Palo Alto Weekly

Community Pulse - December 27, 2013

In Memoriam

This year, members of the Palo Alto community lost numerous loved ones, from those who inspired through small acts of kindness to leaders who shaped the way the city looks and works.

No list of community leaders who died could be exhaustive, but here are some of those who made their mark, from a founding trustee of Foothill College, to a former mayor, to the "first lady" of Stanford University.

Sandra Brown Eakins

Sandra Brown Eakins, a former Palo Alto mayor who left her mark on a wide range of local organizations and programs, died on Jan. 2 after a long illness.

She had graduated from Wellesley College in 1959 with a degree in art history and remained an active and devoted alumna. She earned master's degrees from Boston University and Santa Clara University.

She married Gilbert Eakins in 1959 and co-founded EOS (Eakins Open Systems), a computer integration business in 1972.

She was active in Palo Alto's civic affairs for decades, beginning with founding the Palo Verde Neighborhood Association and volunteering with the PTA for her children's schools.

She served on the Palo Alto City Council from 1997-2002, including a term as mayor in 2001. She also served on the Palo Alto Comprehensive Plan Advisory Committee, Planning and Transportation Commission and the Santa Clara Valley Transit Authority. She shared her love of the arts through her service on the Palo Alto Public Art Commission and the board of the Palo Alto Art Center.

She was a longtime member and past president of the Palo Alto League of Women Voters and helped organize Smart Voter, an initiative that provides unbiased election information for California voters.

A big believer in the arts, she also co-founded New Voices for Youth, a program designed to encourage civic engagement in local high school students by teaching documentary film-making.

Beatrice Hubbard

Beatrice Hubbard — untiring volunteer, Avenidas Lifetimes of Achievement honoree, globetrotter and resident of Palo Alto for more than 65 years — died on Feb. 4. She was 96.

She was born and raised in Los Gatos, and was a direct descendent of Santa Clara Valley pioneers. She met her future husband, Wesley L. "Bud" Hubbard, in San Jose and eventually relocated to Palo Alto in 1951 to raise their five children. The family was one of the first residents of Fulton Street, the city's famed "Christmas Tree Lane."

For 50 years, she volunteered with dozens of public and private organizations throughout Palo Alto and Santa Clara Valley. She was honored for her service by senior organization Avenidas, a distinction that also earned the active Republican a congressional tribute from U.S. Rep. Anna Eshoo.

She was also an avid gardener and passionate supporter of local arts and culture. Throughout her life, she remained an active member of the Christian Science Church.

Sam Webster

Sam Webster was the man behind many significant Palo Alto buildings, from the Garden Court Hotel on Cowper Street to The Hamilton senior-housing condominium. His business, Webster Financial Corp., focused on a wide array of real estate and agriculture investments including senior housing, federally subsidized low-income apartments and pistachio orchards.

The 51-year resident of Palo Alto died Feb. 18. He was 95 years old.

He was born in Kingston, R.I., in 1918, where he grew up hearing stories about Palo Alto from his father, who had attended Stanford University in 1903.

He went on to attend U.S. Military Academy at West Point, where he met Kim Sibley, his future wife. The two married in Palo Alto in 1941.

He was a 39-year member of the Palo Alto Rotary Club and winner of the Tall Tree Award from the Palo Alto Chamber of Commerce and the Lifetimes of Achievement Award from the senior center Avenidas, where he had served on the board. He also was a former board member of the Children's Health Council and Lytton Gardens III and on the advisory board of the Palo Alto Community Fund.

Suzan Stewart

Suzan Stewart, a beloved history and social studies teacher to generations of Palo Alto students, died March 3 after battling cancer. She was 72.

She was energetic and passionate, known for her ability to make history and government come alive for students, who recalled spirited discussions in her classrooms. For 42 years she taught in the Palo Alto school system, starting at the old Terman Junior High School before moving to Gunn High School and finally to Palo Alto High.

Stewart wrote of her concerns about the competitive culture of Palo Alto schools in letters to the editor published in the Palo Alto Weekly in 2010 and 2011.

"For every parent who decries the emphasis on AP classes, there are others who demand more AP and honors classes.

"The insecurity of parents regarding the college-admission process makes it highly unlikely that district priorities will change unless prestigious colleges and universities stop emphasizing weighted GPAs, or PAUSD parents stop caring," she wrote.

"The AP 'rat race' ... is not the only way to ensure a successful professional future. If parents and students gain this perspective the culture might be more balanced," she said.

She was also active in Democratic politics and in Palo Alto community affairs, serving on the boards of the Palo Alto Children's Theatre and Adolescent Counseling Services. Despite her illness, she was deeply involved in a get-out-the-vote drive in the 2012 election, her children said.

Robert Smithwick

Robert Smithwick was a young dentist in Los Altos in 1956 when he attended early planning meetings for a "junior college," convened by then-Palo Alto Superintendent Henry M. Gunn.

That junior college became Foothill College and the young dentist became a founding trustee who had a strong presence at the Los Altos Hills community college until his death on March 22.

He died at his home in Los Altos Hills at the age of 92.

Dick Henning, who founded Foothill's Celebrity Forum Speakers Series in the 1960s, said Smithwick rarely missed a speaker and typically sent a hand-written note afterward, with comments on the talk.

"He had this brown paper and small brown envelopes, just for thank-you notes," Henning told the Weekly in March.

"It's so rare to get hand-written notes these days. He always had a comment and he was always so positive."

Smithwick was married for 60 years to Aileen Lois Russell, who died in 2002.

This year, Foothill and its sister institution, De Anza College, enrolled more than 40,000 students.

Mona Ruth Miller

Mona Ruth Miller (Jablow) was a community member in every sense of the word. Among many other achievements and efforts, the 60-year resident of Palo Alto was involved in her children's schools' PTA boards, volunteered at the South Palo Alto Food Closet at its inception, worked for a local crisis hotline in the 1960s and later helped establish Avenidas Village, a program that helps local seniors "age in place" in their homes.

She died at 88 on June 25 at her son's home in Davis, Calif.

Her community contributions also included helping at La Comida, a nonprofit that serves lunch to seniors older than 60; working at Friends of the Palo Alto Library book sales; and being an active member of both the Palo Alto Unitarian Church and the Palo Alto Historical Association.

She met her husband, Jack, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology during World War II. They were married for almost 55 years until his death in 1999.

Jing Lyman

Jing Lyman is often referred to as the "first lady" of Stanford University, but she was much more than that.

She was instrumental in launching the university's Clayman Institute for Gender Research; was a national figure in community development and women's economic empowerment; and helped to organize and sustain many groups, from the Midpeninsula Citizens for Fair Housing and the Stanford Midpeninsula Urban Coalition to Women and Philanthropy in Washington, D.C., and the National Coalition for Women's Enterprise in New York. She was known for being energetic, efficient, generous, laughing frequently and insisting that all visitors wear name tags at Hoover House, the Stanford president's residence.

"Jing knew so many people and so many people knew her that she was fearful lest she momentarily forget someone's name," Myra Strober, founding director of the Clayman Institute, said. "It was a metaphor for who she was. She wanted to respect and acknowledge every person as an individual."

Lyman died on Nov. 21 at the age of 88.

She had arrived at Stanford in 1958 with her husband, Richard W. "Dick" Lyman, who had accepted a position teaching British history. They had four young children, ages 1 to 8 years, at the time. The family life was bound up with Stanford's for more than 20 years, as her husband rose through the professorial and administrative ranks.

Jing Lyman told the Weekly in a 1998 interview that everyone needs to belong to something larger than themselves.

"It's participation in something bigger than self that we find self," she said.

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