All last week, the shock of her death rippled through Portola Valley, where she and her husband Bob, who died just last January, helped found the town and grow the community.
While Mr. Anderson helped found Christ Church and served in town government for 40 years, Mrs. Anderson also cultivated many fields in the community: church, school, Filoli, the Stanford Art Museum, and — above all — gardening and flower arranging.
"Charlotte touched so many people's lives," said Sandy Patterson, her former next-door neighbor on Stonegate Road. "She had a sense of inclusion; she always wanted people to join in."
Charlotte Anderson — she was an Anderson, too — was born in San Francisco, but her family soon moved to Yuba City, where her father had a business selling agricultural machinery. They spent happy summers at the family cabin at Lake Tahoe.
Charlotte attended local schools "and was always valedictorian," said her sister, Judy Falconer, also of Portola Valley. Later she attended Stanford, graduating in 1946 with a degree in social sciences and history.
At Stanford she met a dashing Navy pilot named Bob Anderson. They were married right after he graduated in 1947.
57 years in Portola Valley
By 1949, the young couple moved to Portola Valley, bought the first lot on Stonegate Road for $3,000, and started building their house. In 1951 they moved into the house, where they lived for 45 years. They moved to The Sequoias retirement complex in 1996.
Both Bob and Charlotte Anderson remained engaged in the community for the rest of their lives. They were among the families founding Christ Church. Mr. Anderson was ordained deacon in 1960; Mrs. Anderson ran the rummage sale and sang in the choir.
"She loved the church; it was a huge part of her life," said longtime friend Ellie Gardner.
Over the years, Mrs. Anderson' passion for gardening and flowers enriched the community. She started a special garden at Christ Church; later the cutting garden at The Sequoias became Charlotte's Garden.
She was a permanent horticultural judge for the Garden Club of America, and traveled around the country. She also led a flower-arranging group, and was one of the original docents in the gardens at Filoli.
Her passion for flowers spilled over into Town Hall briefly when she asked the town to allow her to build an 8-foot-high fence to stop the deer from munching her flowers. No go; she was turned down.
Besides flowers, Mrs. Anderson spread her efforts throughout the community. Her daughter, Sally Anderson of Sebastopol, noted she started the first school library at Portola Valley School, and cataloged the books for the library. At one time she was president of the PTA.
Mrs. Anderson loved history and antiquities. "She loved Greece and Egypt; she traveled and studied," said Mrs. Patterson. "She led docent tours at the Stanford Art Museum long before it became the Cantor; she gave wonderful tours of Memorial Chapel and the Rodin Sculpture Garden."
Mrs. Gardner remembers Mrs. Anderson as being vibrant, busy, down-to-earth, and no-nonsense. "She was a genuine person," she said.
Mrs. Anderson is survived by her sister, Judy Falconer of Portola Valley; son Douglas Anderson and his wife Maggie of Auckland, New Zealand; daughter Sally Anderson of Sebastopol; son Bruce Anderson of San Luis Obispo; and one grandchild.
A memorial service for Mrs. Anderson is planned for Tuesday, July 31, at 3 p.m., at Christ Church, 815 Portola Road in Portola Valley. A reception will follow at Charlotte's Garden.
The family suggests donations to the League to Save Lake Tahoe, 955 Emerald Bay Road, S. Lake Tahoe, CA 96150; or Christ Church Peace Garden; 815 Portola Road, Portola Valley, CA 94028.