Tue07222014

News

Q&A with Anne Wojcicki: 23andMe founder, local resident discusses Los Altos investments

Q&A with Anne Wojcicki: 23andMe founder, local resident discusses Los Altos investments


Anne Wojcicki

For the past several years, Anne Wojcicki (Wo-JIT-skee) has been quietly involved in efforts to spruce up downtown Los Altos. She and her husband, Google Inc. co-founder Sergey Brin, helped form Passerelle Investment Co., which own...

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Schools

Foothill fall registration opens Monday

Local residents interested in earning a specialized career certificate, associate degree or updated job skills can enroll beginning Monday when Foothill College opens fall registration.

In addition to its continuing-education courses, the college pr...

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Community

Sports

Stewart accepts job as baseball coach at Los Altos High

Stewart accepts job as baseball coach at Los Altos High


Los Altos High administrators offered Gabe Stewart the job of head baseball coach at Los Altos High even before he could apply for it.

“They approached me – they wanted an on-campus coach,” said Stewart, an AP History teacher at ...

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Comment

A good start – now follow through: Editorial

The recent announcement of a five-year agreement between the Los Altos School District and Bullis Charter School is welcome relief for the entire community. After years of dispute and litigation, the pact is nothing short of a minor miracle.

Among t...

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Business

In the business of fostering business

In the business of fostering business


took over as Los Altos’ new economic development coordinator in May after spending the past two years working as city assistant planner. Ellie Van Houtte/ Town Crier

Sierra Davis is wearing a slightly different hat these days as a Los Altos cit...

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Books

"Frozen in Time" chronicles harrowing WWII rescue attempts


Many readers can’t resist a true-life adventure story, especially those that shine a spotlight on people who exhibit supreme courage in the face of adversity and end up surviving – or not – against the odds.

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People

GORDON E. BRANDT

GORDON E. BRANDT

In May of 2014, Gordon E. Brandt passed away after a one and one half year battle with Lymphoma. He died peacefully at home, surrounded by his family.

Gordon was born in Los Angeles, CA on July 13, 1930. He graduated from Fremont High School in 19...

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Travel

British Columbia: Richmond, Steveston, Victoria hold surprises

British Columbia: Richmond, Steveston, Victoria hold surprises


Courtesy of Tourism Richmond
Shops, restaurants and museums dot the boardwalk in British Columbia’s Steveston, a great site for strolling.

Picturesque British Columbia has long been on our bucket list, and we recently fulfilled that dream.

We...

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Stepping Out

LA Youth Theatre, LA Stage Company join forces for 'Oz'

LA Youth Theatre, LA Stage Company join forces for 'Oz'


Joyce Goldschmid/Special to the Town Crier
The cast of “The Wizard of Oz” includes, clockwise from top left, Dana Levy (as Tinman), Rebecca Krieger (Cowardly Lion), Sarah Traina (Scarecrow) and Osher Fein (Dorothy).

Los Altos Youth Theatre and L...

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Spiritual Life

Stanford students study religion through campus artifacts

The inscriptions inside Memorial Church, the death mask of Jane Stanford and the nod to the Egyptian ankh symbol formed by Palm Drive and the Stanford Oval all have one thing in common: Each was a topic of discussion for the students enrolled in a un...

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Magazine

Festival features fun for everyone

Festival features fun for everyone


TOWN CRIER FILE PHOTO
The Los Altos Arts & Wine Festival boasts more than 375 craft and arts booths.

This weekend’s 35th annual Los Altos Arts & Wine Festival promises to be jam-packed with fun activities for just about everyone. The eve...

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O Christmas trees: Resident decorates a dozen evergreens with diverse motifs


Photos Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
The Los Altos home of Alice Faye and Robert Symons, above, boasts 12 Christmas trees this time of year, each featuring a different motif, including Radko clowns, Santas, shoes and patriotic items.

The first Christmas newlyweds Alice Faye and Robert Symons spent in their two-story Colonial home in Los Altos, she hung some evergreen garlands and decorated a tree – nothing out of the ordinary.

Today, a half-century later, Alice Faye still festoons the house with garlands; however, now she decorates 12 Christmas trees that are anything but ordinary.

