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Uploaded: Wednesday, April 7, 2004, 2:25 p.m.

Mountain View Voice founder, publisher passes away
Kate Wakerly remembered as community leader, philanthropist

by Julie O'Shea

Mountain View Voice co-founder and former publisher Kate Wakerly, whose devotion to local civic philanthropy spanned two decades, died Monday after a long battle with breast cancer. She was 56.

From her determination to bring the city its first independent community newspaper to her strong commitment to schools, civil liberties and numerous other charitable causes, Wakerly's dedication to Mountain View was all-encompassing. Her vision lived on through the St. Joseph the Worker Center -- a haven for day laborers looking for jobs -- and the inquisitiveness of budding, young reporters.

Wakerly, who raised three children in Mountain View, was diagnosed with cancer six years ago, but friends and family say she refused to let the disease slow her down, stopping by the newsroom often to offer story ideas or a tantalizing news scoop.

"She was kind of the mother hen of the Voice," said Managing Editor Candice Shih, who was hired by Wakerly as an intern three years ago. "I never felt too worried or too stressed when she was around."

But as much as Wakerly loved the Voice, the newspaper was third on her list of greatest accomplishments, said her husband John.

Number 1 was her three kids -- Gina, Michael and Susanne -- followed by her drive to "do good in the community."

A native of Chicago, Wakerly moved west with John more than 30 years ago, eventually earning a master's degree in communications from Stanford University. After graduating, she began her professional career in journalism with the Sun Newspapers chain, where she quickly moved from reporter to managing editor.

"She's just a wonderful person," Mountain View City Manager Kevin Duggan said. "You couldn't talk to her without feeling her warmth and her interest in you -- it's just a tremendous loss."

Duggan met Wakerly in 1990. He was new to the city, and she was editor of the city-funded monthly, The View. Shortly after, Wakerly left to pursue her dream of starting her own publication.

"She was totally dedicated to Mountain View. Mountain View was her community, and she wanted nothing but the very best," Voice Publisher Tom Gibboney said. "She wanted the city to have its own paper, and by God, she did it."

In 1994, Wakerly and her business partner, Carol Torgrimson, decided to sell their newspaper to the Embarcadero Publishing Co., which also owns the Palo Alto Weekly and the Menlo Park Almanac.

"Kate's commitment to quality journalism and to improving the Mountain View community has been an inspiration to everyone that has worked with her." Weekly Publisher Bill Johnson said. "She especially loved mentoring young reporters, and her enthusiasm was contagious.

"Through her leadership of the Voice, her many volunteer activities, and the generosity of her family foundation, Kate has left an amazing legacy to the Mountain View community."

Taking time out to travel around the world and spend time with her family, Wakerly returned as publisher of the Voice in 2000 before finally retiring two years later.

Still, even as her days became more consumed with medical treatment, Wakerly, ever cheerful, pushed on, looking for another challenge to tackle or another exotic vacation to plan.

"We packed more into the last six years than most people do in a lifetime," John said.

Last year alone, Wakerly logged nearly 50,000 frequent flier miles and oversaw the construction plans of a new school and convent in a poor Nigerian community.

The generosity of the Wakerly Family Foundation, started by Kate and John in 1995, was recognized in February when Kate received the Leadership in Philanthropy award from the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur.

In addition to her husband and three children, Wakerly is survived by her sister, Mary Ann Kropp.

A memorial service has already been held.

The family asks that contributions be made to a charity or organization of one's own choosing. For more information, visit the family's foundation Web site at www.wakerly.org.

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