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Clifford M. Pedersen

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Clifford M. Pedersen Obituary
Clifford M. Pedersen 1913-2013 The world has lost an amazing man and his family has lost a marvelous father, grandfather, and great-grandfather. Born in Oakland on November 26, 1913, Cliff passed away peacefully at age 100 with family at his side December 17, 2013 at home in Rancho Bernardo. Cliff is survived by his four children, Janet (David) Walter of Santa Rosa, Ardi (Jim) Lane of Poway, Ginger (Joe) Villanueva of San Diego, and Ken (Tammy) Pedersen of Novato, nine grandchildren and seven great grandchildren. Cliff was the oldest of six siblings, of which three survive him. His parents emigrated from Norway and settled in Mill Valley. Cliff's father was captain on the San Francisco Ferry before the Golden Gate Bridge was built. Starting at a young age by selling potato chips at the ferry dock, Cliff began the pursuit of his lifelong passion for boating. As a teenager Cliff enjoyed sailing in San Francisco Bay. At age 23, he began his own business building 20' wooden racing sailboats he called "Clippers". He also pursued a maritime career. His first stint in the process involved serving on the USS Lurline, which left Honolulu one day before Pearl Harbor was attacked. Working his way up in the Merchant Marines during the war, he obtained his U.S. Maritime Service captain's license in 1944 and was the captain of the Liberty Ship, E.A. Christensen, for the duration of the war, sailing both the Pacific and Atlantic. After the war ended, he married a beautiful young nurse, Thelma Gervolstad, the only love of his life. They met at Mount Hermon on a blind date in 1944, and were smitten with each other and became engaged after five dates. Cliff and Thelma enjoyed a wonderful, rich, 66 year marriage until Thelma's death last year. They lived in Sausalito and Tiburon and then moved to Kentfield, where they raised their family. After the war, the government put up land for auction in Sausalito. Cliff and his partner were the successful bidder, and he began building the marina he called Clipper Yacht Harbor. He built an exemplary harbor in a fantastic location on San Francisco Bay. He was known for wearing his cardigan sweaters rain or shine, kicking rocks while thinking through business decisions, and meeting with his weekly lunch bunch at the Buckeye Restaurant. He loved fast cars, motorcycles, ski boats and partnering with his son Ken in stock car racing. To the benefit of four family generations he lived by his motto, "the family that plays together stays together". He started the 50+ year tradition of taking the family to Lake Pillsbury. The first year, in 1960, he towed both a house trailer and a boat at the same time (probably why that is prohibited now). Up until he was 97 he actively took part in canoeing, sailing and boating. Always an adventurer, Cliff was the navigator on the winning boat in the Transpacific Yacht Race to Hawaii in the 1951, sailed with friends in the Greek islands in the 1960s, and sought exotic destinations via cruise ships in the 1970s and 80s. He started soaring in glider planes while in his 70s and "air chair" water skiing and roller blading at 80+ years old. His body and mind were always fit, and he stood tall ("just under 6 feet", at 5'5") and straight right until the end. He always looked and acted decades younger than he actually was. Upon retiring at age 82 he and Thelma moved to San Diego. It would be a disservice to leave out that he was also a strong-willed, stubborn Norwegian, possessed of a true captain mentality. A man of few words and frequent puns, he had a wisdom born of his common sense, optimism and vision. His word was his honor. He possessed unfailing integrity and unbounded generosity. He had a sparkle in his eyes and a genuine smile that lasted until his final year. Cliff celebrated his 100th birthday with 100 friends and family on San Diego Bay in November. Three weeks later he went home to celebrate with Thelma in heaven. A memorial service will be on Saturday, January 11 at 11:00 AM at Marin Covenant Church, 195 North Redwood Dr, San Rafael, with reception to follow at Clipper Yacht Harbor in Sausalito.
Published in Marin Independent Journal from Jan. 2 to Jan. 4, 2014
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