Psychiatrist's dream lives on after his death

Peter Lucy wanted to provide low-cost services in a place named after his late wife

When psychiatrist Peter Lucy died from colon cancer on March 13, he left unfinished a plan to create a center for battered women and low-income psychiatric patients in downtown Palo Alto.

Lucy, 64, was remodeling his ancestral home at 460 Homer Ave. when he died, leaving several million dollars to fund the project, said his executor, Allen Podell. The 1910 Craftsman-style home will likely house low-rent offices, but not a shelter, he said.

"It is too small of a house," Podell said.

The center would be named the Linda Haskell House after Lucy's late wife, a psychotherapist who was killed in a car accident in 1992. Lucy was behind the wheel when a drunk driver slammed into their car, and Lucy himself was critically injured.

The house once belonged to Lucy's great-uncle. Lucy was raised there, graduating from Palo Alto High School in 1968 and attending Stanford University. He studied at the New York University School of Medicine and completed his residency at Stanford, where he later received a fellowship in child and adolescent psychiatry.

Lucy lived modestly, still driving a 13-year-old car, Podell recalled.

"He did work with battered women; he did a lot of pro bono work. Because his wife was killed by a drunk driver, it became his cause celebre. He provided help to first-time offenders. He would show them photographs of his wife before and after she was killed," he said.

Lucy faithfully attended the drunk driver's trial. He again appeared in court when the same person was arrested on another drunk-driving charge.

"He wasn't vindictive at all. He felt that someone who repeatedly assaults someone with a deadly weapon (a car) should not have access to an automobile again. He wanted to make sure that no one else was harmed by this person who could not get it through his head that he was a killer," he said.

Podell does not yet know what form the center will ultimately take. Mostly, he wants the house to reflect what he thinks Lucy envisioned. But Lucy was enigmatic; a man with a poker face who was not given to frequent smiles and who was "a classic absent-minded professor," Podell's wife, Janet Silver Ghent, said. Honing in on what that vision might have been will take some contemplation, according to Podell.

"We don't know what the elephant looks like yet. It can't be a dormitory; it could be offices," he said.

But the home's location near downtown -- where it will be easily accessible to clients, including perhaps homeless people -- will make it ideal.

"There is real potential there," he said.

But they will have to unravel the permitted land uses and submit city applications. Podell hopes to pull off the project in three to six months, with any luck. It will have to be done in layers, he said.

For now, Podell and Silver Ghent must sift through the history of the old home and its past residents.

"His mother's high school report cards from 1926 are still there. A lot needs to be done to bring it up to the 21st century," he said.


Like this comment
Posted by Homer renter
a resident of University South
on Mar 29, 2014 at 1:07 pm

The parcel report shows it is zoned R-2.

However, as a neighbor with no off-street parking, I can attest to the horrible lack of parking during the work week.

I guess if clients only need to stay an hour or two, they can look for a parking spot in a downtown garage.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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