Bob Grimm

Los Altos loses its quiet contributor

Friends describe Bob Grimm as a modest, positive man whose volunteer contributions to Los Altos and beyond will benefit future generations.

If it was a worthy cause, Robert Grimm was always there to help.

The former Los Altos mayor and retired Hewlett-Packard Co. executive quietly volunteered in many capacities inside and outside Los Altos, over many decades and in many ways. Through donations, considerable technical expertise and sage advice, Bob built community everywhere he went.

Bob, 88, died in Tanzania, Africa, Saturday from injuries sustained when a sudden gust of wind overturned his tent Friday. He was on a trip to the Serengeti plain with longtime friends Art Carmichael, also a former Los Altos mayor, and Julie Rose, president of the Los Altos Chamber of Commerce.

Carmichael said a “mini-tornado” hit their camp and a wooden bed landed on top of Bob. Carmichael accompanied Bob as he was airlifted to a hospital in Arusha, the nearest city. Carmichael said the injuries were not considered life threatening at the time, but Bob died the next day of cardiac arrest.

“There is nothing Bob touched in the city of Los Altos that he didn’t make better,” said Richard Henning, Professor, Dean and Vice President Emeritus at Foothill College and a longtime friend. “He was the most relentlessly positive man I ever knew. He never judged others and accepted everyone. He was a towering person in my life for three decades and, with his passing, part of me is gone. I am overwhelmed with grief.”

Consummate volunteer

A major supporter of organizations ranging from the Los Altos History Museum to the Tech Museum of Innovation in San Jose, Bob offered a helping hand everywhere. If he wasn’t donating money, he volunteered as treasurer on numerous campaigns for city council, school board, parcel taxes and bond measures. If he wasn’t addressing a technical issue with one of the floats for the annual Festival of Lights Parade, he was at a community meeting, lending thoughtful advice on how to address a problem.

Perhaps what made him even more endearing was a humility that belied his tremendous talents and involvement. Bob was a listener who only spoke when he felt he had something to contribute.

“Bob was so selfless and quiet about all his accomplishments,” said Nancy Schneider, who worked with him for years on the Festival of Lights Parade. “I’m not sure anyone knows how many groups and projects he volunteered for and supported. Our group, like so many other nonprofits, is better in so many ways because of Bob’s time and contributions. He was truly a great man.”

“Bob Grimm was the heart of The Tech,” said Tim Richie, president and CEO of the Tech Museum of Innovation. “Beloved by staff and board, Bob created one of our signature programs, The Tech Challenge, and helped lead our construction efforts when we built our current building in the late 1990s. He was the most knowledgeable IMAX volunteer in the country. Bob was unfailingly generous, persistent, kind and rigorous. The world is different now that he’s gone.”

Bob is one of the main reasons Los Altos has a history museum. He and his wife, Marion, made it their mission to bring a first-class museum to Los Altos. In part because of their efforts, the Town Crier selected the Grimms as its Los Altans of the Year for 1997. Bob donated $10,000 a year to ensure that the museum charged no admission.

“He has been such a big part of Los Altos for so long,” said Nan Geschke, who served with Bob as co-project managers of museum construction.

Geschke marveled at how Bob responded to requests for projects.

“When do you need it?” she recalled him saying. “Next thing you know, it would be done.”

A legacy of service

Born in Macon, Mo., in 1926, Bob earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in engineering from Purdue University. He immigrated to California when he joined HP as a development engineer in 1951. Two years later, he married Marion, an Ohio native who was doing graduate work in psychology at Stanford University. In Marion, a no-nonsense, hardworking community contributor, Bob found his soulmate. Marion passed away in 2008.

Both before and after his retirement from HP in 1986, Bob was an active volunteer. He worked with the United Way for 20 years, including a stint as president of the United Way of California from 1978 to 1980. He also served on the boards of the local YMCA and Red Cross branches.

He served eight years on the Los Altos City Council from 1976 to 1984, including a one-year term as mayor in 1979. In keeping with Bob’s modest nature, it was his wife who goaded him into running for council.

At one time or another, Bob has actively supported the local public school districts. He helped lead a successful drive for a $58 million bond for the Mountain View Los Altos Union High School District in 1995 and assisted in a variety of capacities in the Foothill-De Anza Community College District. He also was active in the successful passage of the Los Altos School District’s $150 million bond last year.

“So many of us had the opportunity to be touched by the wisdom and caring of Bob,” said Jeff Baier, superintendent of the Los Altos School District. “He had such great knowledge of so many things: engineering, politics, education, ethics – the list goes on and on. I had the opportunity to work with Bob on two campaigns: a parcel tax and the recent bond. He was so insightful and expert at cutting to the core of an issue – after he politely listened to what you had to say on the topic.”

Although Bob was quiet by nature, he loved adventure, as his trip to the African Serengeti indicates.

