Better Than a Movie

Whether talking about flying missions in a B17 bomber in World War II, or leading two-week hiking expeditions through the Sierra Nevada, 89-year-old Phil Arnot captivates an audience. The trailer of his life goes something like this: enlist in the Air Force at age 18, become a co-pilot on a B17, fly over 20 missions before switching planes to photograph Western Europe for Air Force maps, come back home and earn a teaching credential at Cal Berkeley, teach for 28 years, lead high school students on backpacking trips in the Sierras for 17 years, then lead adult backpacking trips in Alaska and the Sierras before retiring to day hikes and gym trips from his West Marin home.

Arnot has also published a book of wilderness photography, full of stunning locations rarely viewed by human eyes. “It’s been a lot of fun putting [the book] together, and it reminded me how lucky I’ve been,” says Arnot. “I was just born at the right time, right place and had wonderful parents.”

Arnot’s talk was brought about by Joe Noriel, former president of the Petaluma Museum. Noriel’s term ended, but his love of history hasn’t, so he started the History Connection to promote events just like this. “It’s educational, a lot of stuff kids aren’t learning in schools,” he says. “That generation, what they went through for our freedom—I don’t think you can tell those stories enough.”

Arnot gives a talk after being honored with a proclamation by Petaluma mayor David Glass on Saturday, Aug. 17, at Valley Orchards Retirement Community. 2100 E. Washington St., Petaluma. 2pm. Free. 707.776.7534.