Mourners bid farewell to Bill Lane Friday

Friends, family and associates fill Stanford's Memorial Church for service for 'Man of the West'

Hundreds of friends, family members and associates of Bill Lane heard anecdotes of his enthusiastic approach to life, his wide-ranging interests and his personal and civic generosity during a noontime service at Stanford's Memorial Church Friday.

Lane died July 31 at Stanford Hospital of respiratory failure following a life filled with multiple roles, from being co-publisher of Sunset Magazine to serving as adviser to U.S. presidents and serving as ambassador to Japan and Australia. (See

"He's the only 90-year-old I know who would consider his life half done," Kim Beasley, Australian ambassador to the United States, said of Lane. Beasley cited Lane's "massive targeted philanthropy" that including helping repair the Memorial Church after the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, along with numerous other contributions to Stanford.

Former California governor Pete Wilson recounted how Lane took time to mentor a young politician on his way to the state Senate, and cited Lane's strong commitment to the state at state parks, from the Sierra to the redwood groves of the coast.

"First and foremost he was a 'Man of the West,'" David Kennedy, co-director of the Center for the American West at Stanford, which Lane helped create, said of Lane's wide-ranging interests and involvement, and his love of America, the wilderness, his community of Portola Valley, his family and riding horses.

Sunset Magazine "helped mold Western values" in many positive ways, he said, adding that Lane was "incapable of being a passive benefactor" but took a personal interest in projects and people.

Kennedy reminisced about Lane's favorite hat, among a collection of hats he would wear on different occasions: an "honorary park ranger Smokey-the-Bear hat," one of two given to Lane was he was named an honorary ranger both by California and the United States.

As a young employee of Yosemite Park & Curry Co. Lane's duties included calling out, "Let the fire fall," when Yosemite allowed glowing embers to be pushed off the top of a cliff.

Mike Tollefson, Yosemite Park supervisor, brought his own Smokey-style Stetson in honor of Lane's hats. He said when Lane and his late brother, Mel, were first taken to Yosemite by their father in 1929 in a Franklin auto the vista on entering the valley "inspired him to public participation" and a dedication to nature and conservation.

"He enriched countless lives. … His impact has touched millions of people," he said.

Mayor Steve Toben of Portola Valley said Lane's dedication to the community he helped found. His impact "can be seen everywhere you turn," from buildings Lane funded to an annual poetry contest for children that he helped create.

His children, Sharon, Brenda and Robert, recalled him as a man with a great sense of humor and kindness.

He was also "a man of great courage," who also enjoyed "living and relishing the moment," Sharon Lane said.

"He wanted us not to fill his big shoes out but to fill our own," she said. A tree-planting ceremony is being arranged in Lane's honor in Humbolt Redwoods State Park.

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Like this comment
Posted by Alice Schaffer Smith
a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 3, 2010 at 12:39 pm

Bill Lane smiled a lot when he listened to my political opinions. A lovely man I was happy to have known.

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