Robert C. Kahn, a native San Franciscan who had a multi-faceted career — insurance broker, rancher, farmer, and athlete — passed away of natural causes peacefully at home, surrounded by family, on October 16, 2023. He was 86 years old. He is survived by his wife, Sharon, their four children, seven grandchildren, a great-granddaughter, and his brother Lloyd.
Bob was born at Mt. Zion hospital in San Francisco on October 28, 1937. He attended West Portal Grammar School, Aptos Junior High, and Lincoln High School, where he was on the city’s championship swimming team and won the all-city diving championship three years in a row.
He then attended Stanford University, where he was a member of the Phi Gamma Delta (Fiji) fraternity. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in pre-architecture and art in 1959. He was the number one diver on the Stanford swim team for four years, won the Pacific Coast Conference springboard diving championship in 1958 and was named as an honorable mention All-American.
After graduation, he became an officer in the U.S. Army Transportation Corps. In 1962, he married Karen Jacobsen, a Stanford classmate. They had two daughters, Abigail and Cameron.
In 1960, Bob went into the family insurance business with his father, his uncle Charles G. (Chili) Bertoli, and his brother Lloyd. In 1968, he co-founded Kahn and Nippert insurance brokers, a prominent San Francisco brokerage firm, and sold the agency to an international insurance company 20 years later. During his insurance career, he was on the board of directors of the Western Association of Insurance Brokers.
Bob, along with a partner, bought a 32-foot double-ended Monterey fishing boat — the Pelican — in 1972, which he had for over 50 years, and was docked in Tiburon. These are the picturesque boats, based on the design of Sicilian feluccas that are synonymous with San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf. Bob was a member of the San Francisco Yacht Club for over 50 years, and in 1977 was the commodore of the club.
Bob was an avid skier and was a patrol leader on the National Ski Patrol at Squaw Valley for over 25 years. He built a home in Squaw Valley in 1965 that the family still enjoys. He also was a wind surfer in the early days of the sport and he and two of his friends were the first windsurfers to sail on San Francisco Bay. They would frequently sail under the Golden Gate Bridge out to the Point Bonita lighthouse and back. On one occasion, Bob was out there alone and broke his mast. He tried to paddle back in, but the tide was coming out of the Gate and he was getting swept out to sea. Luckily, he was spotted by a fishing boat and rescued.
After selling the insurance brokerage firm, he worked as an insurance consultant in downtown San Francisco for several years, but wanted to, as he put it “…get a little country back in my life.” (He had worked at the family rice farm in Colusa, California, in summers during high school.) An opportunity arose to buy a derelict cattle ranch in the Bighorn Mountains in northwestern Wyoming in 1989. The ranch was 2,500 acres, with another 6,000 acres leased from the Bureau of Land Management.
Bob decided to build a log house and he acquired damaged lodgepole pine trees from the 1988 fire in Yellowstone National Park. A log-cabin company peeled and notched the logs and shipped them to Wyoming and Bob and three others put the house together in two weeks. He also built a barn for horses the same year. A rare class-1 trout stream ran through the property for over 2 miles; elk, deer, and moose were abundant.
Karen passed away in 1993 and in 1995 Bob married Sharon Huntley. Bob and Sharon have lived in Belvedere for the last 30 years.
Bob, Sharon, and family had some of their happiest times at the ranch, but in 2008 decided that the Big Horn Land and Livestock Company was too cold, too big and too far from home, and they sold the ranch. He recently said, “I miss it terribly: the trout stream, the cows, the horses, the elk, deer, and antelope — but it was too far away, and besides, the glass is half full.”
Soon thereafter, they bought a small working farm in Sonoma County adjacent to the Napa Valley, with 2,000 olive trees, a vineyard, and fields of lavender. Bob acquired commercial olive-oil equipment, and made olive oil for over ten years. He then formed a partnership with the McAvoy Ranch in Petaluma, where they produced certified organic olive oil under a shared label.
Bob built a home on the property and rebuilt the barn after it was destroyed in the catastrophic fire of 2017. In 2018, he decided to “retire” and they sold the farm, and shifted to a much quieter life in Belvedere.