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Obituaries

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John C. Colver

John Colver, a long time resident of Belvedere, was born and educated in England, where he graduated in liberal arts and then read law at University College, London. He grew up with horses, playing rugby, sailing, and tinkering with old cars. In 1955, he visited an aunt in Canada, intending to take a break before setting on a career and marrying Rosalind, the girl next door (literally).

But a few weeks turned into five years of adventure throughout Canada, the United States, Mexico and the Caribbean, working at just about everything from a production controller with General Motors to a dispatcher up country in the coastal forests of British Columbia, a horse wrangler on location for Columbia Studios, a cowboy in a live Wild West show at Crash Corrigan's in Chatsworth (now the Lone Ranger Ranch), and in various bit parts in Gene Autry movies. John also spent two years as a coast-to-coast racetrack handicapper for a Los Angeles betting syndicate, a choker setter in the Redwoods country, a washing-machine repair man, and a deck hand in the Caribbean.

In 1961 he and Rosalind were married in England and the cowboy guitar and the racing form were exchanged for a bowler hat, pinstripe suit, furled umbrella and a rolled up copy of the London Times, the badges of office if you worked in the City of London, where John was gainfully employed as an international real estate agent. This career lasted two years before greener pastures beckoned, more specifically the golden hills of California. Selling everything they owned in England, John and Ros bought a new Mini Clubman in 1963, shipped it to New York City, then spent several months driving across country.

Early years in Marin County and San Francisco were unremarkable against a backdrop of the "Summer of Love" and the irresponsibility of youth until 1967, when John joined Tishman Realty and Construction, a publicly held company listed on the New York Stock Exchange since the 1940s and the largest owner/builder in the country of luxury apartments and high-rise office buildings. The following year, 1968, John and Rosalind moved to Belvedere and joined the Corinthian Yacht Club. Within a few short years, John had risen to vice president of the San Francisco office and its regional subsidies, and in 1977, when CEO Bob Tishman decided to take the company private, John was part of a small group headed by brother Alan Tishman that did a leveraged buyout of the operating company.

The new company, operating out of New York, Chicago and Los Angeles/San Francisco separated after three years to each focus on its regional interests. As senior vice president of operations and a general partner of real estate for Tishman West, John was personally responsible for all activities outside of Los Angeles, including design/development and asset and property management of several million square feet of Class A office space in San Francisco, including the development of 425 California St., 525 Market St., 71 Stevenson St., and 250 Montgomery St. Outside of San Francisco, John headed the development of the office centers in Walnut Creek, Aurora, Colorado, and Scottsdale, Arizona. Additionally, John developed and managed office space in San Diego, Seattle, and London, typically in joint ventures with U.S. institutional partners and British and Japanese interests. Of great significance, John was a mentor to the young men and women who worked with him at Tishman, and he had the respect and admiration of all those he touched during his business career. John retired from business in 1990.

Throughout his business career and in subsequent retirement, John was an avid sailor, racing offshore in the 1960s, then with Rosalind in the Knarr fleet on San Francisco Bay for 32 years, owning both a wooden and then a fiberglass Knarr. He served as admiral of the Knarr fleet three times and five times was chairman of the International Knarr Championship. A trophy was named in his honor several years ago. He and Rosalind and fourteen fellow Knarr sailors raced the Twelve Meter America's Cup winner Columbia for three seasons on the East Coast in the classic twelve meter circuit, taking first place overall in two seasons, and the silver medal in a third season. A member of the Corinthian Yacht Club since 1968, John served as commodore on two separate occasions and was a leading force in a major rebuilding of the clubhouse in the 1980s and construction of the new harbor in the 1990s. He was also a founding director and president of the Spaulding Wooden Boat Center in Sausalito, and was involved in the rescue and reconstruction of the classic vessel Freda B.

Also a power boater, other principal interests included salmon fishing in Canada and offshore San Francisco, off-road exploration and camping in the high desert and Death Valley, and frightening himself and his faithful passenger throughout the local countryside in his replica 1953 C-type Jaguar. Golf was also a major part of his retirement, and he was privileged to play, with his close golf and sailing friends, many of the great courses of this country, Ireland and Scotland.

He was a member of The Olympic Club, the Royal Thames Yacht Club in England, and the Little Ship Club in London, for which he was the honorary San Francisco port officer since 1968. But the most exclusive club of all was the Royal John Colver Yacht Club, occupying the beach house of John and Ros' home at the foot of their cliff on Belvedere Cove. Its parties in the 1980s and 1990s will long be remembered.

Most importantly, John will be long remembered as a quintessential Englishman — always particularly well-spoken, often stubborn and an extraordinarily warm and generous friend to all who knew him well. John was an endless font of knowledge, experience, and capability for all those who frequently needed his advice and counsel.

John is survived by his wife of 56 years, Rosalind, his sisters Angela Colver and Mary Colver in England, many cousins in England and Canada, and his two constant companions Daisy and Ollie.

"May your seas be calm and the wind always at your back."

The funeral was private and a Thanksgiving and Celebration of John's life will be held at a later date. Donations may be made in John's name to the Spaulding Wooden Boat Center.

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