Burton "Burt" Kendall
Dec 15, 1940 - Jun 22, 2020
Burt died at home on his own terms following a steady decline due to ALS. Sally Towse, his wife of forty-one years, and son James were with him. Sam Kendall, son, and Anne Kendall Arl, daughter, lived too far away and he insisted they not travel during the pandemic.
Burt was an only child, fifth generation San Franciscan, seventh generation Californian. José Joaquín Castro came to California in 1776 at age seven with his family as part of the DeAnza expedition.
San Franciscans always asked, as they do, "What school did you go to?" but by the time he entered school, his father, Nathaniel Kendall, and mother, Helen Born Kendall, had moved down the Peninsula. He entered school in Palo Alto before moving to Saratoga and attending Oak Street School halfway through fourth grade. He graduated Los Gatos High, class of 1958, and earned his degree in Physics from Stanford, class of 1962. He went on to earn a PhD in experimental high energy particle physics from Brown University and then spent time on the East Coast doing post-doc work.
In 1969, he moved with Anne and his first wife to Santa Barbara to teach at UCSB. He left UCSB in 1973 when Reagan cut the UC budget 10%, mandating that the cuts be across the board. Burt was the only non-tenured physics professor.
He had job offers at Wisconsin, UMich, and Fermi Labs (outside Chicago) but, as he told the story, he'd been in Ann Arbor in the bitter winter and he'd been in Ann Arbor in the hot sticky summer and worried that someone would get hit by a truck and he'd get tenure and be stuck in that weather.
He decided to take his chances back in the Bay Area. He'd learned a trade (computers) through his physics research and was soon hired by Systems Control, Inc., a fledgling computer company founded by former SRI employees. He met Sally through SCI and after they married in 1979, he started work at Measurex (Cupertino) and then moved on to Octel (Milpitas). He was a co-founder of LifeMasters (originally HiLife) in South San Francisco, which used cutting edge computer tech (and hundreds of nurses) to manage the health of patients with chronic illnesses. He joined SnapTrack in 2000 as they were being acquired by Qualcomm and spent the rest of his career at Qualcomm, working on location technology for cell phones. He retired from Qualcomm in 2015 shortly before he turned 75.
Earlier, he had relocated to San Francisco, as he'd always intended, and for fourteen years he and Sally lived on a walking path off the Filbert Steps on Telegraph Hill. They relocated to Pacific Heights at the beginning of 2019 when his ALS made it impossible to use the stairs in his home and he could no longer walk up to Montgomery, the nearest street.
Burt and Sally traveled extensively on walking trips with Stanford Travel/Study, group travels with OAT and other providers, as well as far-flung adventures with Betchart Expeditions. They also traveled on their own to countries around the world. Burt enjoyed the SF Symphony and organ recitals and volunteered with the Exploratorium, was a docent at the California Academy of Sciences, and enjoyed leading walking tours with City Guides.
There were a number of organizations Burt and Sally supported financially but favorites include Food Runners, SF Marin Food Bank and North Beach Citizens. Support your local non-profits!
The family would like to thank Home Care Assistance and especially caregiver Gil Rio Baldono for their help since last December. The Kaiser ALS Clinic and Kaiser Home Hospice teams were outstanding and helped make his last months easier.
Burt is survived by Sally, Anne Arl (Ed), James (Bill Stivers) and Sam (Alyssa Casey) as well as grandchildren Wednesday Jordan, Ashley Arl and Cole Arl.
Consider supporting Compassion & Choices, which helped make Burt's end of life decision possible.
Published in San Francisco Chronicle from Jun. 25 to Jun. 28, 2020.