“He lived until he died,” Geschke said. “He never shirked from anything. He embraced life to the fullest.”

Bob is survived by four children, Thomas Grimm (Veronica) of Denver, Sue Cummings (Clyde) of Mountain View, Mike Grimm (Donna) of Sacramento and Patty Grimm of Los Altos; and eight grandchildren.

A memorial is pending.

Los Altos Town Crier Wednesday, 25 March 2015 01:07
Written by Bruce Barton - Staff Writer/

Tributes pour in for Bob Grimm; memorial event scheduled

Tributes from all over the South Bay and beyond flooded the Town Crier last week as news surfaced of Robert Grimm’s death.

The longtime Los Altos resident, whose community contributions were many and legendary, died March 21 in Tanzania, Africa, from complications suffered during a camping accident at Serengeti National Park.

The modest, soft-spoken electrical engineer, who did everything from serving as Los Altos mayor to fixing floats for the annual Festival of Lights Parade, generated legions of accolades that spoke to his abilities and accomplishments, but mostly to his character. Quietly energetic, endlessly positive and thoughtful, Bob listened intently and offered wise advice in a way that cut to the heart of the matter.

“I cannot list the descriptors of his character, but if everyone in the world shared them, there would be no conflict, no racism, no corruption, no wars,” noted Roy Lave, who served with Bob on the city council in the 1970s and 1980s. “The community is poorer for our loss. He is irreplaceable.”

Added longtime friend and former council colleague Jane Reed: “Bob was always dedicated to causes far bigger than just himself. He loved helping others and generously gave his time to the community. In honoring his life, we should reflect on his legacy of selflessness as we each go on in our lives. He will be missed more than anyone can realize.”

Melding career with service

The Macon, Mo., native immigrated to California in the late 1940s to work for Hewlett-Packard Co. Bob earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in electrical engineering from Purdue University.

His considerable technical expertise enabled him to scale the HP corporate ladder. From 1956 to 1968, he served as manufacturing manager and later general manager of HP’s Dymec Division. He next undertook a stint as marketing manager for HP’s Systems Division and Automatic Measurement Division. In 1974, HP appointed him director of the Integrated Circuits Laboratory in the company’s central research laboratories. He became director of the company’s Technology Research Center for semiconductor research in 1978. He was selected to create and direct the Manufacturing Research Center in 1984, which he did until his retirement in 1986.

“It was my pleasure and privilege to meet Bob in 1949 when he joined Hewlett-Packard,” said Alan Bagley, a longtime HP colleague, friend and fellow volunteer at the Los Altos History Museum. “Bob could never see a need without pitching in to help – that includes things like helping a kid having trouble building something or a worthwhile organization in financial trouble. … Let there be no doubt about it – Bob Grimm was a great man, a truly great man. The world is a better place and a warmer place from his doing.”

While working full time at HP, Bob still found time for leadership roles at the United Way, where he volunteered for 20 years, and on the Los Altos City Council, where he served from 1976 to 1984.

Among his other community connections, he served on the boards of the American Red Cross, the YMCA of the Mid-Peninsula, the Foothill-De Anza Foundation, the Los Altos Community Foundation, the Center for Excellence in Nonprofits, Downtown College Prep (a charter high school)and the Resource Area For Teaching. He also served on the Foothill-De Anza Audit and Finance Committee. He was instrumental in the growth of The Tech Museum of Innovation in San Jose and was still on the board at the time of his death. Until the end, he remained active in the Los Altos History Museum and Los Altos Festival of Lights Association.

“Bob Grimm’s impact on Silicon Valley is pervasive and enduring,” said Peter Giles, former CEO and president of The Tech Museum. “There are many sides to Bob Grimm. His playful side was never far away. Watching his excitement as he arranged for the construction of the ‘ball machine’ at The Tech was to observe in action the boy Bob in some wonderful ways remained – fascinated with how things worked, always seeing the fun in designing, building and making things. He donated the ‘ball machine’ for the entrance to The Tech because he wanted kids to see the fun he saw in making things work. There are at least two generations of young people growing up in Silicon Valley who were exposed to the fascination and fun in technology because Bob did not want them to miss that.”

Dick King, who worked with Bob for more than 25 years at The Tech, noted: “I say with certainty that that institution would not exist if it hadn’t been for Bob.”

“Bob was generous with more than money,” added John Day, another longtime friend and Los Altos resident who worked with Bob at the United Way. “His advice and counsel were freely offered to all who sought it on community issues. His sound judgment and wry sense of humor were always present. … He was a man of action, never one to let what mattered move at its own pace.”

Good friends Julie Rose and Art and Jean Carmichael were with Bob on his final trip to Africa. “Bob and I spent many hours together, almost 40 years, working hard for the good of our community and then playing almost just as hard,” Art Carmichael said. “Bob’s goal was to live life to its fullest. He said many times that he wanted to round third base and slide into home plate at the end. He did just that, on the high plains of the Serengeti filming wildlife. … We know he will rest in peace.”

