As a volunteer for the town and community of Woodside, George Offen was a standout. His efforts extended more than three decades, with three terms on the local elementary school board in the 1980s and 1990s, and 20 years (starting in 1998) on committees associated with the town's response to issues of sustainability, conservation and the environment. Most recently, he presided over the 2018 May Day parade as the grand marshal.
Offen died at home on Sunday, Aug. 5. He was 79, his wife Karen Offen said.
A commemoration honoring her husband is being planned for early September, she wrote in an email.
Offen was president of the Woodside Elementary School District governing board three times and co-founded the Woodside School Foundation, which provides significant financial support to the school district.
Among the school board's initiatives while Offen was a member: hiring a superintendent and putting a parcel tax and a construction bond before the voters, according to a recent retrospective for The Almanac. He was also a judge and coach for the school's science fair.
As a member of the Conservation and Environmental Health Committee and its successor committee, Offen was chair during the establishment of a tree-protection ordinance, helped mobilize the town in responding to sudden oak death disease and was instrumental in developing the town's climate action plan.
"George was one of the town's great leaders for many years," former chair of the conservation committee Jason Mendelson said. "He was the most dedicated, most loyal, most impactful member of the committee that I knew."
"He never failed me, he never let any of us down," Mendelson said. "He was the most reliable member of that committee. I think he was the most effective volunteer and, in effect, public servant that Woodside has ever known. ... I can't speak highly enough of him."
In a proclamation honoring Offen's 20 years of service in town government, Mayor Chris Shaw wrote, "George is an unqualified champion of the environment and the model of an engaged Town resident."
The proclamation will be read at the Sept. 11 Town Council meeting, Town Manager Kevin Bryant wrote in an email. "He was a true gentleman and I will miss him," Bryant added.
Offen was a native of London, having been born there after his parents escaped from Nazi Germany in 1938. He spent his early years traveling to underground bomb shelters in London during the Blitz. The family emigrated to New York City via Montevideo, Uruguay, in a perilous wartime ocean journey, Karen Offen wrote.
The family settled in San Francisco. As a naturalized U.S. citizen, Offen attended the Town School for Boys and Lick-Wilmerding High School. At Stanford University, Offen earned a varsity letter on the fencing team, his wife said.
Offen served as a first lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force. He and Karen married in 1965 after meeting accidentally on a chair lift at Squaw Valley Ski Resort near Lake Tahoe. Karen Offen is a noted historian of women and feminism. The couple have two daughters.
Offen earned a bachelor's degree and a doctorate in mechanical engineering from Stanford and a master's in that field from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
As a senior technical executive at the Electric Power Research Institute in Palo Alto, Offen's research focused on the reduction of air pollutants from coal-fired power plants, specifically mercury emissions, according to a bio on the institute's website.
Offen enjoyed hiking and running locally, particularly in Huddart Park, his wife wrote. The couple traveled widely, the latest trip to five national parks in Utah.
Offen is survived by his wife Karen; daughters Catherine and Stephanie; and four grandchildren.