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Gareth Sadler

Obituary Condolences

Gareth Wayne Sadler

October 10, 1924 –

March 29, 2014

Gareth W. Sadler died at the age of 89, kind, elegant, and brilliant to the end.

Gary was born on a small cotton farm in the Cardin Bottoms, in Yell County, Arkansas. His father was Anthony Wayne Sadler, whose family had lived in the region for generations, and his mother was Genevieve Grant Sadler, a Canadian-born Californian whose book Muzzled Oxen describes her seven years in Arkansas. The family returned in 1927 to California, where Gary became managing editor of the Palo Alto High School newspaper, graduated at the age of 16, and won a scholarship to Deep Springs, a tiny but prestigious junior college.

He joined the Navy in 1943, serving first as Officer-in-Charge on a mine sweeper in San Pedro  (most of the other sailors on board were African-American, part of the FDR administration's early efforts to integrate the Navy) and then as a lieutenant aboard the USS Garrard, an attack-troop transport in the Pacific, "luckily coming in only after the landings in the Philippines and Okinawa," he once wrote. Immediately following the Japanese surrender, Gary spent several weeks in Tokyo, where he purchased a statuette that has been with him ever since. Made from a hard piece of twisted bark, it is the figure of a man with a look of sadness on his face, reminding Gary of the desolation brought by war.

Returning to civilian life, Gary earned a BA in government from Cornell University, did graduate work at the London School of Economics while traveling, often hitchhiking, around Europe for a couple of years, then returned to Cornell for a law degree. From 1951-1954 he worked as an attorney in the Office of the General Counsel at the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission in New York and Washington D.C. While living in Greenwich Village, he met and married Mary Ann Van Sicklen Sadler, a fellow Californian who was working at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations.

They moved to Pasadena, California, in 1954, where Gary went into private practice and became active in Democratic Party politics, first as a volunteer in the Democratic Club movement and then as a candidate – he was the Democratic nominee for State Assembly in 1958 and for Congress in 1960, losing both races by landslides in heavily Republican districts. In 1963, he was appointed by Governor Edmund G. "Pat" Brown to serve first as assistant commissioner and then as the Savings and Loan Commissioner of the State of California.

After Ronald Reagan became governor, Gary became partner in a San Francisco law firm, representing savings institutions in mergers, acquisitions, and chartering, and moving to Marin County with Mary Ann and their three children.  Mary Ann, an avid birder and self-taught naturalist, died in 1991. He recently recounted this anecdote, on the subject of happiness, from a trip they took: "The actuality of joy may come through a simple epiphany, completely unsought ... Mary Ann and I visited the Burren in Ireland, where the glaciers had scraped the limestone bare.  But in small crevices there were beautiful tiny flowers growing. We felt as if we had discovered a new continent."

In 1993, Gary married Doreen Helen Marsh, another nature lover as well as an athlete, who kept him busy fishing, golfing, and skiing, and traveling during his retirement. They were married for 19 years, living in Sun Valley, Idaho (where he supported successful legislation to finally extend workers' compensation to agricultural workers); Jacksonville, Oregon; and Santa Rosa, California.

Gareth was preceded in death by his brothers, James and Donald Sadler. He is survived by his beloved daughters, Sharon, Anne, and Martha, and granddaughter, Jesse Camilla Dunne.

A memorial celebration will be held April 19. Please contact the family for details, (805) 636-9194. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the World Wildlife Fund, or Audubon Canyon Ranch.


Published in San Francisco Chronicle on Apr. 13, 2014
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