Family Tradition - Page 4

Bigger-than-life figures continue to leave their mark on the Palo Verde Eichlers of Palo Alto
Family Tradition
Peter and Heather MacDonald, both designers, toss around an Aerobie ball in their backyard. The finned 'rocket football,' which reportedly sold 27 million, was designed by Peter.

The club has had winning teams and top coaches, including Ann [Warner] Cribbs, who coached while living in the Eichler now owned by Peter and Heather, and competed in the 1960 Olympics.

"It's huge," Diane Reklis says of the club's impact. The club is open to anyone, not just locals. 'Eichler,' as some people call it, remains a center of the community on a daily basis and in the collective consciousness.

Because Joe Eichler, you see, never planned to build a pool or tennis courts at Faircourt. Not until new homebuyer Sid Simon, who at age 15 had beaten soon-to-be legendary tennis champ Bobby Riggs in a doubles match, "looked around and said, 'There's a space, why don't you build us a pool?'" Diane says. "He walked over and talked to Joe, and apparently after a while Joe thought that was a good idea."

Even more than Doug Engelbart, Sid Simon remains a neighborhood icon. For one thing, people couldn't forget him because he never went away. In his late 90s he moved to senior housing nearby, hated it, and moved back. He died, age 101, while still living in his Eichler on Janice Way.

Family Tradition
Katie Renati, who manages the neighborhood's block parties, out for a stroll.

On Janice, at the swim club, and later at the YMCA, Simon was a presence. "He was always joking around, always laughing," Katie Renati recalls, adding, "He was a feature at the YMCA. He would sit in the lobby and greet everyone. People would sit with him and chat and chat."

"He was active in his synagogue," Reklis says, "though he was a very proud atheist."

There are women too among the Palo Verde pantheon, among them Naomi Sparrow, Sid's wife. When Peter and Heather first moved into their home, "there were often cars parked across the street with people sitting in them," Peter recalls. "At first we were a little bit spooked about that. Why are those people sitting in their cars?"

"Sid's wife, Naomi, taught piano lessons," he says. "We found out she was one of the foremost piano players and important persons in her field. For us, she was just a nice old lady who taught piano lessons to kids."

Family Tradition
Inside Renati's kitchen.

Besides teaching piano at Stanford for 24 years, Sparrow educated neighborhood kids, including Larry and Patti's son, Will Magid, who is building a career as a trumpeter, producer, DJ, and ethnomusicologist.

The neighborhood was originally designed to house engineers of the defense contractor Lockheed, which moved to Sunnyvale in 1956 and was "expanding like crazy," Diane Reklis says. SRI, a tech offshoot of Stanford, and Hewlett-Packard were also large employers.

"The moms also had college degrees," Rosalie Taimuty recalls of the early days, "but they stayed home with the kids." Rosalie's husband was a physicist with SRI, then Lockheed.

People in tech and science remain mainstays of the neighborhood. Sudha Nagarajan is a research scientist with a company doing clinical trials of COVID vaccines. Darcy Escovedo is an electrical engineer, her husband Andy an engineer in semiconductors.

  Family Tradition
Renati, in 2017, at a block party with legendary neighbor Sid Simon, who made it all the way to age 101.

Larry Magid notes that driveway after driveway sprout electric vehicles. In Richard Willits' driveway is a 1939 Studebaker Champion with an engine that may be gone.

"I may just electrify that thing," he says.

It's a diverse neighborhood, with 17 homes on Kenneth "which are Indian," says Sudha, who keeps track of people in the neighborhood. Asians, Israelis, and Europeans can also be found, though few if any Blacks or Latinos, people say.