Deaths | January 29, 2010 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

Community Pulse - January 29, 2010


Brian Bennion Taylor

Brian Bennion Taylor, 19, died Jan. 22 after battling a severe illness.

He was born in San Diego to George and Marian Taylor on Feb. 21, 1990, the oldest brother of nine siblings. After two years in San Diego and Pocatello, Idaho, his family moved to Palo Alto, which became his home for 16 years.

An avid reader, he began to read at age 5. He would wait for the newspaper each morning to study sports statistics, and he conversed with adult fans on the standings, his family said. He attended Hoover Elementary School and was recognized as a gifted student there.

He was adventurous, bright and ambitious, fun-loving, curious and determined, his family recalled. He was happy as he served others and as he spent time with extended family and friends. His love for athletics and music were contagious, and his warm smile and loyalty were magnets to friends of all ages. He aspired to a career that would use his skills in communication and teaching.

A Gunn High School graduate in 2008, he loved varsity wrestling and tennis. He was an Eagle Scout and he received a gold President's Volunteer Service Award for giving more than 250 hours of service within a year's time. He was the service chair for the Gunn student body, and he was a homecoming prince in his senior year. He also served in many youth leadership positions at church.

Brian held diverse jobs as an umpire, a counselor for Foothills Tennis and Swim Club, a lifeguard, a camp leader for 25 children, an award-winning Cutco salesman, a law assistant, and a ranch hand in Idaho.

The first unrecognized symptoms of his illness, later diagnosed as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, appeared during his sophomore year in high school. School became increasingly difficult. Yet he continued to be involved in many activities and causes and attained success in his endeavors. He began his freshman year at Brigham Young University in the fall of 2008. However, his escalating illness forced his return home after several months.

Granite Bay, Calif., was his home for most of his last year, where he lived on a 240-acre cattle ranch, surrounded by his family. He worked at a sandwich shop and attended Sierra College. He sought help for his illness at UC Davis and spent most of his last two months at the UCLA and Stanford medical centers. His acute illness affected every aspect of his life.

He is survived by his parents and eight siblings: Bradley, Tessa, Gregory, Kallan, Mark, Melissa, Sarah and Benjamin. He is also survived by two great-grandmothers, Marian Wilson and Ethelyn Taylor; four grandparents, Henry and Colette Taylor and David and Connie Bennion; 25 aunts and uncles, and 41 first cousins. Brian's favorite times were summer family reunions each year.

In lieu of flowers, memorial donations can be made to the Brian Bennion Taylor Legacy Fund (instructions are posted at The contributions will fund research on schizophrenia as well as provide mental health support for those in need.

A memorial service will be held at 1105 Valparaiso Ave in Menlo Park, California at noon on Saturday, Jan. 30. He will also be remembered at a service in Provo, Utah, at 667 North 600 East on Wednesday, Feb. 3, at noon prior to his interment in a family plot at the Provo City Cemetery.

Russell Schonberg

Russell George Schonberg, 83, one of the innovators of high-energy linear accelerators, died of cancer in his home in Los Altos Hills Jan. 22.

He was born in Minneapolis, Minn. As a child he developed a fascination for electronics that he would carry his whole life.

After serving in the Merchant Marines and Navy during World War II, he graduated from Cal Poly with a bachelor's. in mathematics in 1950. Not long thereafter he was exposed to his first particle accelerator. As manager of electrical systems at Varian Associates he helped develop one of the very first linear accelerators ever used in the medical field.

In 1970 he founded Schonberg Radiation Corp. which still exists today. There he co- designed and built the world's first portable accelerator.

His greatest achievements were in the medical field. He co-designed and built Accuray's Cyberknife; the first medical radiation unit guided by a computer-aiming system. He also co-invented the Mobitron, a device which emits an electron beam, and it has had great success in treating certain types of cancer.

He was devoted to his wife Pat, with whom he lived and worked side by side for 61 years until his death. Together they raised six children, ran the business, and traveled the world. He and Pat have been the organizers and hosts of countless family reunions, bringing relatives together from all over the country. In 2000, he flew his children and grandchildren across the Atlantic to Estonia to reestablish a connection to their relatives and heritage.

He is survived by his wife, Patricia Schonberg of Los Altos Hills; siblings, Betty Ulrich, Vivian Frame, Don Schonberg and Roy Schonberg; children, Susan Schonberg, Peter Schonberg, Mart Schonberg, Sandi Lucas and Bonnie Konishi; 15 grandchildren; and nine great-grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held Feb. 6 at 4 p.m. at Unity Church in Palo Alto. Donations may be made to Lucile Packard Children's Hospital Foundation.

Betty Whelan

Betty Jean Whelan, 81, a resident of Portola Valley, died Jan. 21.

Born to Wendell Beldin and Esther Beldin Burrell, she was raised in Whittier, Calif.

She attended Parnell Preparatory School for girls and graduated from Montebello High School. She earned a degree in kindergarten/primary education from San Jose State University, where she was a member of Alpha Omicron Pi Sorority and was one of the founding members of the San Jose State Aqua Ski Club, one of the first collegiate water ski teams in the west.

She was working in the San Jose State student union when she met her future husband, Joe Whelan. They were married at the Santa Barbara Mission in 1948. She student-taught kindergarten in the Menlo Park School District before she and Joe began their family of five children.

In addition to waterskiing at Clear Lake, she was also a dynamic tennis player. She played at the Menlo Circus Club and traveled the world competing with the Women's Amateur International Tennis Team. She was an avid hiker and her love of nature led her to become an expert on the names of California indigenous plants. She led nature hikes as a docent at Filoli, the Open Space Preserve, and Portola Valley Ranch.

She was a creative artist who drew upon her love of nature in her artwork. She created paintings, silk-screens, quilts, silver pieces, ceramics, and weavings. She had a particular interest in wood carving. She also volunteered at the Allied Arts Guild and Turnabout Shop for the Peninsula Volunteers.

She was gregarious and a friend to everyone she met, but her greatest legacy is her endless love and devotion to her family, loved ones recall.

In addition to her husband Joe Whelan of Portola Valley, she is survived by her children, Karen Sanford, Mike Whelan, Betty-Jo Paroli, John Whelan, and Susan Killian, and their spouses; 10 grandchildren; one great-grandson; and her brother, Roc Burrell.

A rosary service will be held Friday, Jan. 29 at 7 p.m. at the Church of the Nativity, Menlo Park. A funeral mass will be celebrated on Saturday, Jan. 30 at 9:30 a.m. also at the Church of the Nativity.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Haitian earthquake relief efforts by check to: The Church of the Nativity, Haitian Earthquake Relief, 210 Oak Grove Ave., Menlo Park, CA 94025. Russell George Schonberg, 83, died in Los Altos Hills Jan. 22. A memorial service will be held Feb. 6 at 4 p.m. at Unity Church in Palo Alto. Donations may be made to Lucile Packard Children's Hospital Foundation.


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