Former Menlo Park mayor Dee Tolles dies at 79


Former Menlo Park mayor Raymond "Dee" Tolles died Monday, Nov. 12, at age 79, leaving behind a legacy of civic involvement as remembered by a number of Menlo Park's leaders over the years.

Dee Tolles was born in Berkeley on Feb. 25, 1939, to parents Raymond and Nell. He grew up in Lafayette, where he attended Acalanes High School, followed by University of California at Berkeley and San Francisco State University.

In 1960, he began a banking career in Dallas and met Laura Lou Goyne, whom he later married. He came back to California in 1968 to work at Union Bank, where he stayed until he retired in 2009 as senior vice president.

A civic legacy

Although Tolles served only one term on the City Council, from 1992 to 1996, he left a legacy of graciousness in governance, according to those who knew him politically. He served as mayor from December 1994 to December 1995, according to the Menlo Park Historical Association.

Fellow council member Steve Schmidt said that his interactions with Tolles were always cordial.

"He was a fellow that kind of rose above policy disagreements and was willing to work across the old kind of partisan lines that existed in Menlo Park in the '90s," Schmidt said.

He recalled a particularly fierce debate in the city when development was planned at University Circle in East Palo Alto, and Tolles voted against the "Libertarian"-leaning political side in favor of adding speed bumps and traffic-calming measures in the Willows neighborhood.

"He went against his political support to do what he thought was right," Schmidt said. "In that respect, he was independent of labels or voting blocs."

Several people The Almanac contacted recalled that Tolles was remarkably cordial, even while holding strong opinions.

"He wanted responsive and responsible government that lived within its means," said Menlo Park resident Hank Lawrence. "He was assiduous in his work ethic and wanted to serve the residents of Menlo Park to the best of his abilities. Everyone who met with him were better people for having known him."

Tolles was a mentor to some of the council members who came after him, Lawrence said.

Former council member John Boyle said that Tolles first contacted him after he heard that Boyle was considering a 2006 council run, and offered to sit down and talk about his experiences.

Boyle recalled, "I remember specifically his wise words of wisdom: 'Whatever you do, or consider doing, during your campaign or when in office ... don't ever neglect your moral compass. ... Would you be proud to explain to your spouse or kids or even parents what you said or did?'

"I reflected on those words often during my campaign and time in office. He inspired me as a role model, and one of my greatest hopes is that I'm able to 'pay it forward' a bit as he did."

Former mayor Lee Duboc wrote in an email: "Dee was a true gentleman. He always had kind and wise things to say."

Mickie Winkler, another former mayor, described Tolles as approachable, smart, honest, compassionate and a "model citizen politician."

Even after his term on the council, he stayed involved in local politics.

In 2001, he co-chaired a committee of supporters of Measure T with former mayor Gail Slocum, which succeeded in passing a $38 million bond measure to improve the city's aging recreational facilities.

Community involvement

His resume of civic engagement is a long one. Tolles served as president of the Menlo Circus Club board, a captain of the Mounted Patrol of San Mateo County, a chairman of the Patrol Foundation, and director of the National Center for Equine Facilitated Therapy of Woodside. He also served on the boards of Notre Dame de Namur University in Belmont, Children's Health Council of Palo Alto, Sequoia Hospital Foundation, and Peninsula Center for the Blind.

He was chairman of the 40th annual Palo Alto Concours d'Elegance, a trustee and treasurer for the San Mateo County Historical Museum, a member of the Bohemian Club, and a member of Peninsula Bible Church and Menlo Church.

Tolles loved his horse, Mr. Shot, and Ruby, his Labrador retriever, according to his son Par. He also enjoyed abalone diving in Mendocino, piloting, playing dominoes, long talks and visiting the Big Hole River in Montana.

Tolles and his wife of 55 years, Laura Lou, moved to Reno in September 2017. He is survived by Laura Lou; his son Par (Jill) and their daughters Riley and Mia; and his daughter Tori (Tom) and their children Danica and Peyton.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to any of the charitable organizations that Dee served.


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12 people like this
Posted by Jim Lewis
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Nov 15, 2018 at 12:20 pm

I remember Dee Tolles well. He was not only my banker with Union Bank, but my Mayor in Menlo Park. He was remarkable in his consistent kindness, friendly approach and attention to detail. He was truly a man to be admired and remembered.

