Stanley Webb, a farmer, rancher and the owner of Webb Ranch at the corners of Alpine Road and Interstate 280, changed the ranch's focus from dairy farming and growing strawberries to boarding and celebrating horses and selling a variety of vegetables and berries at a produce stand on Alpine Road. Webb was 98 when he died at a nursing home in Belmont on Aug. 11 in the company of his family.
The family held a celebration of his life at a private gathering on Aug. 26, his daughter Sharon Lebherz said in an email.
Over his long life, Webb was also a soldier, a husband, a father, a pilot and a home builder. One designation that did not apply: equestrian, according to an Almanac story from November 2000. Horses plowed the Webb Ranch fields when he was a young man and he walked behind them, his hands on the plow. The idea of riding horses "didn't seem like fun to me," he said.
Webb was a California native and a graduate of Palo Alto High School and the University of California at Davis.
He was a veteran of the United States Army Air Corps during World War II. The Army denied him at first, telling him he was underweight – a consequence of so much field work, he told The Almanac in 2000 – but he brought his weight up and successfully enlisted.
In the interim before he enlisted, and after authorities relocated and incarcerated the ranch's Japanese-American agricultural workers, Webb received a draft deferment to allow him to help grow tomatoes for the troops, according to The Almanac story.
With the Army having trained him as a pilot, Webb would eventually co-own a Cessna airplane that he would fly around California and occasionally to Mexico, his daughter said.
Webb married Alice Lee Gurley of Palo Alto in 1949 and the couple had three children, all of whom grew up working on the ranch. Webb assumed management of the ranch in 1950, sold off the dairy cows several years later when interest in raw milk declined, and hired Oklahoma cowboy, polo player and horse-care expert Fay Humphries, who led the way to an equestrian enterprise at the ranch, Webb said in 2000.
Today, that enterprise includes a riding school, equestrian events, the home and practice area for Stanford University's polo team, and an animal-based therapy center offering emotional support for sick or troubled children and adults, Webb's daughter said.
The idea for a produce stand took shape in 1962, Webb said in 2000, with a proposal by his daughters to go to the roadside and sell to passers-by strawberries that had not been sold to retailers. Webb said he gave his permission reluctantly, but that he changed his mind after the girls sold 80 crates of berries in one day.
Webb, a former president of the state's Strawberry Growers Association, went on to expand the ranch's offerings at the roadside stand to include more berries as well as corn, tomatoes, watermelon, cantaloupe, squash, green beans, peppers, pumpkins and more, his daughter said.
"Stan had much pride and a deep love of the ranch and as such, his homestead was alive with fresh flowers, fruit trees, roses and more, and always well maintained," Lebherz said, adding that her mother – who died in 2010 – enjoyed attending to the flowers, the farming operations and the children.
"Countless community children have enjoyed and grown up at the ranch over the decades, encouraged by and enjoying all of the activities and events introduced by Stan," his daughter said.
In addition to his daughter Sharon Lebherz of Portola Valley, Webb is survived by daughter Lyndal Hubbard and son Gary Webb, both of whom still live on Webb Ranch; 10 grandchildren; and 23 great-grandchildren.
Donations in Stanley Webb's name may be made to California FarmLink, a nonprofit based in Aptos whose mission includes providing financing for the next generation of farmers.