This Southerner from North Carolina, fondly known as Grandma Sugar, is a collector. Each tree boasts a theme based on things she loves. The majority of the Christmas ornaments are gifts from family and friends – and she remembers who gave her each one.

“This Christopher Radko clown was given to me by my Julia and got me started on collecting Radko ornaments,” said Alice Faye of her daughter, Julia McLean of Palo Alto. The Symonses also have a son, Robert Jr., of San Diego, and four grandchildren.

Alice Faye and longtime friend Bev Wilson of Los Altos Hills began exchanging Radko ornaments at Christmas. Her favorite from Bev is Santa hanging from a hot air balloon, which “hangs around for the holidays” from the crystal chandelier in the living room.

More than 100 of the European blown-glass ornaments, which take seven days to produce, decorate the “Radko Tree” in the living room. The 800 lights that illuminate the tree are Robert’s responsibility.

He takes care of “engineering problems” – and rightfully so. He worked at Varian Associates for 32 years, then for Litton Industries Inc. in the Electron Devices Division for 18 years, retiring in 2001 after serving as chief technical officer. In 2010, Robert won an Emmy Award for inventing an amplifier that doubles the efficiency of high-power HDTV broadcast transmitters.

Two dolls in Polly Flinders dresses once worn by Julia are seated in front of the tree – one in a vintage cane chair, the other in a chair made by famed architect Julia Morgan, Robert’s godmother.

In front of the living room fireplace is Robert Jr.’s rocking horse, and on the mantel is a Hummel Nativity scene the Symonses purchased in Germany. Robert crafted the wooden stable.

A “Santa Tree” sits on a library table that belonged to Robert’s mother. It came from Vickery, Atkins & Torrey, a San Francisco firm that designed interiors for mansions, clubs and universities and sold furniture, decorative objects and jewelry.

Storybook Christmas

Alice Faye has filled the adjoining study with dolls.

“This is the first year I’ve brought out all of my daughter’s dolls,” she said.

Storybook and cornhusk dolls that Alice Faye had as a child adorn the “Doll Tree.” Madame Alexander dolls perch on an inlaid-wood upright piano that came around Cape Horn.

The two trees in the foyer complement one another. One is a “Shoe Tree” and the other a “Purse Tree.”

“If you have shoes, you need purses,” she said. “The purse tree started when a traveling companion gave me a replica of a Princess Di purse from an exhibit at Kensington Palace.”

Now Alice Faye showcases several dozen purses, including her grandmother’s petit-point purse, her daughter’s miniature “Hello, Dolly!” purse and a Judith Leiber evening bag purchased at a Peninsula Volunteers charity event. She has belonged to the Peninsula Volunteers since 1978.

“Because I love shoes, friends started giving me shoe ornaments,” she said, pointing out the Metropolitan Museum of Art reproductions of famous shoe designs that started her collection.

Alice Faye joked that she has as many shoes on the tree – something like 200 – as she has in her closet.

Teddy bears line the stairs leading from the foyer to the second floor, and a tree populated with well-loved stuffed animals sits on the landing.

A “Children’s Tree” trimmed with unbreakable ornaments highlights the family room. When Alice Faye’s children and grandchildren were growing up, they spent hours redoing the tree.

“It was all theirs – as long as they didn’t touch the other trees,” she said.

A “Patriotic Tree,” with the American flag as a backdrop, occupies a special corner in the family room. She created it at the start of the Iraq War. On it are White House ornaments, American symbols and a Radko ornament of the Twin Towers. Beneath it are political campaign buttons, including some collected by Alice Faye, the “requested stewardess” on the GOP-chartered United Airlines DC-6 that transported Eisenhower and Nixon around the country.

The Symonses met aboard a United flight from Burbank to San Francisco. Robert was among the 44 passengers and she was the sole stewardess.

“A doctor was in seat A and I was in seat B, and we both wanted to drive her home when we landed,” he said.

Robert won and they celebrated their 52nd anniversary Dec. 21.

It was just one of many special occasions this month. Alice Faye has entertained Clipped Wings members, Red Hat Society ladies, Peninsula Volunteers and others – all welcomed to view the trees and share the season.


Alice Faye Symons' holiday tree collection - Photos by Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier

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