Obituary for Robert C. Kahn

Note: I am posting this here so people who read the shortened obituary in local newspapers can see a more complete version of Bob’s life.

Robert C. Kahn, a native San Franciscan who had a multi-faceted careering — insurance broker, rancher, farmer (and athlete) — passed away of natural causes peacefully at home, surrounded by family, on October 16, 2023. He was 86 years old. He is survived by his wife Sharon, their four children, seven grandchildren, a great granddaughter, and his brother Lloyd.

Bob was born at Mt. Zion hospital in San Francisco on October 28, 1937. He attended West Portal Elementary School, Aptos Junior High, and Lincoln High School, where he was on the city’s championship swimming team and won the all-city diving championship three years in a row.

He then attended Stanford University, where he was a member of the Phi Gamma Delta (Fiji) fraternity. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in pre-architecture and art in 1959. He was the number-one diver on the Stanford swim team for four years, and he won the Pacific Coast Conference springboard diving championship in 1958 and was named as an honorable mention All-American.

After graduation, he became an officer in the US Army Transportation Corps. In 1962, he married Karen Jacobsen, a Stanford classmate. They had two daughters, Abigail and Cameron.

In 1960, Bob went into the family insurance business with his father, his uncle Charles G. (Chili) Bertoli, and his brother Lloyd. In 1968, he co-founded Kahn and Nippert insurance brokers, a prominent San Francisco brokerage firm, and sold the agency to an international insurance company 20 years later. During his insurance career, he was on the board of directors of the Western Association of Insurance Brokers.

Bob, along with a partner, bought a 32-foot double-ended Monterey fishing boat — the Pelican — in 1972, which he had for over 50 years; it was moored in Tiburon. These are the picturesque boats, based on the the design of Sicilian feluccas that are synonymous with San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf. Bob was a member of the San Francisco Yacht Club for over 50 years, and in 1977 was the commodore of the club.

Bob was an avid skier and was a patrol leader on the National Ski Patrol at Squaw Valley for over 25 years. He built a home in Squaw Valley in 1965 that the family still enjoys. He also was a wind surfer in the early days of the sport and he and two of his friends were the first windsurfers to sail on San Francisco Bay. They would frequently sail under the Golden Gate Bridge out to the Point Bonita lighthouse and back. On one occasion Bob was out there alone and broke his mast. He tried to paddle back in, but the tide was coming out of the Gate and he was getting swept out to sea. Luckily he was spotted by a fishing boat and rescued.

After selling the insurance brokerage firm, he worked as an insurance consultant in downtown San Francisco for several years, but wanted to, as he put it “…get a little country back in my life.” (He had worked at the family rice farm in Colusa, California in summers during high school.) An opportunity arose to buy a derelict cattle ranch in the Big Horn Mountains in northwestern Wyoming in 1989. The ranch was 2,500 acres, with another 6,000 acres leased from the BLM.

Bob decided to build a log house; he acquired damaged lodgepole pine trees from the 1988 fire in Yellowstone National Park. A log cabin company peeled and notched the logs and shipped them to Wyoming and Bob and three others put the house together in two weeks. He also built a barn for horses the same year. A rare class-one trout stream ran through the property for over two miles; elk, deer, and moose were abundant.

Karen passed away in 1993 and in 1995 Bob married Sharon Huntley. Bob and Sharon have lived in Belvedere for the last 30 years.

Bob, Sharon and family had some of their happiest times at the ranch, but in 2008 decided that the Big Horn Land and Livestock Company was too cold, too big, and too far from home, and they sold the ranch. He recently said, “I miss it terribly: the trout stream, the cows, the horses, the elk, deer, and antelope — but it was too far away, and besides, the glass is half full.”

Soon thereafter, they bought a small working farm in Sonoma county adjacent to the Napa Valley, with 2,000 olive trees, a vineyard, and fields of lavender. Bob acquired commercial olive oil equipment, and made olive oil for over ten years. He then formed a partnership with the McEvoy Ranch in Petaluma where they produced certified organic olive oil under a shared label.

