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Leland Harris Taylor ’54, a proud son of the Bay Area, passed away peacefully on July 30, 2016.
Born in Martinez, Calif. on August 21, 1932, Leland, grew up in Walnut Creek, graduated from Acalanes High School and earned an Engineering degree from Santa Clara University in 1954.
Always industrious, Leland learned carpentry and handiwork living with his grandparents at their estate on the hills in Walnut Creek at Quail Court and hunted on property which later became Las Lomas High School. At 8 years old, he signed a contract with the Oakland Tribune to deliver papers in the growing city of Walnut Creek. During high school, he worked summer jobs in Oakland and other Bay Area communities where he learned many hands-on skills and gained the confidence to take any challenging assignment later in life.
At age 16, Leland joined the Sailors Union and worked as a wiper in the engine rooms of ships as they plied routes along the West Coast and Pacific Islands. The stories he shared of the characters he engaged and the hard life during his travels, brought insight to his character and deep appreciation for his fellow man.
At age 18, Leland worked on a rail track survey crew for the Western Pacific Railroad where he learned the art of land survey.
As a young man, Leland had the opportunity to enjoy the great outdoors of California and West Coast. He shared his love for fishing and nature with his family. A newspaper article with a picture of the proud angler and seasonal record catch lake trout is posted in the family cabin as a reminder. Many birds and squirrels will miss their regular feed from Lee.While attending Santa Clara University he frequently came home to Walnut Creek to spend time with his circle of high school friends. It was during this time that he caught the love of his life, a fellow Acalanes High School graduate (although he knew little of her then) and nursing student, Avice Hatton of Lafayette. Leland was offered an internship at Bechtel, the iconic California construction firm, prior to graduation. He was assigned to work with the “best engineers” of Bechtel on a world record pipeline crossing in the Great Lakes.
Upon completion of his Civil Engineering degree in 1954 Leland joined the US Army where his engineering and hands-on skills lead him to a posting as an instructor of equipment repair at the Army academy at West Point. Leland could repair anything or, was game to try.
Once Avice completed Kaiser nursing school, the stage was set for their wedding in Carson City, NV in September of 1955.
Following his military service, Lee joined Bechtel. During his 31-year career he engineered and managed projects around the world before the family’s return to Walnut Creek. Lee’s engineering career involved working on many of the world’s highest profile construction projects: installing pipelines across India, Europe, and Argentina; negotiating the Trans-Suez Pipeline project; establishing the business operations in Saudi Arabia, and Canada; and, managing mega offshore projects in Norway. He even walked the BART tube under the Bay during its construction as part of the Bechtel management team.
As a father and grandfather he instilled a good work ethic and enjoyment of the good life in California in his family. He was an avid gardener, superior handyman, model train enthusiast, a good neighbor and friend to many.
Lee is remembered as a gracious host of many gatherings of colleagues, friends and family. He was always able to entertain with an exotic story of projects and travels past. Never to be forgotten is his evacuation by tramp steamer from Cairo, along with the rest of the Trans-Suez Pipeline negotiating team during the Six-Day War. How much Johnny Walker drank and cribbage played in 6-days may never be repeated.
Leland was proud to recount his childhood and the heritage he shared as a long time resident of Contra Costa County. His passion for his community was focused as a long standing volunteer at the Contra Costa County Historical Society where he took great pleasure in sorting old photos and images and memorializing local history using new fangled digital imaging technology. He accepted the challenges of new PC technology as a means to capture history, with the occasional curse of a sailor at unwanted PC upgrades, to the end.
Leland is preceded in passing by his parents, Harris Taylor and Lea/Lena (Parkel) Taylor and half-brother Harris Taylor. He is survived by his wife of over 60 years Avice, daughter Audrey Katzman and her husband Peter, son Leland Jr. and his wife Choo/Selina, a nephew, niece and four grandchildren.