Born in Palo Alto in 1932, van Bronkhorst graduated from Palo Alto High School in 1950. She went to work at Hewlett Packard, serving in the secretarial pool when there were fewer than 100 employees at the company. It was there that she met her future husband, Ed van Bronkhorst. They were married in 1957 and shared a love and friendship that spanned almost 50 years. Ed passed away in March of 2006, after which Rusty moved to the Vi in Palo Alto.
While raising her three sons she also worked as campaign manager for U.S. Representative Pete McCloskey's successful Congressional campaigns. She was a founding investor of the Palo Alto Weekly's parent company, Embarcadero Media, and served on the board of directors for 22 years. Upon her retirement from the board in 2002, the paper established an award in her honor, given annually to an employee who exemplifies her belief in hard work, integrity and dedication to serving the community through fair and accurate reporting and ethical business practices.
"Rusty was the first person I turned to for support when starting the Weekly because I knew she shared my belief in the importance of quality local journalism," said Bill Johnson, publisher and founder of the Weekly and president of Embarcadero Media and a friend from when both worked for McCloskey in the 1970s.
"She provided much wisdom and support to me and our young staff as we established the paper and tried to figure out how to run a successful business while also serving the community with good journalism," Johnson said. "She had very high expectations of us, but they were never unrealistic and she always acknowledged the challenges and successes."
Van Bronkhorst was an accomplished golfer and enjoyed playing bridge and dominoes. She was also an accomplished chef, often hosting elaborate dinner parties at her home in Portola Valley. Rusty and Ed also loved to travel together, and in later years they saw most of the world while on cruise ships, often sailing for months at a time. After Ed's passing, Rusty continued to cruise with the many wonderful friends they made from all over the world.
Rusty is survived by her three sons and daughters-in-law: Kort and Laurie van Bronkhorst of Napa, Jon and Wendy van Bronkhorst of Redwood City and Derek and Suzy van Bronkhorst of Campbell; and six grandchildren: Kate, Michael, Jacque and Julia van Bronkhorst and Joe and Sam Callahan. Her extended family included her long-time helpers and care-givers, Lola Panisi and Leslie Tokahata who helped take such wonderful care of her for many years.
A private family service has been held. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to the Lucile Salter Packard Children's Hospital.