Walter Cottle Lester|
July 7, 1925-January 31, 2014
Resident of San Jose
Walter Cottle Lester was born to Henry Walter Lester and Ethel Elizabeth Cottle Lester on July 7, 1925 in San Jose (then Edenvale), California, in the same house where his mother was born in 1891, and his older sister Edith in 1915. The house is located on land which was part of the original Rancho Santa Teresa Mexican Land Grant, and purchased by Walter's great-grandfather Edward Cottle in 1864. Edward Cottle divided his land between his two sons, Warren and Martial (Walter's grandfather). Martial Cottle farmed his 300 acre parcel raising cattle, grain and other crops. The property, now roughly bordered by Snell Avenue, Branham Lane and Chynoweth Avenue was then passed to Walter's mother Ethel.
Walter's father, Henry, was a successful rancher in his own right. He owned properties on Snell Avenue not far from the Cottle Ranch, as well as in the Coyote Valley and other areas of what is now South San Jose, where he raised and processed prunes for market. Henry was a significant contributor to the then-flourishing "Valley of Heart's Delight."
Walter was active in farm life from the time he was a young boy, spending most of his time on the Cottle Ranch where the family lived. In 1943 during Walter's senior year at Lincoln High School, his uncle Monte Cottle died. Walter had to immediately take over operation of the Cottle Ranch. He was able to graduate from high school, but was unable to participate in the commencement exercises due to his obligations on the ranch. When Walter's father Henry died in 1956, Frank Giordano, Sr. took over management of the prune ranch operations. Frank had worked for Henry since 1950 and continued working for Walter until his retirement in the late 1980's. He continued to be Walter's friend and confidant until his passing in 2000, a role that his son Frank Giordano, Jr. then filled until Walter's passing. As the farming industry in the Santa Clara Valley gave way to homes and the growing electronics industry, the family began selling the prune orchard properties to make way for development. However, the family was united in their resolve to preserve the Cottle Ranch in perpetuity for future generations to enjoy.
Walter's mother Ethel died in 1977, leaving the Cottle Ranch to Walter and his sister Edith. Edith passed away in 1999 resulting in Walter being the sole owner. In 2004, Walter, in concert with local and state officials, executed an agreement that would lock in the family's dream for preserving the Cottle Ranch principally as a working educational farm for future generations.
Although in failing physical health over the last few weeks, Walter was very aware and alert until he took his final breath on the afternoon of January 31, 2014 in the same house where he took his first breath. Walter was predeceased by his parents Henry and Ethel, his sister Edith and by his infant brother Alvin. He is missed by his constant canine companion, his Golden Retriever, Junior. Those of us who knew and cared for Walter over the years and decades are eternally grateful for the meticulous care provided by "his girls" Sylvia, Blanca and Florida over the last four years.
Friends and family are invited to services at Oak Hill Memorial Park, Chapel of the Oaks, on Sunday, February 9, 2014 at 2:00 PM. Interment will follow at 3:00 PM.
Published in San Jose Mercury News/San Mateo County Times on Feb. 6, 2014