Palo Alto Weekly

News - August 6, 2010

Philanthropist, Sunset publisher Bill Lane dies

Longtime environmentalist, fan of the West former ambassador dies following an illness

by Palo Alto Weekly staff

Former Sunset magazine publisher and philanthropist Bill Lane died Saturday following a rich life of community dedication and leadership. Lane died at Stanford Hospital following an illness and surrounded by family members.

Lane, who was U.S. ambassador to Japan and Australia in the Ford and Reagan administrations, celebrated his 90th birthday last November.

He was also a co-founder of the Bill Lane Center for the American West at Stanford University. He graduated from Stanford in 1942.

Lane died of respiratory failure at Stanford Hospital at 7:30 p.m. Saturday following a week in a coma related to bleeding in the brain, or subdural hematoma. Family members were with him, according to a spokesperson.

Among numerous other community activities, Lane was a founder the Town of Portola Valley in 1964, and he served as its first mayor but only for about 20 minutes, saying he had other things to do. He and his wife, Jean, had a home there for 54 years.

He and his brother, Mel Lane, who died in 2007 at 85, were co-publishers of Sunset Magazine for more than 30 years. The magazine initially was purchased by their father, Laurence Lane, during the Depression when it was a shaky publication, and both brothers sold it door-to-door during the Depression years.

Following his graduation from Stanford, he served as a naval lieutenant during the balance of the war, including as a gunnery officer on a troop transport.

Both he and his brother were avid environmentalists, contributing heavily to local and national environmental organizations and causes.

Lane was an active supporter of Peninsula Open Space Trust, as well as of national parks and conservation causes around the country, according to Audrey Rust, POST chief executive.

"He was really a remarkable man who put his efforts into his belief system. He was a conservationist of great stature," she said.

Lane was a renowned philanthropist and fundraiser, who first gave then asked others to contribute to a broad variety of causes.

POST's environmentally themed Wallace Stegner lecture series was underwritten by Bill and Jean Lane, and he attended almost every lecture for 15 years, Rust said.

He also served on the board at Colonial Williamsburg and funded environmental internships at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural.

In 1984 he set a record of sorts for raising more than $1 million in about six weeks to restore the Stanford Barn (now the Red Barn Equestrian Center), as well as raising funds to repair Memorial Church and Quad's History Corner after the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake.

He was enormously generous to Stanford University, endowing the Bill Lane Center for the American West in 2005 with a $5 million gift. More recently, the Lanes gave $2.5 million to help build the $20 million three-building complex at the Portola Valley Town Center. The U.S. Green Building Council recently awarded the complex its highest rating.

His public service included a stint as ambassador-at-large in Japan, then ambassador to Australia and Nauru under Presidents Ford and Reagan.

He is survived by his wife, Jean; children Robert Lane, Sharon Lane and Brenda Munks and her husband, Greg; and five grandchildren.

Read more online at www.paloaltoonline.com.

Comments

Posted by Kirsten, a resident of Ventura
on Aug 2, 2010 at 10:51 am

What a wonderful man. He was a gentleman and true philanthropist. I had the pleasure of hearing him introduce the speakers at the POST Wallace Stegner lecture series. I was struck by his love of both the California landscape and environment, and his true regard for humanity. We were lucky to have him in our communitiy.


Posted by Sue, a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 2, 2010 at 11:26 am

What a fantastic man and he and his wife and family have done so much for the entire bay area. We have lost a unique spirit but were lucky to have him for so many years.


Posted by Rob Browne, a resident of another community
on Aug 2, 2010 at 11:28 am

Only encountered him briefly here and there but much admired the man. Our community and Nation could use more like him.


Posted by Clark Kepler, a resident of another community
on Aug 2, 2010 at 11:38 am

Few have done more for their community, given more generously, and shared as much as did Bill Lane.


Posted by Mary Sangrey, a resident of another community
on Aug 2, 2010 at 12:23 pm

Bill was one of those people bigger than one life and whose accomplishments are greater than seems possible for a single person. Add to that a kind and generous heart - that's Bill. Very few people have left such positive ripples in the wake of every place they ventured. It's an honor to say I knew him. I'm saddened to learn of his passing. He will be missed, but remember fondly by so many.


Posted by Bill Ashton, a resident of Portola Valley
on Aug 2, 2010 at 3:05 pm

I grew up with Bill as my neighbor , I would consider Bill a good friend . He was one of those men who never said anything bad about anybody. I will miss him very much .


Posted by enough!, a resident of Palo Alto Orchards
on Aug 2, 2010 at 4:16 pm

I met Mr. Lane on a few occaisons. Thought him to be a lovely man.


Posted by Debbie Ford-Scriba, a resident of another community
on Aug 2, 2010 at 5:03 pm

Truly, an extraordinarily generous and community-spirited man. He will be missed, but his legacy will live on through his many gifts, particularly the beautiful spaces he preserved and protected for everyone to enjoy.


Posted by Jessica, a resident of Midtown
on Aug 2, 2010 at 5:32 pm

Mr. Lane was still totally engaged to the end. Saw him driving around all the time. Amazingly generous individual and a great story teller. We the Westerners are all benefit from his hard work, vision and generosity.


Posted by Mitch J., a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 2, 2010 at 6:39 pm

He was a great man,
I remember doing the convetible top on his car. I think It was a Chevy Impala?? .
What a great guy, He will be missed and was a very good business man.
Mitch Johnson, Palo Alto Upholstery


Posted by PA resident, a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 2, 2010 at 9:04 pm

I didn't know Mr. Lane -- I remember watching an interview with him a ways back and wishing I did. He seemed like such a warm and positive person.

Sunset has been a part of my family's life for so long -- a well of priceless home wisdom -- so many of our best holiday recipes have come from its pages. I don't get to travel much, I appreciate seeing the beauty of the West in such splendid light.

I admire Mr. Lane for making his fortune doing something so positive, and then using his fortune in the way he has to give to the community again.

I wish I could thank him. He was a real giant among us.


Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Aug 3, 2010 at 8:39 am

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

Mel and Bill walked the walk. California will miss them.


Posted by Robert Markstein, a resident of another community
on Aug 4, 2010 at 5:16 pm

I worked under Bill Lane in the late 1980s when he was ambassador to Australia. He was, at all times, an amiable and lovely man to work for, well respected by embassy employees and the Aussies he dealt with professionally.

Ambassador Lane was a fine representative of what, unfortunately, appears to be a dying breed. He was a moderate Republican dedicated to preserving the environment. While in Australia, he represented the American government and people, working with Australian politicians and administrators of all political persuasions, making friends regardless of political orientation.

The world is poorer for his absence. My heart goes out to his family and friends.


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