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.
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.