Palo Alto Weekly

Community Pulse - February 22, 2013

Sam Webster, business and community leader, dies at 95

A memorial service will be held Sunday for Palo Alto businessman and community booster Sam Webster, who died Feb. 18 at 95.

The energetic, 51-year resident of Palo Alto perhaps was best known locally as a developer of the Garden Court Hotel on Cowper Street. But his business, Webster Financial Corp., focused on an array of real estate and agriculture investments including senior housing, federally subsidized low-income apartments and pistachio orchards.

He was an enthusiast of all things Palo Alto, writing a Guest Opinion column in the Palo Alto Weekly in 2010 about "Why I'm supporting Palo Alto schools, even at 92."

"I've had the benefit of watching generations of high-school graduates from Palo Alto take the world by storm with their achievements, and we all know from living here that Palo Alto students are not ordinary," Webster wrote, noting that his wife Kim and all three of his children had graduated from Palo Alto High School.

Among Webster's many projects was The Hamilton, a luxury 36-unit condominium project for seniors he developed when he and his wife decided it was time for them to move to their own style of senior housing.

Sanford Webster was born in Kingston, R.I., in 1918, where he grew up hearing stories about Palo Alto from his father, Samuel Harvey Webster, who had attended Stanford University in 1903.

In high school he was captain of an all-state basketball team and also was the New England Boys and the New England Juniors Tennis Champion. Later, he captained the tennis team at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and played at Wimbledon in 1946.

Three days before his West Point graduation Webster met Kim Sibley, his future wife.

"She was dating another cadet," Webster recalled in a 2001 interview. Sibley was a Palo Alto native attending Simmons College in Boston on a 1938 scholarship from Elizabeth Gamble, a Palo Alto benefactress whose home, the Elizabeth F. Gamble Garden, is now a city landmark.

Webster's ebullient style quickly shut out the rival cadet, and the couple became serious and began discussing marriage.

"But first I had to meet with Miss Gamble to ask her permission," Webster said.

Permission granted, they married in Palo Alto in 1941 and at the outbreak of World War II.

Webster spent the war in the European Theater, moving with the Army infantry up Italy from Anzio to Rome and then into southern France in 1944.

"I wound up commanding the 1st Battalion, 143rd Infantry," he said in the 2001 interview.

A highlight was "taking the surrender of an entire German corps of about 100,000 troops — the 17th SS Death's Hand Division. The commander and his assistant both later committed suicide to avoid prosecution," Webster said.

After the war, Webster was stationed at Fort Benning, Ga., where their first son, Sanford Jr., was born. Their second son, Jim, was born at Fort Leavenworth, Kan. And daughter Sarah was born at Fort Belvoir, Va.

Retiring as an Army Colonel in 1962, Webster and his family moved to Palo Alto. He started out working for a small company run by a friend. Bolstered by a $400-a-month military pension, he soon ventured into selling real estate.

"I was really made for it," he said. "I made many friends. I even saved two marriages — of people who wanted me to list their homes as they filed for divorce. I talked them out of it."

Webster formed a group for small investors.

"No one was doing what I was doing. I was taking small groups of individuals who couldn't afford to invest in real estate on their own."

For an initial investment, "I took $1,500 apiece and bought a nursery," which he said became an excellent investment.

In 1967 he created Webster Realty, adding Webster Developments in 1970 and Webster Financial Company in 1981.

Webster was a nationally ranked senior tennis player until the age of 75. He also played golf.

He and his wife celebrated their 71st wedding anniversary in June.

He was a 39-year member of the Palo Alto Rotary Club and winner of the Tall Tree Award from the Palo Alto Chamber of Commerce and the Lifetimes of Achievement Award from the senior center Avenidas, where he had served on the board. He also was a former board member of the Children's Health Council and Lytton Gardens III and on the advisory board of the Palo Alto Community Fund.

He is survived by his wife, his son Jim Webster of Berkeley, his daughter Sarah Webster Goodwin of Saratoga Springs, N.Y., and four grandchildren. Webster's son Sam died while a student at the University of California at Berkeley.

A memorial service will be held Sunday, Feb. 24, at 5 p.m. at the First United Methodist Church, 625 Hamilton Ave., Palo Alto.

Allen I. Krizelman

Allen I. Krizelman lost his battle to cancer and died at Stanford Hospital on Dec. 28, surrounded by his family. He was a family man, businessman and cancer patient advocate. He battled his disease for more than six years and devoted much of his later life to helping others who shared his illness, bladder cancer.

He was born and raised in Omaha, Neb. After serving in the U.S. Army, he moved to California in 1967 to join Raychem, a Fortune 500 international material-science company, located in Menlo Park. He had more than 30 great years there, and a 40-plus-year successful career in business.

He worked extensively to establish a support group for bladder cancer patients at UCSF and also worked closely with the oncology team at Stanford. The family asks for donations to either the UCSF Bladder Cancer Education and Support Group, or Stanford Cancer Center / Bladder Cancer Research.

He is survived by his wife of 45 years, Susan Krizelman, two children Jill and Todd Krizelman and two grandchildren, Liam Nash and Dorothy Krizelman of New York, N.Y. He is also survived by his brother, Sheldon Krizelman of Nashville, Tenn..

A funeral service was held on Jan. 2, 2013, at the Alta Mesa Funeral Home in Palo Alto.

Jim Waychus

Jim Waychus of Palo Alto died on Jan. 1, 2013, at 60 from melanoma.

He was born in Indiana and grew up in Kansas and New Jersey before landing in Mountain View as a high schooler. He graduated from Stanford in 1974. After graduation he was an operations manager for AT&T for many years until his retirement in 2008.

He was a huge fan of all Stanford sports as well as a supporter of the SF Giants and 49ers.

He is survived by his wife of 35 years, Andrea Barnes of Palo Alto; his daughter, Casey Barnes-Waychus of New York; and his sisters, Patricia Waychus Pearson and Barbara Atkinson.

Shirley Christian Ledgerwood

Shirley Christian Ledgerwood of Palo Alto died on Jan. 3. She was 97 years old. She was the wife of Dr. John S. Ledgerwood (1912-2005), a dentist for many years in Palo Alto.

A native of Monterey, Tenn., she moved with her family to 2050 Waverley St. in Palo Alto in 1952. She was active for many years in the Bay Area working for world peace and was at one time active with the Girl Scouts, the PTA and the United World Federalists.

A graduate of Agnes Scott College, she was a member of Phi Beta Kappa and Mortar Board. At the age of 21 in 1936, while living in Chattanooga, Tenn., and favoring integration, she joined the NAACP. She received Masters degrees in English and librarianship, attending the University of Tennessee, the University of Colorado, the University of California Berkeley and Harvard University. She taught English at San Jose State University for five years and at Foothill College for 25 years.

She was also a librarian at Woodside and Portola Valley libraries, and was a research librarian for the Santa Clara County Libraries at Cupertino and Saratoga. She had articles and stories for children published by the Pilgrim Press. She also had several poems published. She was the author of a published novel entitled "Thy Brothers Blood." In 1995 she compiled a collection of poems by and a biographical sketch of author Catherine Marshall, her longtime friend and roommate at Agnes Scott College, published under the title "Unlocked Dreams." She also organized a book club in Palo Alto that was active for more than 54 years.

She is survived by her three children, Pamela Ledgerwood, Chris Ledgerwood and April Robinson; as well as by her six grandchildren, Lynette, Todd, Nicholas, Amy, Ana and Reid; and by her four great-grandchildren, Kaitlyn, Tyler, Liam and Cai.

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