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Lois Limbach


Lois was born in 1932 in Detroit, Michigan. Her parents were Archie and Katherine Robinson, and she had a younger sister, Helen. In 1943, they moved to Chevy Chase, Maryland, for her father, a journalist, to become the press secretary for the U.S. Department of Labor. Lois attended Woodrow Wilson High School and Middlebury College in Vermont. She was president of the women’s student government and graduated Phi Beta Kappa in 1954 with a degree in political science.


In her sophomore year, Lois broke her leg skiing on campus. Luckily for her, a tall young man named Karl Limbach held the door for her as she hobbled into class on crutches. After several wonderful years together building shared friendships at Middlebury, they married in 1954. Lois and Karl celebrated their sixtieth wedding anniversary the year before Karl’s passing in 2015. She often said that they were just the right person for one another.


After college, Lois and Karl moved to Cleveland, Ohio. Lois completed her master’s degree in education, worked as an elementary school teacher, and put Karl through law school at Western Reserve University. Following the untimely death of Karl’s father in 1956, Lois and Karl decided to move out West, along with Karl’s siblings and their spouses.


In 1958, Lois and Karl had a daughter, Leigh Katherine Limbach, and four years later a son, Robert Calvin Limbach. Karl and his brother George worked as patent attorneys, ultimately founding a successful firm together, Limbach and Limbach. Lois raised their family in Orinda, where she and Karl made many lifelong friends. The family home was a favorite destination for Leigh and Bob’s friends, with a pool out back, a drawer in the kitchen full of sweets, and Lois’s warm and attentive presence. Many of those grown children now report feeling that Lois was like a second mother to them.


In 1979, Lois decided to enroll at the University of California’s Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco. At the age of fifty and with striking white hair, she graduated and passed the bar on her first try. She went on to practice family law for a decade and chaired the Marin County Civil Grand Jury. In 1985, Lois and Karl moved to a historic ark houseboat on pilings over San Francisco Bay in Belvedere, with their beautiful view of the city and a dock for their sailboat and later motorboat. They made many enduring friendships during 35 years in the community.


Lois and Karl’s son Bob settled in Olympic Valley, a short drive away and a favorite family destination for winter skiing and summer visits to Tahoe. Lois and Karl’s daughter Leigh and her husband Roy Johnson settled in Portola Valley, close enough for frequent visits to see the grandchildren. Lois was grateful to live to see both her grandchildren married and charting their own courses through life, Calvin Karl Johnson and his wife Amanda Nelson in Boston and Natalie Sydney Hell and her husband Maximilian Hell in Santa Cruz.


Lois made and nurtured many friendships through her life with people of different backgrounds and ages. She kept up correspondence and frequent visits with friends around the country and world, including traveling to Sydney, Australia, at the age of 85 to visit a dear friend. She liked deep conversations and surprised many she met with an incisive, witty comments, right up until the last weeks of her life. A lifelong reader, Lois enjoyed 25 years of membership in her women’s book club. In 2021, Lois had the pleasure of hosting her granddaughter, a recently published author, as a guest at this book club.


Lois saw and helped to further much change over her lifetime in the opportunities given to women. The first woman to attend postgraduate education in her family, Lois was a lifelong learner. In a striking inter-generational parallel, Lois was turned away during a post-college interview at IBM when the interviewer heard she was about to be married. By contrast, her daughter’s job right out of college was with IBM with no such questions asked. Lois enjoyed and made the most of the opportunities that were available to her in her younger years. As things started to change, she courageously stepped into that new world of possibility, becoming a lawyer.


During Karl’s tenure as commodore of the St. Francis Yacht Club, Lois and Karl made a donation to establish the first Yachtswoman of the Year Award, amongst other changes to make the club more inclusive of women. Always a class act, Lois was not one for complaining. Instead, she kept her own counsel, led by example, and encouraged the ambitions of her daughter, granddaughter-in-law, and granddaughter. She has been a role model to many.


Lois died at home surrounded by family on May 19, 2021. A memorial service will be held at the San Francisco Yacht Club at 98 Beach Road in Belvedere on Thursday, June 17, at 3 p.m.

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