Joe Waltz (also known as Captain Sutter) has been a docent at Sutter’s Fort State Historic Park (SHP) for 31 years and has volunteered over 16,300 hours of service to the park. His outstanding volunteer service recently award him the Volunteer Medallion – the highest level award given by California State Parks.

How did you get involved?  Shortly after coming to Sacramento my daughter and I were visiting the local historic sites. Being newly divorced, I was looking for a way for us to connect. On of our stops was at the Governor’s mansion. The Ranger at the time gave us a tour and when we were at the top floor, he informed everyone that the Mansion was haunted. He then left for us to ponder the thought. Suddenly, the silence was broken. A mechanical duck was quacking across the floor. Well, that cause a lot of laughter and the ice between my daughter and I was broken. I knew at that time I wanted to be a docent. Our next stop was at Sutter’s Fort. That is as they say, “the rest is history”.

What’s your favorite part of volunteering? Mostly it offers me the chance to give something back to the community and make a difference to the people around them. It also provides an opportunity to develop new skills and build on my existing experience and knowledge.

Why is Sutter’s Fort so important to you? Maybe it is to me the 8th wonder of the world (can’t remember who first said that). The Fort survived for a reason. A reminder perhaps of a man’s determination to build an empire. Regardless of John Sutter’s many contradictions, the Captain and the Fort represent the founding of California. Sutter’s Fort is were Modern California starts. I do not think most visitors or most residents realize that.

What’s one of your favorite memories? So many to choose from! The young girl who came to the gate and did not have cost of admission and ask that I as the Captain come to the gate. She presented me with a very nice crayon drawing of me (the Captain) in my uniform and on my horse. I can honestly say it brought tears to my eyes. She attended several living history events as well as a Candlelight Tour. Admission fees were not a problem for her after that.

Thank you “Captain Sutter” for your dedication and many years of service to the visitors of Sutter’s Fort SHP!

We are proud to support the volunteer efforts at Sutter’s Fort SHP with the help of our sponsor, Sutter Health.

Learn how you can volunteer at Sutter’s Fort, or how you can support volunteer efforts…