Bob built a home on the property and rebuilt the barn after it was destroyed in the catastrophic fire of 2017. In 2018, he decided to “retire” and they sold the farm, and shifted to a much quieter life in Belvedere.

About Lloyd Kahn

Lloyd Kahn started building his own home in the early '60s and went on to publish books showing homeowners how they could build their own homes with their own hands. He got his start in publishing by working as the shelter editor of the Whole Earth Catalog with Stewart Brand in the late '60s. He has since authored six highly-graphic books on homemade building, all of which are interrelated. The books, "The Shelter Library Of Building Books," include Shelter, Shelter II (1978), Home Work (2004), Builders of the Pacific Coast (2008), Tiny Homes (2012), and Tiny Homes on the Move (2014). Lloyd operates from Northern California studio built of recycled lumber, set in the midst of a vegetable garden, and hooked into the world via five Mac computers. You can check out videos (one with over 450,000 views) on Lloyd by doing a search on YouTube:

18 Responses to Obituary for Robert C. Kahn

  1. Condolences to his whole family. And to you, Lloyd. Your brother, the one guy who knew the whole beginning, who understood without discussion. I’m sorry for you.

  2. Lloyd our Condolences to you Lloyd/your immediate Family and Robert’s Family.

    He was lucky to call you brother, as you were also fortunate. From what I’ve learned of you in your blog, and what you’ve told us of your brother, you shared much in spirit and life…

    A Leaf Has Fallen From the Family Tree
    that says Grieve not for him.
    Remember the best times,
    the laughter, the song, the good life he lived while he was strong.

    All who speak of Robert, will tell Robert’s stories and live his Legacy.

    Requiem æternam dona eis Domine: Et lux perpetua luceat eis.
    (Eternal rest grant unto him O Lord, And let perpetual light shine upon him)

  3. When an old man dies a library burns to the ground.
    What an incredibly interesting individual.
    It must run in the family.
    Many blessings.

  4. What a remarkable man, a life full of adventure! It hurts to lose a brother, but he made the best of each moment, what a blessing to have him as a brother!

  5. My deepest sympathies and condolences on the loss of your remarkable and beloved brother. May his memory be a blessing.

  6. Bob was undeniably brimming with vitality. I feel immense gratitude for having had the opportunity to know him, albeit briefly in the grand tapestry of his existence. He embodied the qualities of a true gentleman. My thoughts and sympathies are with you Sharon. The absence of your husband is undoubtedly a challenging burden to bear. I extend my heartfelt love and wishes of peace to your entire family. 🤎

  7. I am so sorry to hear the news.
    You brothers-more alike than I realized.
    I remember staying at the house in Squaw Valley-quite a place!
    Lloyd, my thoughts are with you.

  8. So sorry.
    Two bothers, more alike than I realized.
    I remember staying at the house at Squaw & taking the lift with Bob.
    When we reach the top, he flew off the cliff & I took the easy way down.
    Lloyd, my thoughts are with you.

  9. So sorry for your loss. I remember after first talking to Bob I told Kim I think I just met my hero! The history and adventures of his life seemed amazing. Thank you for sharing.

  10. I was shocked to read of the death of Bob. How could he possibly be ready to leave his earthly being? I knew and dated Bob when I was still in high school. Such a gentleman. I remember him telling me about his “unicorn” bump he called it. A tiny bump in the middle of his forehead that bothered him. Soon I met the rest of his friends Ken Metzger and Glenn Storek (who was 14 at the time) They were terrible teases! I knew Karen and the girls and may have even been out to Bolinas to meet you Lloyd. I was married to Rich Storek for 25 years. Many of that San Francisco group are dying and yet I still see them as young men full of fun.
    So sorry for the loss of such a sweet guy. Hugs to Abby and Cammie.

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