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Thanks to the Jelich family and their legacy


The passing away of Zelda Jelich February 12 is the end of an era in Portola Valley.

Zelda was the matriarch of the last generation to own and operate the family-owned Jelich Ranch going back for well over a century to the 1890s.

But, those of us in recent generations who knew the Jelich family -- as well as those who did not have that good fortune -- will continue to enjoy their legacy as an important chapter in the rich agrarian background of the Jelich Ranch. Fortunately that history is well covered in the beautiful book Life on the San Andreas Fault, by Town Historian Nancy Lund and Pamela Gullard.

I had the pleasure of knowing Zelda's husband, Walter, very well and was honored to be asked to speak at his funeral service in 2000. Well before, in the mid-1950s, I became very concerned with others for the increasing need to gain more local legal jurisdiction over large real estate developments. I visited with all the large property owners, and became good friends with Walter -- partly because of our mutual interest in agriculture. Walter and his brothers were one of the few large property owners who did not oppose Portola Valley's incorporation in 1964.

He annually brought his beloved red tractor to plow fire breaks and mow pastures on our 10-acre Westridge property before we truly had "horse power" to eat the grass.

Our family, wife Jean usually with our three children, along with many others from far and wide, helped make the Jelich Ranch a Bay Area visitor attraction to buy apples, corn, pumpkins, and tomatoes -- all home grown on the ranch. In later years, the Jelich's daughter Joyce, and her husband, Jack Pilkington, carried on the family business and the good-neighbor tradition. The ranch, and its well-cared-for orchards, continue to prove that we were on target when we voted to create a "rural open space community."

And, thanks to our heads-up town government and the Phil White family that bought the entire property, significant open space has been preserved along the critical Portola Road scenic corridor. Along with the historic School House (that Walter attended), Windy Hill, and a future new Town Center, the history and preservation of the Jelich Ranch is helping Portola Valley to have a unique "sense of place" -- and, I am sure, Wally Stegner would agree.

Bill Lane

Westridge Drive, Portola Valley
February 22, 2006
The Almanac

"Jelich Ranch owners discover joys, hardships of farming,..."
August 13, 2003
The Almanac                                       

"Old is new again..."
January 22, 2003
The Almanac

"Portola Valley: New owners of Historic Jelich Ranch say they’ll restore it to its former appearance..."
September 27, 2000
The Almanac                                  

"Portola Valley pioneer dies at 84 Walter Jelich was old-time farmer at Jelich Ranch..."
January 12, 2000
The Almanac
"Folger Stable another relic worth saving... Thank you to Sharon Driscoll and the Almanac for the August 13 article on the Jelich Ranch. It was a welcome tribute to the positive efforts of Cindie and Phillip White to restore and maintain, rather than demolish, old ranch buildings and farmland that represent our rural community...."
Letter to the Almanac Editor...
August 27, 2003

When going to this link, you will arrive at a page in the Almanac News that has several letters. Please scroll down to the bottom of the Almanac's page to see this letter: "Folger Stable another relic worth saving".

The Almanac

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