Longtime Woodside resident and local business owner Glenn Atkinson died at his home on March 11. He was 96.
Atkinson was a lifelong horse lover. He founded Portola Farms, a horse boarding complex located on "30 peaceful acres at the base of Woodside's Western Hills and the edge of a Nature Preserve," in 1987 with his wife Nancy, according to Portola Farms' website.
"Woodside has lost one of its great characters," said Mayor Brian Dombkowski during a March 23 Town Council meeting.
Born Nov. 11, 1924, in Okeechobee, Florida, Atkinson got his first pony at age 5, when he and the pony were about the same height, according to The Almanac's archives. It was love at first sight.
"I'd been riding probably since I was in diapers," Atkinson told The Almanac in 2008. His father was a horseman, but, he added, "It's different when you own (the pony)."
Atkinson left school before high school graduation, enlisting in the Army after military school, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
As a member of the 101st Airborne Division, he fought at the Battle of the Bulge in 1944, according to The Almanac's archives. Armed with a bazooka, Atkinson ran from foxhole to foxhole and took out five German tanks. He was hospitalized for months after the battle after getting hit by an enemy shell and almost lost a leg. He was awarded the Bronze Star and a Purple Heart for his efforts, according to the Chronicle.
After the war, he studied architecture at University of Southern California through the GI Bill, according to his family. While at USC, he paid his bills by managing a horse facility and married his first wife, Constance Smith, his family said.
He raised five children on Concar Ranch in Hillsborough, according to his family.
Atkinson played polo at the Menlo Circus Club in Atherton for 50 years with his brother, according to The Almanac's archives.
He was named "Horseman of the Year" by the Mounted Patrol of San Mateo County, a men's equestrian organization, in 2007. The award cited his service to the equestrian community and his support in preserving the county's equestrian traditions, trails and stables.
Atkinson served as vice president and general manager of San Mateo-based construction firm L.C. Smith and Company, according to The Almanac's archives. He helped build parts of Interstate 280 in the 1970s. His construction expertise and love for horses conveniently converged.
"I've built six or seven barns that hold about 200 horses in Woodside," he told The Almanac in 2008. "I'm still doing it."
The Atkinsons would often open Portola Farms to local schools and charities for fundraising events, which have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars, according to The Almanac's archives.
Although training is optional at Portola Farms, six professional hunter/jumper trainers offer full training, lessons, grooming, turnout services, school horses and summer camps. In addition the facility hosts several weekend clinics a year with world-class trainers, according to the Portola Farms website.
In 1975, he married Nancy Reed, whom he met through their mutual admiration for horses, the same year they bought their home in Woodside. Their first wedding present was a ton of hay from Glenn's brother Bill and his wife Carol, according to Nancy.
During his over 45 years in Woodside, Atkinson served on the town's Architectural Site Review Board from 1999 to 2010, according to the town. He was known for wearing his Stetson cowboy hat during his Thursday nights at the Parkside Grille in Portola Valley, according to the Chronicle.
He served on the Cow Palace board from 2008 to 2016, his family said. While on the board he met Quentin Kopp, a retired judge and former state senator.
"He (Atkinson) was a man who loved to serve people without compensation," Kopp said. "He proved that during WWII and he proved that as a Cow Palace director with his love of animals and his brilliant business mind. He was a great American."
Atkinson is survived by his wife of almost 50 years, Nancy; children Larry Atkinson, Jeff Atkinson, Greg Atkinson, Vickie Montgomery and Carrie Atkinson. His family also listed as survivors barn manager George Zepeda and personal bartender Robert Norwood.
A celebration of his life is planned to be held at Portola Farms, but the date is pending.