James J. Ludwig
July 7, 1925 - September 7, 2020
James J. "Jim" Ludwig, born in New York City on July 7, 1925, a 70+ year resident of San Francisco and Woodside, California, passed away peacefully on September 7, 2020 in his home in Woodside surrounded by his family.
Jim was the beloved husband of Patricia Settle Dobos Ludwig; the devoted father of Jessica (Mrs. Raymond) Kolbe of Carpentaria, CA and Nicole (Mrs. Robert) McLeod of Arroyo Grande, CA, daughters with his former wife, Judith Chase Cooley; Lisa (Mrs. Andrew) Duffell of Hillsborough, CA, daughter with his deceased wife, Eileen Denari Ludwig, step-father of Theodore Dobos (Stacey) of Hillsborough, CA and Matthew Dobos of San Mateo, CA; grandfather of Sarah, Lauren, & Jonathan McLeod and Ryan & William Duffell; and step-grandfather of Theodore Dobos, Jr. and Spencer Grace Dobos.
Jim grew up on Park Avenue in New York City and his ancestry traces back to a Portuguese physician on Columbus' ship, the Santa Maria. His father, Jesse J. Ludwig, was a banker who every day fed carrots to the hoofed stock in the Central Park Zoo, and peanuts to the squirrels and cracked corn to the pigeons in Central Park. His mother, Constance Allman Ludwig, of Philadelphia, PA, headed the Nurses Aid Program in New York City during World War II. Jim's paternal grandfather was a New York City pioneer department store founder on 14th Street and an original 5% owner of the New York Giants baseball team.
At age 16, Jim graduated from the Horace Mann School in Riverdale, New York, and entered Yale University. In 1943, at age 18, Jim's studies at Yale were interrupted when he was drafted into military service for the United States Army during World War II. Jim fought as a combat infantryman and platoon radio operator with the 7th Armored Division during the Battle of the Bulge in Germany. After his service in the War, Jim returned to Yale to complete his Bachelor of Arts Degree with top grades in English Literature with the Class of 1947, and served as Class Secretary and a Member of the Class Council. Jim had a lifelong dedication to his alma maters, and organized several Horace Mann and Yale reunions throughout the years.
In 1949, Jim began a thirty-year career at Saks Fifth Avenue as Assistant to its legendary CEO, Adam Long Gimbel. In 1950, he was named General Manager of the Palm Beach and South Hampton stores, and in 1951, he went to San Francisco to open and manage Saks Fifth Avenue, San Francisco. He was named Vice President and Regional Manager for Northern California where he opened additional Saks Fifth Avenue stores in California.
Retiring from Saks Fifth Avenue in 1980, Jim was named President and CEO of the Medical Research Institute of San Francisco and in 1982, as a guest of the Chinese Health Ministry, lectured in Beijing, Tianjin, Harbin, Xian, and Shanghai on "Medical Research in the United States".
In 1982, Jim co-founded the "Saks Oil Company" which became Century Oil and Gas Corp., a NASDAQ company, on which he served as Chairman of the Board until the company was bought out. He was Managing General Partner of Fifth Avenue Associates, an oil and gas-drilling venture in Montana, and was Vice President and Co-Founder, with his Yale and New York City friend, Thomas Stroock, of Alpha Exploration of Casper, WY.
Jim was an early investor and sat on the Board of Directors of Gap Stores, Inc., and served on Trader Vic's Board of Directors. As a business consultant, he worked for Neiman-Marcus, Esprit, Aca Joe, and the New Century Chamber Orchestra.
Jim was Trustee Emeritus and 60+ year Board Member of the San Francisco Ballet, its President, Chairman of its Board, and Co-chairman of "The Campaign for the New Ballet Building", which was instrumental in saving the San Francisco Ballet from bankruptcy. He founded the Christensen Society and endowment program and was honored in 2005 at the Christensen Society Annual Luncheon, an organization of supporters of the San Francisco Ballet that he founded. In 1964 and 1965, he brought his friends Margot Fonteyn and Rudolf Nureyev to dance with the San Francisco Ballet. In 1969, he arranged a week-long performance with the New York State Theatre at Lincoln Center.
Jim was Vice Chairman and 65+ year Board Member of the San Francisco Zoological Society, its President and Chairman, honoree at ZooFest in 1998 and 2008. On behalf of the Zoological Society, Jim led four safaris to Southern and Eastern Africa, as well as trips for Zoological Society Board Members and staff to the Wildlife Conservation Society (Bronx and Central Park Zoos) and the San Diego Zoo and Wildlife Park. Jim was instrumental in raising funding for the Roberts Family African Scene, the Fisher Family Children's Zoo, the Eugene Friend Carousel refurbishment, the Lipman Family Lemur Forest, and the Taube Family Zoo Entrance and Americas exhibit, and the Koret Aviary. In his honor, the Zoo named a penguin, "Ludwig", and a plaque at the Zoo Entrance and a viewing station overlooking the African Scene bear his name.
