Carolyn Reller, 68, a philanthropist and active member of the Palo Alto community, died May 3 after struggling for several years with a brain tumor.
She grew up in Burlingame, Calif., and attended the University of Washington. After marrying her husband, Bill, she moved to Crescent Park in Palo Alto and worked briefly for Sunset Magazine before her three children were born. Her lifelong friend, Karen Olson, also moved to Palo Alto and the two watched their children and grandchildren form close friendships over the years.
"She had a natural ability to make everybody feel as if they were a close friend," Olson said. "She was elegant and she was gracious, but she was down to earth."
She was passionate about helping senior citizens and served as a board member for Avenidas and Channing House. She was also on the board of the Children's Health Council, worked as a pink lady at Stanford Hospital and participated in the Junior League and the Palo Alto Garden Club.
She and her husband decided to build Palo Alto Commons in south Palo Alto after seeing a need for assisted living facilities for the elderly in the area. Over the years, the couple supported several other local institutions, including the Garden Club, the Yosemite Fund, the Stanford Cancer Center and the Palo Alto Library Foundation.
"She was a dear friend, we picked right up with every conversation, and probably the most genteel, loveliest woman I've ever known," said Jeanne Ware, a longtime friend and neighbor. "I've heard somebody say once, 'God picks his prettiest flowers for his garden,' and that would surely apply to her."
She is survived by her husband, William (Bill); a daughter, Elizabeth Moragne of Palo Alto; and two sons, William (Bill) of Seattle and Stephen of Palo Alto.
A memorial service will be held May 14 at the First Congregational Church of Palo Alto.