Services Aug. 18 for Robert Segbarth, gardener and friend to the homeless | August 8, 2018 | Almanac | Almanac Online |


Community - August 8, 2018

Services Aug. 18 for Robert Segbarth, gardener and friend to the homeless

A celebration of the life of Portola Valley resident Robert Irwin Segbarth is set for 2 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 18, at the Ladera Community Church at 3300 Alpine Road in Ladera.

To say that Segbarth tended the community garden at the church is to understate the matter. He helped the garden get going in the 1970s and got permission to employ homeless people to work it in the 1990s, compensating them with a free lunch and an hourly wage from the proceeds of the sale of vegetables, according to a 1998 story in The Almanac.

Segbarth died July 20 at The Sequoias retirement community in Portola Valley after a short illness. He was 85.

Segbarth was also responsible for continuing the tradition of a lighted star atop a redwood tree near the church at 3300 Alpine Road for the Christmas holiday. He added energy-efficient lights to the star when he rebuilt it and its connection apparatus after it had fallen in a storm.

He also established a spring routine of mowing a pathway up the hill above the church ahead of an Easter sunrise service. For years, he would bring along a portable pipe organ for his daughter or wife to play in accompanying the singing of hymns.

Segbarth was a native of Pasadena, California. He graduated from Occidental College with a bachelor's degree in economics and subsequently graduated from the U.S. Navy's Officer Candidate School as a lieutenant junior grade. He served in Alaska, where he was part of a unit that flew patrols off the coast to monitor Soviet shipping.

After leaving the military, he married Nancy Halden, whom he met in college. The couple lived in San Gabriel and had two daughters. Following a yearlong tour of Europe, they relocated to Northern California — first to Santa Cruz, then to Menlo Park and then to Ladera, where they bought a house.

Segbarth was a career banker, a path that began in San Gabriel and continued in Northern California in San Francisco, San Mateo and Palo Alto. He retired in 1995 as a senior trust adviser for Bank of America.

The couple moved to The Sequoias after selling their home in Ladera in 2010, a change that did not interrupt Segbarth's caring for the church's garden and chickens. At The Sequoias, he continued his practices of meditation and yoga — he once did a headstand in the dining room — and pursued some new interests, including lawn bowling, group singing and hiking up Windy Hill.

Segbarth is survived by his wife Nancy; daughters Lisa Nelson of Ashland, Oregon, and Nina Shepherd of Pacific Palisades, California; and five grandchildren.

The family is grateful for the care he received from Mission Hospice in his last days. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made either to Ladera Community Church, 3300 Alpine Road, Portola Valley, 94028 (, or to Peninsula Open Space Trust, 222 High St,, Palo Alto, 94301 (


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