the vice-president of the Montair Dads Club. He explains, “We do various projects at the school, such as restoring the aging picnic tables, installing new backpack hooks, and building new gardening boxes this spring for the K-2nd gardening program. We also plan and host various fundraising events, such as our annual bocce ball tournament.” They love their monthly meetings, and who could blame them when the location is the wonderful Auburn Lounge?!
Emmerson, 12, is the eldest of the family. She is creative and athletic, balancing her schoolwork with soccer and jewelry making. Not only is Emmerson a talented goalie, earning the nickname “The Wall” from her coaches and teammates, but she enjoys making bracelets so much that she’s about to start her own Etsy shop!
Asher and Landon, 9, are twins. Landon is inquisitive, always trying to figure out how things work. Asher is a master builder with legos. He enjoys the instructed builds and also creating his own models. Both boys play soccer with Mustang and love flag football and video games.
Luke, 6, is a fun-loving kid who is often told to “put the couch back together”. And then there’s Rhett, 3, who is the toughest little guy ever! He loves playing with his siblings and all things Mickey Mouse and Paw Patrol. Luckily the vanZees live within walking distance to Hap Magee Park, so the whole family is able to play in the park and enjoy the surrounding scenery.
Besides just living by one of the best parks in Danville, Jesse and Shannon love their neighborhood for the people too: “We have amazing next-door neighbors that we do playdates, movie nights and game nights with. There are plans to put a gate between our yards for easier access!” Dinners downtown are guaranteed to be filled with running into friends from all around Danville. After living in Concord early in their marriage, the plan was always to move to Danville. They even spent some time commuting from Concord to Danville for preschool, church, and even the gym before moving here for good in 2015.
Spending quality time together is number one on the priority list, but often Jesse and Shannon are driving the kids to their various activities. So for Shannon, when everyone had nowhere else to go in 2020 and 2021, she discovered some new interests of her own, “One of my favorite hobbies is taking care of my “plant babies.” I have over 40 plants occupying space in our house. It became an obsession during the pandemic and my collection “grew” exponentially during that time.”
The vanZees attend Creekside Community Church in Alamo. Emmerson is active in the middle school youth group, “Elevate,” and everyone tries to help out in the youth ministry programs. Faith is a huge cornerstone of life at the vanZee house. Their family motto and how they choose to live everyday is “Love God, love others.”
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By Alexandra Sullivan, Resident since 2017