Bob is predeceased by his wife of 55 years, Marion, who died in 2008; his son Terry, his brother Stan and his sister Donna. He is survived by four children – Thomas (Veronica), Sue (Clyde) Cummings, Mike (Donna) and Patty – 10 grandchildren; seven great-grandchildren; his sister-in-law Jane and nephews David, Mark and John; and his brother-in-law Stan and nieces Kathy and Kristen.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to: The Tech Museum of Innovation (, the Los Altos History Museum (, Downtown College Prep’s general fund or Bob Grimm Scholarship Fund ( or a Bob-related charity of the giver’s choice.

Some comments for this article were taken from the Town Crier’s website,, as well as from emails.

UPDATE: A memorial event for Bob Grimm is scheduled 2 p.m. Saturday, May 2, at Parkside Hall, 180 Park Ave., San Jose, adjacent to the Tech Museum of Innovation.

Los Altos Town Crier Wednesday, 1 April, 2015

Town Crier Staff Report

What would Bob do?

The recent passing of an extraordinary Los Altos resident, Bob Grimm, has generated a range of heartfelt reaction, from sympathy to fond memories, from all corners. That’s because Bob did not discriminate in his desire to help others with his money, time, labor, expertise and sage advice. His generosity touched the young and old, the rich and poor, the friend and stranger.

Despite his quiet demeanor, Bob was a man of action. If something needed to get done, he made sure it did.

Many stories recount instances when people casually mentioned technical problems to Bob, an electrical engineer by trade, and those problems would be fixed in the blink of an eye.

Bob seldom stuck around to receive thank-yous. He was already off helping someone else.

His modest nature meant that his name would not grace the walls of buildings like The Tech Museum of Innovation in San Jose. But one supporter noted that The Tech would not exist were it not for Bob’s efforts. The same could apply to Downtown College Prep, a charter school that helps disadvantaged youth realize their college dreams. The Los Altos History Museum would not exist without Bob and his wife Marion’s generous donations of time and money.

Virtually every day of his life was a productive one. If he wasn’t in the community helping out, he’d be on one of his many travel adventures around the world.

The accolades Bob is receiving now would probably embarrass him. He would surely deflect the mountain of praise coming his way. That’s because he didn’t see helping others as work – it was a joy and a calling for him. He naturally assumed that others would enjoy it, too. He once said about volunteering: “I highly recommend it.”

There’s much to learn from the life and legacy of Bob Grimm. His signature traits are those most of us strive to exhibit but often fall short: selflessness; humility; generosity; wisdom; practicality; technical and emotional intelligence. And like the accomplished scientist he was, Bob did not make rash judgments about others. He always gathered the facts first.

As we face our community’s problems, it might do us well to ask ourselves: “What would Bob do?”

Los Altos Town Crier Wednesday, 1 April, 2015


Bob Grimm: The definition of love: Other Voices

I have been part of the Grimm family – I was adopted – for 55 years of my life. I am currently 62.

My half-brother Terry and I came to California to stay with Bob and Marion Grimm for a short period of time with the intent of giving our biological mother time to get her feet under her. This was the second time the Grimms had offered to help. During this second visit, my brother and I were playing in the neighbor’s garage and ate some poison that was used in the garden. It scared Bob and Marion to the core! This event brought deep concern for our safety, but it also brought to the attention of all involved that there are legal ramifications to administering medical help to those outside your immediate family.

It wasn’t long after this event that my parents asked my biological mother – who was Marion’s sister – whether she would consider allowing us to stay permanently and pursue the legal processes to accomplish this. With much consternation, my biological mother agreed, and Bob and Marion became my legal parents.

To complete the legal process, Dad needed to gain the consent of my biological father as well, whom no one had seen or heard from for months. Dad spent an incredible amount of time and money, traveling to Ohio more than once, to secure my father’s consent.

It was only a handful of weeks ago that Dad and I were talking about this entire series of events and how they had shaped my destiny. As Dad described why he did what he did, as only Dad can do, he simply stated that he had become very fond of me and considered all the risks well worth the effort.

What we have all seen of Bob Grimm in the community is what he was at home: nonending sacrifice, nonending devotion. If this does not define love, then I don’t know what does. He never changed, he never gave up and he was always there – all while being kind, considerate and patient – and with neverending tolerance for me, who was so different from him.

There are no words to describe what Bob has meant to me. Allow me to be as simple as he was: Bob Grimm allowed me to live a life that was a gift.

Thomas Grimm is a resident of Redding. His father, longtime Los Altos resident and former mayor Bob Grimm, passed away March 21 at age 88.

Published in Los Altos Town Crier on Wednesday, 08 April 2015 01:02
Written by Thomas Grimm

Bob has a page on the HP Memories site. It is at:


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