Update: Nan Chapman, first woman to serve on Atherton City Council, dies at 80


A memorial service for Nan Chapman will be held at 4 p.m. Wednesday, June 8, at the Menlo Circus Club, 190 Park Lane in Atherton. A celebration or her life and a reception will follow.


Nanette "Nan" Figel Chapman, the first woman to become a member of the Atherton City Council, has died at the age of 80 at her home in Woodside from complications of lung cancer.

Ms. Chapman served on the Atherton City Council for 20 years before moving to Woodside, where she has lived since 2000 with her husband, Ron. She died the day after Mother's Day, on May 9.

Betsy Glikbarg of Atherton, who with Ms. Chapman was one of the co-founders of the Menlo Charity Horse Show 46 years ago, had been friends with Ms. Chapman since the two attended James Madison Elementary School and Lowell High School in San Francisco. Their parents were best friends.

Ms. Glikbarg was Ms. Chapman's campaign manager in 1980 when she decided to compete for a seat on the City Council at the last minute, after being convinced to run by Atherton Police Chief Kip Rolle. She said she and the Chapmans had only about five hours to get the 20 signatures of voters needed to be a candidate.

But knocking on Atherton doors in the afternoon proved frustrating, as they found almost no one at home to sign the petition. So, Ms. Glikbarg said, they went to Draeger's in Menlo Park "because everyone we knew was at Draeger's."

Once they had the requisite signatures, Ms. Chapman then realized she needed to write a candidate's statement. They filed the papers on time, but, Ms. Glikbarg said, "we didn't have one extra signature."

Nan Chapman went on to beat the sitting mayor of Atherton for a seat on the council, where she served two terms as mayor, from 1986 to 1988 and again from 1998 to 2000.

Didi Fisher, who served on the Atherton City Council with Ms. Chapman, said that Ms. Chapman spent so much of her life in Atherton that she knew and understood the issues. "She was always prepared," she said, but also "was fun to work with because she had a great sense of humor."

A home in Atherton

While Ms. Chapman went to school in San Francisco, she spent much of her childhood with her grandparents in their Atherton home. She and Ron ended up buying a home in Atherton right down the street from where her grandparents had lived.

They found their home in 1964 when Nan Chapman took her husband to see where she had spent so many pleasurable childhood years. They noticed a nearby home for sale, and that's where they lived until 2000, when a real estate agent presented them with an offer they couldn't refuse for their home, which had not been for sale.

Ron Chapman said that while he and his wife also went to the same elementary and high schools, they did not know each other well because he was a year ahead of her in school. But when both were in their early 20s fate seemed to bring them together, he said.

Both were attending a party at the home of a mutual friend one Saturday night, he said. "I talked to her for quite a while."

On Sunday, he was eating a meal in a Tiburon restaurant when Nan Figel sat down at the next table. On Monday, when he was getting off a bus in San Francisco, Nan drove by and offered him a ride home, he said.

A few days later she called and invited him to a party the next weekend, Mr. Chapman says. Six months later, they married. They were married 57 years.

Showing horses

For Ms. Chapman, riding and later showing horses was a lifelong passion. Ms. Glikbarg said they rode together, starting in grammar school, at the Golden Gate Park riding stables at 7th Avenue in San Francisco. While Ms. Glikbarg rode for pleasure, Ms. Chapman liked to show her horses.

"I think Nan's always been competitive," she said. She continued to show her horse Jackie through 2015, and won numerous awards and competitions during her equestrian career.

Another of Ms. Chapman's passions was writing. She was editor of her high school newspaper and studied English and journalism at Pomona College.

She was in charge of publicity for many of the organizations she volunteered for including the Menlo Charity Horse Show, the Board of Directors of Amigos de Las Americas, Family Service/Mid Peninsula, the Vista Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired, and the Junior League of Palo Alto Mid-Peninsula.

She helped raise funds to restore the Folger Barn in Woodside and served on Woodside's Open Space Committee and on Atherton's Crime Prevention Task Force.

In addition to being a skilled writer and editor, Ms. Glikbarg said, her friend was "incredibly bright" and fearless. "She would go up and talk to anybody about whatever it was. She was very tenacious about it and she really cared," she says.

Ms. Glickbarg said that she and Ms. Chapman served on many of the same organizations. Ms. Glickbarg joined the Junior League a year after Ms. Chapman did, and found herself often inheriting the role her friend had held the year before.

"Her office was in the back of her car and in her trunk," she said. So each time she took over a job, "I got the back of her trunk."

"I am 'Miss Organization' and she was 'fly by the seat of her pants,'" she said.

Ms. Chapman was born on Feb. 29, 1936, and had just recently celebrated her "20th" real birthday, her husband said. She was a fourth-generation Californian on both sides of her family.

She is survived by her husband Ron, of Woodside; her son Doug, of Reno, Nevada; and six nieces and nephews. Her sister, Susan Bennion of Menlo Park, preceded her in death in 1991.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks for donations to the Lowell Alumni Association, the Junior League of Palo Alto/Mid-Peninsula Endowment Fund or the charity of the donor's choice.

A memorial service will be held at 4 p.m. Wednesday, June 8, at the Menlo Circus Club, 190 Park Lane in Atherton. A celebration of her life and reception will follow.

See the family memorial on Lasting Memories, where you may leave remembrances.

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Like this comment
Posted by Elsie Floriani
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on May 12, 2016 at 1:57 pm

Nan Chapman was such a lovely lady, always active in supporting everything and everyone--horses in particular. She was one of our first cheerleaders when we started Gentry Magazine for which we were ever so grateful, taking a few hits as we did. She will be missed by many.
Elsie Floriani

2 people like this
Posted by Tom Johnson
a resident of Woodside: other
on May 12, 2016 at 2:20 pm

Nan Chapman---
She will be missed, a wonderful member of the Woodside Open Space Committee.
All the best to her family.

Tom Johnson

Like this comment
Posted by Charles Marsala
a resident of another community
on May 12, 2016 at 3:37 pm

Nan worked so hard on so many issues for Atherton. The New Town Center Project roots go back to her efforts more than two decades ago. The Menlo Horse Show has been a wonderful way to showcase Atherton.

Prayers for her and her family.

Charles Marsala

9 people like this
Posted by Paul Goeld
a resident of Woodside: Woodside Hills
on May 12, 2016 at 4:51 pm

I was so sorry to read about Nan's death. I knew Nan briefly when she was in Atherton and serving on the City Council but got to know her more after she moved to Woodside and became a neighbor.

Nan was sharp-as-a-tack smart, witty, classy and so involved in her community. She had a wide circle of friends and will be missed by everyone who had any interaction with her.

My heartfelt condolences to Ron and her family. Rest in peace, Nan.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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