Almanac

News - January 30, 2013

Portola Valley: Ed Davis, former councilman, dies

by Dave Boyce

Ed Davis, a man of reliable bonhomie and sharp intellect, departed the Portola Valley Town Council in 2007 after eight years behind the dais, and now he has departed the town. Mr. Davis died of lymphoma on Friday evening, Jan. 25, at home in Portola Valley Ranch, Lynne Davis, his wife, told the Almanac. He was 79.

"We knew that this was coming. He died sooner than I thought he would and sooner that he thought he would," Ms. Davis said. "He was always upbeat, always positive." Mr. Davis had morphine available but resisted using it, Ms. Davis added. "He never complained. Never. ... Even though it was sooner than I thought, it was probably for the best."

A memorial service at Town Center is in the planning stages but a date has not yet been set, Ms. Davis said. Emailed notes from friends and associates have been arriving in her inbox. "I'm saving all those, of course, to read them again, and again," she said.

The couple met at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, where they both obtained undergraduate degrees, and have been married 58 years, Ms. Davis said.

Mr. Davis' career as an engineer included a doctorate in electrical engineering from Stanford University and many years at IBM Corp. in Poughkeepsie, New York, where he led a division of 90,000 people in developing and producing mainframe computers, according to a 1999 Almanac story by Marion Softky on Mr. Davis' election to the council.

He left IBM in 1987 to lead a state-run center for innovation in Virginia and stayed for two years before retiring again and coming back to the West Coast. The Center for Innovative Technology formed 60 companies in a year, and "half were successful," Mr. Davis told the Almanac in 1999.

The couple moved to Portola Valley from Woodside in 1991, and Mr. Davis joined the Planning Commission shortly thereafter. Councilman Ted Driscoll said he recalled recruiting Mr. Davis for the job.

"Ed was very, very cool and rational," Mr. Driscoll said. "He was the kind of person who looked at the data. He committed a significant percent of his life the last 20 years and never got a penny for it. ... It was wonderful, what he did."

"Portola Valley has lost a unique and beloved civic leader with the passing of Ed Davis," Councilwoman Ann Wengert said in an email. "Ed was a man of great wisdom, intelligence and strongly held values that he brought to his work in the public sector. Ed's energy was prodigious and his generosity abundant. His wicked sense of humor and irony were infectious.

"With a wry smile on his face, Ed required that one be informed, thoughtful, and convincing in debating an issue," Ms. Wengert continued. "One never came away from a debate with Ed feeling as if you'd not been heard or your arguments not considered. He had an ease and facility with people, situations and issues that made him a natural-born leader who treated those he dealt with fairly and as equals.

"Portola Valley was the fortunate beneficiary of Ed Davis' years of inspired and dedicated service to our community. His contributions to his beloved town were invaluable and he will be greatly missed."

Ms. Davis was a longtime member of the Trails and Paths Committee. "There are a lot of people who live in Portola Valley their entire lives and never get involved," Mr. Driscoll said. Mr. and Ms. Davis "are the kind of citizens who are exemplary."

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