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obituary
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Rufus Gerard 'Jerry' Thayer spacee Rufus Gerard 'Jerry' Thayer

Former Tiburon Mayor Rufus Gerard "Jerry" Thayer, who served on the Planning Commission and Town Council during a time of great turmoil and division in the community over the pace of the town's growth, died June 22 of aspiration pneumonia complicated by heart disease. He had been in the hospital or in care facilities since June 2013 after of a serious car accident. He was 83.

Although Mr. Thayer was associated with a no-growth movement that emerged as a reaction to frenzied real estate speculation and development in Tiburon, he was regarded even by his opponents as a moderating force on the more extreme personalities in the movement.

"He was a very hard worker for the town," said former Tiburon Mayor Lawrence Duke, who served on the council from 1986 to 1990 and who appointed Mr. Thayer to the Planning Commission during that period. "He was a pleasure to work with compared to some of the other Measure C people — honest and straightforward — he did what he considered to be the right thing."

On the heels of three town ordinances banning new development in Tiburon until traffic studies could be completed, Measure C was approved by voters in April 1986 to extend the ban through April 1988. It was later struck down in the courts.

Elected to the Town Council in 1990, he served two terms, the second one a shortened 3½ years because the council changed its election calendar and began holding council elections in November instead of April. He was mayor April 1991-1992.

He got his start in Tiburon politics as a representative of his Bel Aire neighborhood. The community of small post-war homes had its own identity, characterized by single-story homes and wide, flat streets shaded by large trees. After Bel Aire annexed to Tiburon, some homeowners and real estate investors began pressuring the town to allow second-story additions. Mr. Thayer helped his neighborhood resist and, eventually, he pushed through a change in the zoning ordinance that protected the character of Bel Aire by discouraging second-story additions. Duke, who cast a vote in favor of allowing them, says in hindsight that Mr. Thayer was right.

"He was a very fine gentleman and served his neighborhood and his Tiburon community well," said former Tiburon Planning Commissioner Virginia Brunini, a longtime former Bel Aire resident. "He always looked after the interests of our Bel Aire community."

In the 1990s, Larry Smith, Tiburon's mayor for 1984-1985, was deeply involved in the Tiburon Peninsula Foundation, which was proposing a modest beautification of Blackie's Pasture. He credited Mr. Thayer with providing the tie-breaking council vote to approve the project, which had been opposed by local environmentalists who wanted to turn it back into the wetlands it had been many decades before.

"Jerry's always been on the opposite side of my political spectrum, so I was surprised and grateful he saw the merits of our project," Smith said.
Former Mayor Terry Hennessy remembered that Mr. Thayer nominated her to be mayor for November 1996-1997, so that she could preside over the dedication of the new Town Hall building, even though as vice mayor it was his turn to be mayor again.

"It was a very gracious gesture," she said.

"He opposed putting the Town Hall at Mar West, but once it was approved, he got behind it," Hennessy said. "He was a team player. He was a kind, honorable man. It was a pleasure working with him."

After leaving the council, Mr. Thayer went back to serving as a neighborhood representative on issues before the Design Review Board, Planning Commission and Town Council, more recently, as an opponent of the Congregation Kol Shofar Synagogue expansion, which he felt would aggravate the synagogue neighborhood's traffic and parking problems.

Born in San Pedro, Mr. Thayer grew up in San Francisco, the son of Rufus C. Thayer of San Francisco and Anna Harriet Thayer, née Shewmake, originally of Atlanta. Both his father and uncle, William R. Thayer, were rear admirals in the U.S. Navy. As a boy, he also lived in Hawaii and Atlanta. He graduated from Washington High School in San Francisco and went on to earn a bachelor's degree in history from Stanford University in 1954, where he crewed on the rowing team and was in the Navy Reserve Officers Training Corps.

After graduation, he served as a Navy midshipman in the Far East. He went on to earn his law degree at Golden Gate University in 1967 and was admitted to the state bar in 1969.

For more than 40 years — almost the entirety of his law career — Mr. Thayer was a lawyer and litigator for the California Public Utilities Commission.

He and his wife, Kathe I.I. Thayer, moved to Tiburon in 1968 and lived in the Sugarloaf neighborhood. After their divorce in 1983, he moved to Bel Aire and never left. He also had a cabin among the redwoods in West Marin.

Mr. Thayer was a 75-year member of the Olympic Club, a member and camp captain of the Bohemian Club and a season ticket holder at the San Francisco Opera. For more than 40 years, he attended Stanford Sierra Camp with his children every August. He loved hiking and his adventures included treks across the Sierras and the Alps.

Mr. Thayer is survived by two children, Karin Thayer of Manchester, England, and Ron Thayer of Albany; a grandson, Aidan; and a nephew, David Thayer of Menlo Park. His brother, Don Thayer, a longtime Old Tiburon resident, predeceased him.

A memorial service will be held noon-2 p.m. July 12 at Westminster Presbyterian Church, 240 Tiburon Blvd. Donations in his memory may be sent to the Marin Humane Society, 171 Bel Marin Keys Blvd., Novato, CA 94949; or to The Nature Conservancy, Attn: Treasury, 4245 N. Fairfax Drive, Suite 100, Arlington, VA 22203.


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