Lasting Memories

Milo S. Gates
April 25, 1923-Dec. 1, 2013
Woodside, California

Milo S. Gates, known as “Ned” by his family and friends, died peacefully at home in Woodside, California on Sunday, December 1. He was 90 years old. As President and then Chairman of Swinerton Inc., Ned guided the construction of dozens of large-scale, landmark buildings in San Francisco, Los Angeles and throughout the western United States.

Those who worked closely with Mr. Gates said he thrived on friendship, which was central to his business and his personal life. “Ned was what I call the perfect gentleman,” says Dave Grubb, who served as President while Mr. Gates was Chairman. “He treated everyone so beautifully.”

Ned shared this signature generosity widely, as trustee of Children’s Hospital, Grace Cathedral, Laguna Honda Hospital, Cypress Lawn and the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, as well as with his wide network of friends and his family, which grew to include 25 grandchildren.

Ned was born in Omaha, Nebraska, on April 25, 1923, the first of two sons, to Milo Talmadge and Virginia Offutt Gates. He and his family moved in the 1930s to California, where he attended Piedmont High School and spent summers sailing at Westward Ho camp. His brother Jarvis died in 1987.

As an engineering student at Stanford, Ned transferred into the V-12 Navy College Training Program at Cal Tech in 1942 in preparation for military service. After further training in New London, CT, he reunited briefly with his Stanford class to graduate in 1944 just prior to his first assignment in the Pacific.

During the remainder of World War II, he was stationed on a Gato-class submarine, the USS Whale (SS-239), in the Inland Sea of Japan, rescuing Allied pilots who had been downed by Japanese anti-aircraft artillery.

After the War, Ned earned an MBA in 1948 from Stanford Business School and went on to enjoy a long career with Swinerton, from 1955 to his retirement as Chairman in 1996. During Hawaii’s building boom of the 1960’s and 70’s, he led projects in Honolulu and the Outer Islands, including the Royal Hawaiian Tower and the Sheraton Waikiki.

Under his leadership in the 1980s and 90s, the company executed large-scale projects including 101 California in San Francisco and the Century Plaza Tower in Los Angeles, while adding expertise that enabled it to take on innovative projects such as the renovation of the California State Capital building, the San Francisco Centre, SF MoMA and the DeYoung Museum. During this period the company expanded into new geographic regions and grew to be one of the largest commercial construction contractors in the country.

Just after the war, at the very start of his construction career, Ned married Anne Phleger, of Woodside, California, in 1950. Together they raised a family of five children in San Francisco. She died in 1987.

In 1988, he married Robin (Binnie) Templeton Quist, also of Woodside, California. Their combined families consisted of nine adult children and, including spouses and grandchildren, grew to 44 family members. Tapping the same engineering and people skills he used to succeed at business, Ned helped organize family vacations and reunions that measured up to any skyscraper. “Just like at Swinerton,” says a family member, “he was rarely without his yellow pads and blue felt tip pens, writing lists and getting everyone on the right track.”

Always on the lookout for another good project, Ned, in the late 1990s, rebuilt a home on the West Shore of Lake Tahoe that he had originally constructed in the 1960s, in order to accommodate his expanding family. At family gatherings, he always found occasion to raise a glass and acknowledge his and others great fortune. His toasts were well known for their eloquence, grace and humor.

Ned was an avid yachtsman who loved sailing and found particular joy in driving “woodies” at Lake Tahoe. He also loved fly-fishing at the Fall River Ranch in Northern California and more recently on the Henry’s Fork of the Snake River in Idaho.

Ned was a long-time member of the Bohemian Club and of the Pacific Union Club, where he served as President, and he enjoyed the ongoing activities of his college fraternity, Delta Tau Delta. He especially valued the friendships he developed with younger individuals, many of whom he got to know through mentoring relationships and through his civic involvements.

Besides his wife Robin, Ned is survived by his four daughters, Elena Gates Motlow, Susan Gates Suman, Virginia Lewis and Anne Symington; his son Milo Gates; his stepson Bob Quist and stepdaughters Cathy Brisbin and Sarah Dolbey; and his 25 grandchildren.

Services will be private. Donations in Ned’s name can be made to California Academy of Sciences. Contact: Janet Harris,, 55 Music Concourse Drive, San Francisco, 94118.

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