Jan Chandler: Verdict over Atherton crosswalk fatality doesn't bring Chris back

Widow urges state to make El Camino crosswalks safer

Chris Chandler's first granddaughter, who turns 1 this month, has a happy, outgoing personality much like her grandfather's.

Chris Chandler, though, never had a chance to see his granddaughter's infectious smile.

He also wasn't there to walk his oldest daughter down the aisle at her wedding, and he's been missed at birthdays, graduations and holiday celebrations since he was killed crossing El Camino in Atherton on Sept. 30, 2010, at the age of 62.

Last week a San Mateo County Superior Court jury awarded Mr. Chandler's family $9.5 million in a wrongful death lawsuit, saying Caltrans was 90 percent responsible for his death. The attorneys for the Chandler family argued that Caltrans knew the crosswalk, which crosses seven lanes of traffic at Isabella Avenue, was unsafe but didn't do anything about it.

"Chris would have been a great grandfather," says Jan Chandler, Chris' wife, sitting at the kitchen table in the family's home in the unincorporated area between Atherton and Redwood City off Stockbridge Avenue. From the table you can see the backyard garden that Mr. Chandler loved to work in. Jan Chandler says it was the typical manicured suburban backyard when they moved in. Chris, with her help, transformed it into a lush green oasis.

"We're not the formal type," says Jan Chandler, who still forgets and speaks of her husband as if he were there nearly six years after his death.

Jan Chandler says her husband, who grew up in the Westridge neighborhood of Portola Valley and graduated from Woodside High School, was her "best friend."

"He was kind of a combination of that playful boy and a first responder," she says, and he loved being a father to three daughters.

Mike Danko, one of the lawyers who represented the Chandler family, says Mr. Chandler was the type of dad who would drop everything and drive to San Diego where one of his daughters was in college, if he thought she needed help.

Chris Chandler also, Mr. Danko says, brought his wife flowers every Sunday.

It wasn't only his family who received Chris Chandler's attention, Mr. Danko says, adding that his good deeds included pulling a woman out of a burning car.

At Menlo School, when Mr. Chandler overheard that no one but parents ever went to the girls' volleyball games, he became a devoted fan. "So then I had to go," too, says Jan Chandler.

After the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, which hit when he was in the East Bay on business, he made sure his family was OK and then loaded up a truck with food from National Semiconductor (where he then worked in food services) and drove it to San Francisco. "That's just the kind of guy he was," Jan Chandler says.

"There were no emergencies he couldn't handle."

Chris Chandler graduated in 1968 from Woodside High School, where he was the school's first male cheerleader. He served in Vietnam, and later received an MBA from Golden Gate University. He ran his own catering company for many years.

The money from the settlement, Jan Chandler says, is not what she really wants. "It doesn't bring him back."

"I'd like to have Chris back," she says.

She hopes, however, that the verdict will get Caltrans' attention. "The whole reason we did this is to get Caltrans to start listening to people and not pretend they have to wait" to make safety improvements. "In 2010 Chris was hit and killed there, and they still don't have a light," she says.

She also hopes that drivers will be more aware and maybe not drive quite so fast. "You can't see most of these crosswalks," she says.

Related stories:

Jury: Caltrans 90% responsible for Atherton crosswalk fatality

Political leaders call for Caltrans to act on El Camino hazards

Atherton repeatedly asked Caltrans to make crossings safer

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2 people like this
Posted by S Fuchter
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Feb 21, 2017 at 10:18 pm

Chris Chandler was a treasure , I remember working with him at Menlo college and knew his wife Jan from the dance community . what a devoted husband and friend he was to all . What a terrible loss to his family and all who knew and loved him.
Sandy Fuchter

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