After Mr. Dobbie announced his resignation, his wife, Pat Dobbie, told the Almanac that for the prior few months, he had been battling a strange respiratory condition, and despite undergoing numerous tests by "outstanding" doctors, the cause remained a mystery.
In a formal announcement issued the morning after Mr. Dobbie's death, the town of Atherton wrote that the former councilman "held a clear sense of commitment ... to this town and its residents. The town will miss Jim and his passion for democracy."
Mr. Dobbie served a four-year term on the town's Planning Commission before his June 2008 election to an 18-month council term. He and now Councilwoman Elizabeth Lewis vied for the seat that had been vacated by Alan Carlson, who had moved from town. Voters overwhelmingly elected Mr. Dobbie, and that victory was followed by his re-election in 2010 to a four-year term, which was set to expire in December.
Councilman Bill Widmer said Mr. Dobbie was "a real family man" who also loved the town he lived in for more than 20 years. "He wanted to do the right thing for Atherton," Mr. Widmer said. "He was a strong businessman and always paid attention to the dollars and cents."
Several years ago, when the town was struggling with a systemic budgetary deficit, Mr. Dobbie was a key player in helping turn the situation around, said Mr. Widmer, who also played a major role in helping the town return to financial health.
Former councilwoman Kathy McKeithen, who served with Mr. Dobbie for four years, said in an email to the Almanac: "Jim was one of those rare breed of great people who did what he believed was good and right despite the potential personal consequences, be they to his own failing health or likely public criticism.
"When the town faced major fiscal problems due to long-term pension and health obligations — which were quickly leading to potential bankruptcy — Jim helped fashion a plan to resolve those issues. He was stalwart in his love for Atherton and its citizens and if, today, Atherton is on a firm financial footing, it is in no small part due to Jim Dobbie.
"We owe him a debt of gratitude many of us will never really understand."
Mr. Dobbie was born in Scotland, and served as a pilot in the Royal Air Force Reserve. He moved with his wife to the United States in 1957. They lived in Palo Alto for 19 years before moving to Atherton about 20 years ago. He worked as a high-tech executive before retiring.
Several months after his June 2008 election, Mr. Dobbie was diagnosed with stage 4 lymphoma, he told the Almanac in a 2009 interview. He underwent five months of chemotherapy and the removal of his spleen — treatment that eliminated the cancer, he said.
Mr. Dobbie is survived by his wife, Pat, their three daughters, and seven grandchildren. The Almanac will report information about memorial services when it becomes available.