Malcolm Dudley, a former Atherton mayor, Navy veteran and investment banker, died on Feb. 10 with Cosette Dudley, his wife of 67 years, and daughters Lynette Stebing and Virginia Rock by his side at his Atherton home. He had been in declining health, his family said. He was 88 years old.
Born in Santa Cruz, Dudley moved to Sacramento when he was 10, according to his family.
Dudley attended Sacramento City College, then University of California at Davis, where he graduated in 1954. He played in the jazz band The Malgers, which helped finance his education.
Dudley met his future wife while both were college students working in the Sacramento Bee's circulation department. She had heard about a "tall, handsome and fit young man" who was charismatic, had a friendly smile and was "bigger than life" who was coming back from Navy officer training. He was "everything she heard," Rock said. The couple married in 1954.
From 1958 to 1961, Dudley served with U. S. naval command staff in London. He studied international monetary economics at the London School of Economics.
The family moved to Atherton when they returned to the U.S. in the early 1960s. Their first house on Maple Avenue cost $25,000, according to The Almanac's archives. Dudley entered the investment business with Dean Witter & Co. in 1962, and continued to work as a financial adviser until his retirement in 2017, according to his family.
Dudley was also concerned about the environment and traffic congestion. He first became involved in city politics when he worried about the impact of the building of the new Dumbarton Bridge on local communities, he told The Almanac in 1998.
In 1976 he ran for the Atherton City Council and was elected. He served over 24 years, making him the town's longest serving council member. He served as mayor six times.
Dudley was a leader on regional transportation matters as a board member of the San Mateo County Transportation Authority. "More than any other single person, he may be responsible for the fact that San Mateo County now owns the Caltrain corridor from San Francisco to Gilroy, and consequently that trains are still running up and down the Peninsula," former Almanac reporter Marion Softky wrote in 2000. Dudley also helped establish a half-cent sales tax for transportation, according to the article.
"That sales tax, which will raise more than $1 billion for transportation projects in the county over its 20-year life, enabled SamTrans to buy the Caltrain right-of-way in 1991 for $49.2 million," Softky wrote. "This purchase saved the train from possibly being closed down, and enabled the improving rail service the Peninsula enjoys today."
In recent years, Dudley advocated for keeping train service alive in town during council meetings and was serving on the town's Rail Committee (his term was set to end in June).
"Malcolm Dudley was a role model for citizens to be engaged in their local communities," said Atherton Councilman Rick DeGolia in an email. "Malcolm didn't merely put in his time, he worked extremely hard at representing Atherton residents, both on the City Council and on county committees. ... For me, Malcolm was a wonderful friend and mentor. I and all of Atherton will deeply miss him, but his presence will be felt for years to come as he was instrumental in helping support Atherton's new town center."
Dudley played woodwind instruments — most recently the saxophone — with a dance band called the Unicorns. The Unicorns sometimes play on the restored Liberty ship "Jeremiah O'Brien" during Fleet Week in San Francisco Bay, according to The Almanac archives.
"He did it all and did it well and with so much energy," Rock said. "Papa was always very hard-working in business, local politics, (the) Navy and his business."
Family was a central focus for her father, she said. Dudley kept up connections by organizing annual family trips. The family would travel to Camp Richardson in South Lake Tahoe to water ski. Dudley took family and friends aboard his yacht, MV Lisa Marie. Boat trips reached all the way up to Canada. He also took regular boat trips in the San Francisco Bay with friends.
Dudley is survived by his wife Cosette; his daughters, Lynette Stebing and Virginia Rock; four grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.