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Joseph Lavigne of Belvedere was successful Chevron engineer, active in community

Joseph Bryson Lavigne of Corinthian Island, a retired Chevron engineer who by his own account held more than 40 patents and was an active founder of the Golden Gate Computer Society, died Nov. 20. He was 91.

Born June 19, 1927, on a farm in Opportunity, Mont., Mr. Lavigne first went to school in Butte, Mont., but moved to San Francisco and graduated in 1944 from George Washington High School while working in the shipyards.

During World War II, he served in the U.S. Army and was discharged as an infantry sergeant.

He went on to attend the University of California at Berkeley, where he earned a doctorate in chemistry, doing research on the structure of morphine and the gout-drug colchicine.

He was hired by Standard Oil of California, now Chevron, to work in its labs in Richmond. He holds about 40 patents for petrochemical products, which were assigned to Chevron, and published as many papers, according to a biographical essay he wrote for an award ceremony.

Mr. Lavigne headed an engineering group that used his chemical processes to develop the products, which included everything from drugs to oil additives to plastics. He traveled the world giving talks to technical groups.

He spent his last year at Chevron before retiring in 1986 as a licensing executive selling that technology around the world.

After retirement, he founded a personal-computer business, Innovative Solutions, which provided help to people upgrading their laptops or trying to set up home wireless networks for internet access.

He was a limited partner in Skip Henderson’s Larkspur Landing restaurant Henderson’s Grandmother, which closed in 1986.

Mr. Lavigne helped found the Golden Gate Computer Society, served as its president for five years and had been involved as a board member and representative to the national computer-user group association since then.

A Belvedere resident since 1978, he liked taking part in community activities.

He was active in the Belvedere-Tiburon Landmarks Society and was a supporter of the San Francisco Ballet, San Francisco Symphony, Marin Opera, Marin Community Playhouse and Dominican University department of music.

He enjoyed gourmet cooking, travel and photography, although he claimed his wings had been clipped somewhat since leaving Chevron, where he liked to say he enjoyed coffee breaks in South America, Europe, India and Nepal. More recently, he had visited the Great Barrier Reef in Australia and his favorite city, Paris.

His favorite holiday was the Fourth of July. He told friends, “I’d go just about anywhere for a fireworks display.”

Lavigne was an active member of the Rotary Club of Tiburon-Belvedere. He joined the group in 1988 and served as president from 1993 to 1994.

He is survived by his longtime domestic partner, Maria Woodward, and their dog, Romeo, a beagle that made the cover and pages of a bestselling beagle catalog for several years.

“I think he’s the kindest man I ever met,” said Belvedere resident and Rotary Club of Tiburon Sunset member Chris Morrison, a longtime friend.

The two local Rotary clubs will hold a joint memorial lunch in Mr. Lavigne’s honor at 11:30 a.m. Dec. 14 at Sam’s Anchor Cafe, 27 Main St., in downtown Tiburon. Reservations are required. The cost is $30 with lunch, $10 without lunch. To reserve, email Charlie Oewel at by Dec. 13.

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