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By Dave Boyce
Almanac Staff Writer
The Portola Valley Town Council honored one of its own on Wednesday, Aug. 25, by setting out the chair usually occupied by Bill Lane, the town's first mayor.
Mr. Lane died on July 31 at the age of 90. This meeting was the first for the council since his death. In the audience were members of Mr. Lane's family and a number of friends.
On the chair, which had been placed off to one side, was a framed reproduction of the U.S. Constitution -- Mr. Lane used to carry a bound version in his coat pocket.
A bouquet of flowers sat next to the chair. In his frequent visits to Town Hall, Mr. Lane often brought flowers or chocolate, Town Manager Angie Howard said.
Behind the chair were the U.S., California and Portola Valley flags, which are always displayed in Town Hall and which echo the wide reach of Mr. Lane's activities and influence during his long and busy life.
The pledge of allegiance, which the council repeats before every meeting, was one of Mr. Lane's favorite routines, Mayor Steve Toben said before asking the assembly to make the pledge in Mr. Lane's honor.
The Bill Lane era, said Councilwoman Ann Wengert, will be known for Mr. Lane's generosity, his civility, his sense of fairness and spirit of cooperation, and his belief in the future of "our beloved town."
Referring to Mr. Lane's ready smile and apparent openness to what the day would bring, Councilman Ted Driscoll said, "it's a world outlook that, I gotta tell ya, I wish I could emulate."
Mr. Lane was a gentleman in the old way and waited until the right moment to weigh in on a controversial issue, said former mayor Jon Silver. But, he added, "that old school way never blinded him to modernity."
"Bill had time for neighbors as well, to do fun things with friends. He was my friend ... a great man who had the time to share," said resident Bernie Bayuk.
Town Planner Tom Vlasic, in a voice choked with emotion, noted that "we are all better persons for having known Bill and experienced his friendship."
Mr. Lane's son Bob recalled his dad's strong feelings for the town. "He was so proud of what came in the slipstream. He left this world knowing that you were doing a good job," he told the council. "This was his classroom. He loved it."
Mr. Lane was a frequent visitor to Town Hall, which carries the names of Mr. Lane and his wife Jean on the outside wall next to the entrance because the Lanes were major donors to the Town Center complex.
"Our deepest and most sincere condolences, and I want you to know how much we miss Bill and his friendship," Town Manager Angie Howard said, between tears, to Mr. Lane's family.
"When he walked into the office, it was like a beacon of light. He treated everyone with respect and kindness, and boy did he like our potluck lunches," Ms. Howard continued. "We are all extremely proud to work in the Bill and Jean Lane Town Hall."
Unlike his commendable colleagues who helped in founding the town, Mr. Lane stayed very deeply involved, Mayor Steve Toben said. "He kept coming back Wednesday night after Wednesday night and he never stopped caring," Mr. Toben said.
And he required early dinners on all those Wednesday nights, added Jean Lane warmly.
His presence "elevated the discourse of every topic we discussed," Mr. Toben said. "To Bill, the constant renewing process of democracy was not work, it was joy."