12 people like this
Posted by Rebekah
a resident of Woodside: Mountain Home Road
on Nov 15, 2018 at 12:38 pm

Dee Tolles was the definition of kind friend and true gentleman.
We need more like him, but I'm afraid he was one of a kind.
It would be great to have a man like him leading our country!
Love and condolences to Laura Lou and the entire Tolles clan.
Dee and Shot were a great pair to see on the trails, in parades and celebrating Mounted Patrol.
Happy Trails always, Dee!

14 people like this
Posted by Jeff Peterson
a resident of another community
on Nov 15, 2018 at 2:33 pm

Dee Tolles lived a life of wholistic success. He measured a person’s success by personal character and the ability to carry oneself with respect and dignity. He was able to hold out such a standard because he personified and fully owned it.

Dee...may you live on as well as you lived here!

8 people like this
Posted by Holly
a resident of another community
on Nov 15, 2018 at 6:27 pm

Dee Tolles really seemed to really enjoy and care about people. It always a pleasure to speak to him at NCEFT or anywhere in Woodside. He was a very kind man.

6 people like this
Posted by Mary Ann Draeger
a resident of Woodside: Skywood/Skylonda
on Nov 15, 2018 at 7:13 pm

Dee Tolles an inspiration to all that knew him in ever walk of life.

7 people like this
Posted by Robyn Rabosea
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Nov 16, 2018 at 8:00 am

One of the sweetest and kindest souls to ever walk this earth. I am truly saddened by the news of his passing but rejoice in knowing that he walks side by side with the most high! May god bless the Tolles family and comfort them all during this time especially his beautiful bride, Laura lou. My thoughts and prayers are with you all Tolles family. Rest in Heavenly love my friend!

8 people like this
Posted by Jill Tolles
a resident of another community
on Nov 22, 2018 at 8:11 am

Saying goodbye to Dee Tolles:

I met Dee Tolles 22 years ago when my then “special friend” Par Tolles wanted to introduce me to his dad. We hit it off right away. He teased me about something and I immediately bantered back. We knew right off the bat we would have a long friendship.

He gave me my nickname Jilly Bean.
He taught me to love fly fishing, cigars and big open skies.
He was one of the most consistent voices of encouragement in my life.
He showed me how to find something good in everyone and to never be shy about letting them know.
He taught me to take a break every now and then, enjoy the moment and a cold beer.

He worked hard as a banker for 40 years, was the Mayor of Menlo Park, Captain of the Mounted Patrol and President of the Circus Club. He loved his dogs, horses, fly rod, duck club, flying and above all his family.

Today, we got to hold his hand and cheer him on across the finish line. As we prayed for him and told him how much we loved him, he suddenly looked up, had the most peaceful look on his face, took a few last breaths and let go. It was a blessing to love him all the way up to the gates of heaven.

With all the talk about women lately, I am also so grateful for good men. Dee was among the best of them. We will miss him so much and are grateful for the time we had with him. See you on the other side! - Jill Tolles (Dee’s daughter in law)

Like this comment
Posted by Chris Keck
a resident of another community
on Nov 23, 2018 at 6:35 am

Dee personified dignity, kindness, and was a true gentleman respected by all who knew him. He will be missed by all. The last time I saw Dee he was riding his horse while carrying the American flag in the Woodside Mayday Parade. He was smiling and sitting straight and tall in the saddle. Wonderful memory of truly a great man. Godspeed Dee Tolles!

Like this comment
Posted by Nancy Norvell
a resident of another community
on Nov 26, 2018 at 12:00 pm

Laura Lou & Dee were 2 of my closest friends when we lived in Menlo Park 2 different times for a total of 11 years, and we've kept in touch ever since I've moved to Tampa, FL for 22 years & back to my home town of Austin, TX , where we are now. Dee was a faithful friend always to me, my husband Rush & our daughters Nicole & Noelle -- we'll be forever grateful & look forward to spending eternity with Dee & the Lord in Heaven!

Like this comment
Posted by Geoffrey Shenk
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Nov 27, 2018 at 7:22 pm

Dee Tolles was my godfather when I was growing up. Our families are family. Dee and Laura Lou were my other parents growing up. Par and Tori are my other brother and sister. I have many memories of Dee from my childhood from trips to Mendocino where he would dive for abalone to plucking feathers in his garage from the birds he brought back from a hunt in their Menlo Park home. Many great summers at Kanakuk Kamp which he introduced my family to. When my Dad worked with Dee at Union Bank, I used to love it when he would have the security guard take me to the downstairs bank vault. He will be missed and remembered. Godspeed Dee.

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