Obituaries: Service Saturday for David Thysen | February 1, 2012 | Almanac | Almanac Online |


Community - February 1, 2012

Obituaries: Service Saturday for David Thysen

David Thysen, a resident of Portola Valley for 38 years, died Jan. 22 ending his courageous fight with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease, his family said. He was 68.

The community is invited to celebrate his life at a memorial service at 10 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 4, at Menlo Park Presbyterian Church in Menlo Park.

He grew up in Hillsborough, attended Burlingame High School, and graduated with an engineering degree from San Jose State University. He received an MBA from Golden Gate University.

In 1968, he joined the Peace Corps and served as a teacher for two years in Ethiopia.

He had a long career as a packaging engineer, spending the last two decades as an independent consultant for health care and pharmaceutical companies. He also worked in both engineering and management positions at Syntex Labs, Verbatim Corp. and Memorex.

Growing up, he developed a strong connection with the outdoors and throughout his life joined his family on many backpacking, camping and skiing trips, the family said.

"This love of nature led him to move his young family to Portola Valley in the early 1970s, where he purchased a home at the top of Los Trancos Woods and explored its many hills, trails and creeks with his three children," said his daughter, Lisa Scholin.

In 2002, he married Beverly Rees. They developed a strong circle of friends through Menlo Park Presbyterian Church and later through their local ALS support group.

Through his church, he volunteered with Bread of Life providing meals to the hungry in his local community, and serving as a leader of support groups.

His family was heartbroken to learn of his diagnosis with ALS in October 2008. The progressive motor neuron disease caused him to lose all use of his arms and hands and weakened his body, his daughter said.

"Even during this time, he always looked on the bright side and never complained," his daughter said. "He enjoyed his final years immensely, spending winters in Palm Springs surrounded by friends and family."

Survivors include his wife, Beverly; three children, Lisa Scholin, Erik Thysen and Janel Thysen; and two grandchildren. His 96-year old mother, Betty Thysen, also survives him, as does his sister, Dixie Laws and brother, Mark Thysen, and several nieces and nephews.

Donations may be made to the ALS Guardian Angels (

Visit to leave a remembrance on Lasting Memories.

Rolf Georg Spamer

The life of Rolf Georg Spamer will be celebrated at a memorial service at 3 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 11, at Ladera Community Church, 3300 Alpine Road in Portola Valley. Dr. Spamer died Jan. 17 at his home in Ladera, surrounded by his family. He was 76.

Dr. Spamer, a former president of the California Society of Pediatric Dentists, spent more than 46 years treating children in his Hayward office, after first practicing in Menlo Park.

Rolf Spamer was born and grew up in Chicago. After his undergraduate studies at the University of Illinois, he went on to dental school and ROTC at Northwestern University. In 1959, he married Carol Trevillian and served as a Naval officer in San Diego. The Spamers moved to their home in Ladera in 1965.

A lifelong sportsman, Dr. Spamer spent many years coaching softball teams, as well as serving as an umpire for Little League baseball. A member of the Ladera Community Church for 40 years, he served in many lay leadership roles and on the pre-school board. He was a fixture at the church's annual Bass Lake retreat, camping there with the Spamer clan, say family members.

He was a grief counselor for the KARA organization and a longtime member of the Hayward Rotary Club.

In 1999, Dr. Spamer married fellow Ladera resident Betty Hubbard, embracing the new brood of grandchildren they shared and enjoying everything from golf to opera, say family members.

He is survived by his wife, Betty; their combined family of six children: Brynn Spamer Williams, Kristin Spamer Miller, Jenny Spamer Harris, Jason Hubbard, Sarah Hubbard Foley, and Neal Hubbard; brother Ronald Spamer; sister Marianne Spamer; and 17 grandchildren. His first wife, Carol, died in 1996.

Donations in Dr. Spamer's memory may be made to the Ladera Church Youth Music Program.

Kenton Sutherland

Kenton Kienzle Sutherland of Menlo Park died unexpectedly at Brookside Nurse and Care Facility in San Mateo on Jan. 1 while recovering from an E. coli infection he contracted while on assignment at the State University of Malang in East Java, Indonesia. He was 76.

He began his teaching career at College of the Desert in Palm Desert and soon after moved on to City College of San Francisco.

In the early 1970s, he started teaching at newly formed Canada College in Woodside. He was a fundamental contributor to the school's English Institute, which later developed into the current ESL Department, the family said.

As a linguist, he used melody and rhythm to encourage language learning, but it "was mostly his intelligence, his exuberance and his entertaining personality that left its mark on the thousands of students he taught," the family said.

"A lifelong learner and teacher, Kent or Kenny, as he was known to friends and family, loved dancing, theater, literature, music, cinema, camping, people and pets, but right in line behind his greatest love of all, his family, was his love for traveling," the family said.

During his 12 years of retirement, he added to the list of more than 60 countries he visited and "that the adventure was still in him as his three final assignments led him to China, Iraq and Indonesia," the family said.

He received a Ph.D. in linguistics from Stanford University in 1976.

Survivors include his wife, Sheilla Sutherland, owner of The Children's Shoppe in Sharon Heights; his children, Scott of San Mateo, Mark of San Mateo, Grant of Tujunga, Jason of San Mateo, Evan of Brooklyn, New York, and Sabrina of San Francisco; and two granddaughters.

A celebration of his life is to be held at Canada College for family, friends, students and colleagues. Please contact the family for further details. The family asks that any gifts be made to a favorite charity in Dr. Kenton Sutherland's name.

Visit to leave a remembrance on Lasting Memories.

Beverly Parkin Benz

Beverly Parkin Benz, who worked for ambassadors in U.S. embassies in London and Dublin, Ireland, in the 1950s, died Jan. 3 at her home in Santa Rosa. She was 81.

Ms. Benz was born in San Francisco and graduated from UC Berkeley in 1951 with a major in international studies. She joined the Foreign Service and worked abroad until 1954, when she married Frederick D. Benz. The couple lived in several cities in San Mateo County before settling in Menlo Park, where they lived for more than 50 years.

For 30 years, Mr. Benz ran a day care facility. After retiring, she joined Ace Hardware to keep in touch with friends in the community, say family members. She and her husband enjoyed traveling, visiting many sites in Europe and Asia.

She is survived by her husband of 57 years, Frederick D. Benz; three of her five children, Frederick R. Benz, Pamela A. Benz, and Andrew D. Benz; and 11 grandchildren. Services have been held.


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