Until his death, Jim was Trustee Emeritus and served for more than 25 years as a Board Member of the San Francisco SPCA. Jim chaired and raised the funds for the building of the Maddie Adoption Center and was a great proponent in adopting the SFSPCA's "No-Kill" policy. He chaired and raised the funds for its Capital Campaign for the Leanne Roberts Animal Care Center. Every week he delivered boxes of tennis balls from the California Tennis Club and Menlo Circus Club for the dogs to enjoy at the SPCA.
Jim was a Trustee Emeritus and three-time Member of the Board of Directors of the Hamlin School. A Member of the Board of Directors of "Collectors Forum" of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, where he led art trips for its members in the United States and Europe. He was a member of the de Young Museum's Advisory Committee for African, Oceania and Art of the Americas. He served on the Board of Directors of Laguna Honda Hospital Volunteers, a Vice President of SPUR, Member of the University of California San Francisco Foundation, and the Yale University Development Board.
Jim was a founding director and 25 year President of the Uptown Parking Corporation, that funded and managed the Sutter Stockton and Union Square Garages, founder and President of the Grant Avenue and Maiden Lane Associations, and President of the San Francisco Retail Merchants Association. As a Director and 25 year President of the San Francisco Municipal Railway Improvement Corporation (SFMRIC), Jim championed the Cable Car restoration and oversaw additional funding for MUNI's capital programs.
He established nine endowment programs in his name at: Yale University, the San Francisco Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SFSPCA), the San Francisco Zoological Society, the San Francisco Ballet, the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Achievement Rewards for College Scientists (ARCS), the San Francisco Opera Guild, and the Thoracic Oncology Fund for Lung Cancer Research at UCSF.
Jim cared deeply about politics, and served on Senator Thomas Kuchel's Strategy Committee, Governor Pete Wilson's Election Committee, Congressman Tom Campbell's Election Committee, Mayor Frank Jordan's Election Committee, Bill Bradley for President Committee, John Kerry Committee for President, and worked for his Yale classmate, George H. W. Bush, and Barack Obama when each was seeking the Presidential nomination.
As a collector of African, Pre-Columbian, Oceanic, and Contemporary works of art, he donated many pieces to the de Young Museum, the Cantor Museum of Art at Stanford University, the Oakland Museum of Art, and the Yale University Art Museum. An admirer of the performing arts, he was a 50-year subscriber, box holder, and supporter of the San Francisco Opera and the San Francisco Ballet, and was an original subscriber of the American Conservatory Theater.
Jim was a long time member of the Burlingame Country Club, the Menlo Circus Club, the Pacific-Union Club, the Family Club, the Villa Taverna where he served as Vice President, the California Tennis Club where he served as President, the Yale Club of New York City, the Confrérie des Chevaliers du Tastevin where he served as "Officier Commandeur", and a member of the Floor Committee of the San Francisco Cotillion where his three daughters made their debuts.
Jim loved tennis and played into his late 80s and was winner of the Class A tennis tournament at the California Tennis Club in 1958. He was a dedicated bridge player. He and his wife, Patsy, in 2007 won the Annual Bridge Tournament at the Burlingame Country Club in 2008 the Annual Bridge Tournament at the California Tennis Club, and in 2009 was a finalist with his bridge partner, Jim Hall, at the Pacific-Union Club's Annual Bridge Tournament.
He loved taking photographs of friends and family at events, and would keep in touch with his wide circle of friends by sending those pictures on to them. Some of his favorites photos were: in 1964, standing with his family on the stage of the San Francisco Opera House with Margot Fonteyn and Rudolf Nureyev; in 1933, standing with Babe Ruth and sitting on Lou Gehrig's lap in St. Petersburg, FL; in 1945, riding a halftrack into combat in Germany; and in 1982, playing with a baby Orangutan at the Shanghai Zoo.
Jim helped many achieve their missions and goals. When asked to take on a project or help someone in need, he seldom said, "No." He was a voracious reader and liked to write poetry. He had a wide circle of friends, but most of all, he was a devoted family man and adored his wife, his daughters, grandchildren, stepchildren, and step-grandchildren.
Due to Covid-19, a small family service has been planned. A celebration of life will be planned at a later date. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made in his name to the James J. Ludwig Endowment Fund at the San Francisco Zoological Society, One Zoo Road, San Francisco, CA 94132 or to any of the other endowment funds listed above in his name.
Published in San Francisco Chronicle from Sep. 9 to Sep. 13, 2020.