The Pleasanton community lost one of a kind last week when Charles Huff, a longtime community contributor, local architect, devoted family man and the city's "unofficial historian", died suddenly of natural causes. He was 75.
We profiled Huff just last year when was named an Ed Kinney Community Patriot for his decades of service to Pleasanton. And reading more about his life in the obituaries on the Weekly website and his Ever Loved memorial page really tells the story of Huff's impact on this community he was so passionate about.
Fitting as Huff was a storyteller at heart – with a dry sense of humor to boot – according to the growing count of remembrances on his online memorial.
Born in Berkeley and raised in Whittier outside Los Angeles, Huff became drawn to building design at a young age, inspired by an older church parishioner who was a professional architect, according to his obituary. He also still holds a track record at California High School (no, not that Cal High) for his time of 21.7 seconds in the 220-yard dash.
He met his future wife Kathleen, or "Kay" as many around here know her, in San Luis Obispo where he graduated from Cal Poly. They lived in San Jose for a time before relocating to Pleasanton for good in 1980 with newborn son Ryan – later to be graced with a second son, Tyler.
His Pleasanton roots spread that much deeper in 1985 when he established his own firm, Charles Huff AIA Architect.
Professionally, over the next 38 years, Huff would design more than 1,400 homes and businesses in the Tri-Valley. His obituary also spotlighted his work in the Monterey area, namely a remodel of a former home of late author John Steinbeck. I have to imagine the historical connections of that project piqued Huff's interest greatly.
Huff was fascinated by – and loved entertaining others with – stories of local history.
"So he served as the city’s unofficial historian, documenting Pleasanton history and leading downtown tours with stories of early settlers, underground tunnels, movie locations, murders, speakeasies and brothels," his family wrote. "Along the way, business owners would tell Charles about ghostly encounters they experienced in older buildings."
The Museum on Main's Ghost Walks, which were born from the ghost tour of town Huff used to lead, likely won't seem the same this year when they return next month ahead of Halloween.
Supporting the museum was one of Huff's community passions. He helped renovate the historic downtown building in the 1980s that now houses the museum, and he served on the board of directors for the Amador-Livermore Valley Historical Society/Museum on Main for over 30 years. And his family is asking those who want to honor Huff's memory to consider donating to the Charles Huff Memorial Fund at the Museum on Main.
Among other service roles, he volunteered on the Pleasanton Downtown Design Review Committee, the Pleasanton Rotary Club, the Rotary Club of Pleasanton North and the Pleasanton Jaycees. Plus countless hours contributing to local sports and Boy Scouts as a father.
He and Kay were among the community stakeholders polled about the need and feasibility of a local newspaper before the Pleasanton Weekly was founded in 2000. He also contributed a historical column to the Weekly for a period.
Huff received the Pleasanton Chamber of Commerce Community Service Award in 1990, and he and Kay shared the chamber's Distinguished Individual Service Award in 2006. Then, of course, the coveted Ed Kinney Community Patriot Award in 2022.
We can't write the modern history of Pleasanton without a section on Charles Huff. Rest in peace.
A celebration of Huff's life is set for this Monday (Sept. 11) at 11 a.m. at Trinity Lutheran Church in Pleasanton, to be followed by a reception downtown at the Veterans Memorial Building.
My thoughts over the last week have also been with the family and friends of Jared Lee, a recent Dougherty Valley High School alum who died unexpectedly last month at age 25 in the Irvine area where he was living and working for the UC Irvine Office of the Ombuds.
He was the youngest child of San Ramon Valley Fire Protection District Board President Michelle Lee and Roger Lee, current president of the Dublin Historical Society.
"In Jared, the world has lost a beautiful soul. His kindness, love, and commitment to service will continue to inspire all who knew him," Lee's family wrote in a heartfelt obituary remembering the former Dougherty Valley class officer, Eagle Scout, multi-sport athlete and "Mr. Wildcat" finalist.
Like his obituary on our website, Lee's memorial page on Ever Loved paints the picture of a compassionate and enthusiastic young man with a "boundless creative spirit" – plus comment after comment of fond memories of Lee and kind words for his family, often with a favorite photo attached.
The International Obmuds Association also paid their respects on their website, saying, "Jared was a key member of UC Irvine's Office of the Ombuds, a wonderful colleague, a rising star in the Organizational Ombuds profession and an overall amazing human being. He will be missed dearly."
It's absolutely heart-wrenching to see a local elected official lose a child while serving, but sadly something we've been all too familiar with in the Tri-Valley in recent years. Condolences to Michelle Lee and her entire family during this unfathomable time.
A celebration of life for Jared Lee will be held this Saturday (Sept. 9) at 2 p.m. at the Dougherty Station Community Center in San Ramon. Hawaiian shirts are encouraged.