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A sheriff’s honor guard and bagpiper will help say farewell to former Portola Valley mayor and councilman Robert H. “Bob” Anderson at a memorial service Wednesday, Jan. 31, at 2 p.m. at Christ Church, 815 Portola Road in Portola Valley.
Town Hall will be closed from 2 to 4 p.m. in his honor.
Mr. Anderson, who helped found the church in 1956 and was a deacon there, died peacefully Jan. 22 at The Sequoias retirement community in Portola Valley. He was 86.
For the last 50 years, Mr. Anderson gave much of his life to founding and building the town of Portola Valley. He helped with the campaign to incorporate the town in 1964, and served on its first Planning Commission. He served on the Town Council for a total of 15 years between 1968 and 1991, and was mayor four times. Then he was police commissioner from 1991 until late 2006.
Widely known as a super-volunteer, Mr. Anderson also served on public works and emergency committees.
“He was not just a leader; he was a real hands-on public servant,” says longtime friend John Gardner, who chairs the town’s Public Works Committee. “When we had a rainstorm, he was out there cutting fallen trees and unplugging culverts.”
Bob Anderson grew up and went to school in Berkeley, where he was an Eagle Scout with three palms. During the Depression he shuttled between college and jobs -- digging ditches for PG&E and working at the Golden Gate International Exposition -- until he qualified for the Navy’s V-5 flight-training program, he wrote in a memoir. For most of World War II, he flew anti-submarine patrols, first off the coast of California, later in the Aleutians.
Mr. Anderson’s daughter, Sally Anderson of Sebastopol, describes how he flew from the Alameda Naval Air Station, under the Golden Gate Bridge, and then either north or south looking for Japanese subs. He may not have found many submarines, but on one trip he spotted, and reported, the four-masted sailing ship Pamir becalmed off Point Reyes. The Pamir, carrying grain from New Zealand to San Francisco, was helpless, with no wind and a dead radio.
In 1944, he trained to fly Corsair fighters off aircraft carriers and served in the South Pacific. He landed at Eniwetok on Aug. 15, 1945, the day the war ended.
Mr. Anderson returned to Stanford, where he graduated with a degree in political science in March 1947. In May he married Charlotte Anderson (she had the same last name).
Mr. Anderson pursued his lumber business on the Coastside -- and learned the art of the chain saw -- until timber declined. Then he sold his sawmill, and engaged in various building projects. He retired partially in 1966, and totally in 1983 -- freeing even more time and energy for Portola Valley.
56 years in Portola Valley
Since 1950, the Andersons’ life centered on Portola Valley.
By 1949, the young couple moved to Portola Valley, bought the first lot on Stonegate Road for $4,000, and built the house they lived in
for 45 years. In 1951, they moved in. The house features curly redwood paneling from Mr. Anderson’s sawmill in Pescadero.
Always involved in the community, the Andersons were among the families founding Christ Church; Mr. Anderson was ordained deacon in 1960 by then-Bishop James Pike, and remained a stalwart. Former neighbor Wil Patterson remembers, “He had a wonderful baritone speaking voice; he could be heard anywhere in the church.”
As their children were growing up, Mr. Anderson continued his love of scouts by serving as co-scoutmaster of Troop 234 in the early 1960s.
As development spread to the foothills, residents of the unincorporated community became restive, and began to plan to take control of their destiny by becoming a city. In 1960 Mr. Anderson was president of the Portola Valley Association, a leader in the drive for incorporation.
When Portola Valley became its own town in 1964, Mr. Anderson was appointed to the first Planning Commission to write regulations and control land use. He was its second chairman.
Over almost 50 years, Mr. Anderson’s service in Portola Valley can easily sound like a list of positions that barely hints at the energy and passion he brought to each one. His jobs included: Town Council from 1968 to 1976 and 1985 to 1991, and mayor four times; chairman of Public Works Committee and Emergency Preparedness Committee; public safety commissioner and police commissioner; member of San Mateo County Civil Grand Jury; and member of the governing board of the Woodside Fire Protection District.
After Mr. Anderson had a heart attack in 1995, the Andersons moved to The Sequoias in 1996; he continued to be active as police commissioner until late last year.
Mr. Anderson is especially missed in Town Hall. “I can’t think of anything he didn’t do,” says Town Administrator Angie Howard, who was hired by Mr. Anderson when he was mayor 17 years ago.
The women of the town staff are sad they won’t be able to take him out for their traditional Valentine’s Day lunch. “He was our valentine,” says Planning Coordinator Leslie Lambert.
Mr. Anderson personified Portola Valley’s original do-it-yourself volunteer spirit. “He was Johnny-on-the-spot,” says Mr. Gardner. “He didn’t just talk. He pushed the shovel, cut the bushes, did whatever needed to be done.
“In the Loma Prieta Earthquake, he was at Town Hall in 10 minutes, setting up a command post.”
One of Mr. Anderson’s favorite duties was as police commissioner. For the last 16 years, and sometimes before, he served as liaison between the town and the county Sheriff’s Office, which provides police service to Portola Valley. He used to compile statistics of incidents, citations and speeding violations for the Town Council and county every month, says Sheriff’s Lt. Ken Jones, who heads the town’s police service.
“He was a very good friend who did a lot for me,” Lt. Jones said. “He was very well liked by everybody. He was always there to help us.”
The Andersons had other interests and loved travel, says daughter Sally. He got certified in scuba diving in 1984, and pursued that skill in the South Pacific, Indian Ocean and Caribbean. “Their last trip (scuba diving) was to the Galapagos in 1993.”
Mr. Anderson is survived by Charlotte, his wife of almost 60 years; sons 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.
Mr. Anderson suggested donations to a charity of the donor's choice.