Lasting Memories

Samuel Hoskins Halsted
May 28, 1928-Jan. 16, 2019
Palo Alto, California

Sam Halsted, Stanford graduate, steeplejack, civil engineer, rugby player, politician, poker player, solar home builder, ordained minister, father, grandfather, friend, died January 16. Sam was born May 28, 1928 in Chicago, IL to Samuel Thompson Halsted and Clarissa Hoskins Halsted. Within a few years the family moved to Riverside, CA, where his father had been raised. Two more children were added to the family, Harrison Wright “Tim” and Ann Leilani. After his parent’s divorce, Sam moved to Hawaii, where his mother’s family lived, and finished high school. In 1945 at the age of 16 he was accepted to Stanford University. With World War II still underway, Sam sailed back to California to attend Stanford via a merchant marine cargo ship. Sam supported himself throughout his college career in a variety of creative ways including being a waiter at Palo Alto’s L’Omelette, a card dealer at the Cameo Club and finally as a part time steeplejack in San Francisco, painting the steeple of St. Ignatius Church and braving incredible heights washing the outside windows of the Top of the Mark restaurant at the Mark Hopkins Hotel on Nob Hill. In between studying and working, Sam played four years with the Stanford Rugby Club. Sam graduated in 1950 with an Industrial Engineering degree. After graduation he went to work for Lenkurt Electronics in San Carlos for several years and then for engineering firm Wilsey, Ham & Blair in Millbrae. It was also during this time that Sam started the Peninsula Ramblers Rugby Football Club, a local rugby club made up of former Palo Alto High School and Stanford University student athletes. Sam met Mercedes Vanoli in Palo Alto and were married in 1955. The young couple soon welcomed the first of their six sons in 1956. At Wilsey, Ham & Blair, Sam worked closely with Joseph Eichler on many of his Palo Alto subdivisions. In 1959, after the birth of their second son, Joseph Eichler offered Sam a special opportunity to purchase a prime lot in one of his Palo Alto subdivisions. But they didn’t stay there long. After receiving a tip from a civil engineering friend working on a subdivision in then, unincorporated Portola Valley, Sam and Merce purchased 11 acres of land with an old barn and small farmhouse. In 1962, they moved in with their now four sons. Sam left Wilsey, Ham & Blair and returned to Stanford University where he earned additional degrees in urban planning and civil engineering and ultimately launching his own firm, Public Data Services, in Menlo Park. Sam immersed himself in local politics and regional planning and was elected to sit on the first Town Council of the newly incorporated Town of Portola Valley from 1964-1970. Near the end of his Town Council service he made an unsuccessful bid for the local State Senate seat. In 1973 he was appointed to the newly formed California Coastal Commission – Central Coast. In 1975-1976 he was appointed Special Assistant to the Deputy Director of the California Department of Parks and Recreation. No longer able to play rugby due to knee injuries, Sam kept active and fueled his passion for the sport by assisting Stanford rugby coach Pete Kmotovic with the Stanford teams and as a game referee into the 1980s. Sam was also an ordained minister who performed dozens of marriage ceremonies for friends, children of friends, and family. In 1978, in Redwood City, Sam developed the first community of passive solar homes in the San Francisco Bay Area. He was proud of this achievement and sold the last home in the project in 1988. He then set his sights on 1800 acres of land along the Pacheco Pass. Over the years Sam thoroughly enjoyed making improvements to and spending time at the “Old Summit Ranch” property. Sam and his second wife, Sydwell Flynn, lived in Palo Alto, and it was here that they welcomed Sam’s boys, and Siddy’s son and daughter and their families for gatherings, weeklong summer camps, and tea parties for the grandchildren. He loved, and was very proud, of each of his children and grandchildren. Sam was an avid reader and loved nothing more than investigating the history and geography of places he read about and people he met. He could often be found poring over his World Atlas cross referencing locations with current events or articles he was reading. This desire to constantly inform himself corresponded to his love of tracing his family’s history, which he was able to do back to the 17th century. Sam was born with a severe congenital heart defect and had an artificial heart valve installed and then replaced in the late 1980s. Suffering from heart failure in 1997, Sam was put on the Stanford cardiac transplant list and in July of that year, at the age of 69, was given a heart transplant. Told at the time that the transplant would give him an additional 7 years of life, Sam and the Stanford Cardiac Transplant Team stretched that past 21 years. He was the oldest heart transplant recipient in the US. Sam is survived by his sons, Matt (Gayle), Ben, Tim (Hortensia), Erik, Sam (Alma) and grandchildren Celia, Katharine, Samantha, Harry, Arthur, Andrea, Elena, James and Charlotte, and stepchildren Jim Flynn (Kathy) and Erin Flynn (Ben) and step grandchildren Lauren, Eli and Sam. Sam was predeceased by his son Peter, wife Sydwell and brother Tim. Sam’s last days were filled with a constant stream of visits from his family, former colleagues, and dear friends, all regaling him with music, laughter, and shared remembrances. Please join the family at a memorial celebration Saturday, February 2, 2019 at the Portola Valley Town Hall, 765 Portola Rd, Portola Valley from 11:00am – 1:00pm.