Paula Wildanger, a longtime Los Altos resident and business owner known for her passion for people and history, died March 15 after several years of declining health. Mrs. Wildanger was 79.
Mrs. Wildanger, who moved to Los Altos in 1959 with husband Edward, was born in Colusa. She was a third-generation Californian whose great-great grandfather arrived from Oregon in 1846.
She graduated from Stanford University with a degree in physical therapy, and in the late 1940s traveled the country with the March of Dimes, helping patients stricken with polio. In 1950, she married Edward Wildanger of Redbank, N.J., and began raising a family in the Bay Area.
From 1967-1970, the family lived in Hurley, England. Paula and Edward made sure the family took advantage of the opportunity to see most of the countries in Western Europe and some in Eastern Europe. They visited 26 different countries and 48 states (only missing Alaska and North Dakota), Edward said.
The Wildanger family continued broadening their horizons as residents of Waterloo, Belgium, for two years. In both of the family's transglobal moves, Paula was responsible for packing and setting up the households. Edward described her as "adventurous, innovative and self-reliant."
When the Wildangers returned to the United States in 1973, Paula helped found and lead the family business, Eurodesign Furniture, in Los Altos. "She was a very major factor in getting that running," Edward said. Mrs. Wildanger retired in 1998.
Before her illness she was active in P.E.O. International, an organization providing educational opportunities for women. She also helped organize and manage the Museum Shop at the Los Altos History Museum.
Other interests included traveling with Edward, entertaining, hosting guests and cultivating a wide circle of long-term friendships around the world. "She made friends wherever she went," Edward said.
She cherished her family's history and had researched her genealogy as far back as the 16th century. One ancestor Mrs. Wildanger uncovered was a major in the Revolutionary War who was captured and held hostage by Indians for a full year. "She loved it," Edward said of her research. "It was like (reading) a novel."
In addition to her commitment to P.E.O., Mrs. Wildanger was dedicated to her friends - in particular those in her ladies bridge club that began in 1955 and a couples' supper club that started sharing monthly meals in 1956.
"We will greatly miss her sophisticated yet unpretentious elegance, courage to explore the world and make new friends, and appreciation for the significant events and people who can shape our lives," the family said in a statement.
"She was as good as they make," Edward said. "I had 55 years with her and would not want to change any one of them."
In addition to Edward, Mrs. Wildanger is survived by three married sons: Ward (and Nancy) Wildanger of Los Altos; John (and Lisa Grundy) Wildanger of Los Angeles; and Richard (and Veronica) Wildanger of San Jose; one married daughter, Ann (and Jeff) Cone of Mulino, Ore.; 11 grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
Mrs. Wildanger's memorial service is scheduled for 2 p.m. April 8 at Foothills Congregational Church, 461 Orange Ave., Los Altos.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations in her memory to the P.E.O. Educational Loan Fund, c/o P.O. Box 1099, Alhambra 91802-1099.