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Palo Alto Weekly

Community Pulse - November 4, 2011


St. Mike's original owner, Vernon Gates, dies

Vernon Gates, restaurateur, painter, poet and 56-year resident of Palo Alto, died Oct. 30 from complications caused by chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. He was 82.

Gates, who opened St. Michael's Alley as a coffeehouse on University Avenue in 1959, was a positive, spirited, happy person who loved the restaurant business, according to his longtime partner, Lynn Robinson.

In its heyday on University, St. Mike's drew the likes of Joan Baez, The Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane's Grace Slick. Gates was quoted in Stanford Magazine a few years ago, saying he installed the first espresso machine south of San Francisco. That, comfy chairs, newspapers from all over the world, open-faced sandwiches and live music attracted a young, artsy crowd.

In 1974, Gates moved the establishment to the corner of Homer Avenue and Emerson Street. In the 1980s he expanded to the annex next door on Homer, turning the corner into a "fancier" restaurant and the annex into a coffee house with live music and a bakery, Robinson said.

Gates ran St. Michael's Alley until 1994, when he sold it and retired.

Born in Washington on May 27, 1929, he earned his undergraduate degree at the University of Oregon and a master's degree in communications at Stanford University in 1957.

He is survived by his 30-year partner as well as one daughter, Thalia Gates, who lives in Hawaii.


Posted by Ed Cirimele, a resident of Mountain View
on Nov 6, 2011 at 1:40 pm

Vernon, many thanks for all the years you gave us a stage to present live music at St. Michael's Alley (1986-1993)!

Posted by Paul Jacobs, a resident of another community
on Nov 8, 2011 at 4:35 pm

Dear Uncle Vernon,
Many thanks for making The Waiting Room our music room for all those years. A poem for you-hope it fits:
A bright Autumn day
candlelight glows in the sun
out in the alley
Here we meet again
around the feasting table
sharing communion
Music,story and song
beside the whitelight river
under black bamboo

a memory of Saint Michael's Alley on Decmber 6th 1990
For Vernon, Lynn, Earl,Robert Hunter,Carla,Nani, Jake Pierre and all who passed by that afternoon.
Best wishes now & always
Paul Jacobs
Cupertino, Ca
November 8th, 2011

Posted by valerie sabina hewitt, a resident of another community
on Nov 9, 2011 at 2:42 pm


You have been a delight to know. May the best of the best white wine flow easily in heaven where you most certainly are! You will be missed and your chair will never be filled at St. Michael's Alley!


With love,

Auntie Val, Uncle Bobo, Brian Michael and Kaley

Posted by Suzy P.-Thalia's friend, a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 9, 2011 at 9:13 pm

Dear Thalia,

My condolences on the death of your dad Vern. I haven't seen you for decades, but we played together as kids, listening to Beatles music, talking on the phone for hours for fun even though we lived just a block away from each other, with you living with your mom on Homer Ct. I remember your mother ironing napkins for your father on that ironing press, and sometimes we went by the restaurant, but mostly we had fun being kids. I hope you are doing well, and am very sorry on the loss of your dad. I also recently lost my mom, so I know how it is never easy to lose a parent. I am not sure that you will ever read this, but I am thinking of you. My best to you, your old friend Suzy

Posted by Denise, a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 9, 2012 at 9:12 pm

Suzy,,,contact me via FB. Thalia

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