Rex Gardiner was working for Pacific Gas and Electric in the mid-1950's - his "territory"
stretched from the Peninsula down to King City. During one of his travels he admired
the area around what is now Los Altos Hills and decided to build the family home
there. He bought an acre on what is now Oneonta Drive, and worked with Joseph
Eichler to select an existing house plan that would fit the property.
In many ways the house, completed in 1951, was ahead of its time. For example, the pipes for the radiant
heat were made of copper, which was expensive and still hard to come by in the years following WWII.
Rex also consulted with astronomers at Stanford University to help him decide the placement of the house
in order to take advantage of the summer and winter equinox, and thereby reduce heating and cooling expenses
of the house, which had Eichler's trademark floor to ceiling windows.
The house was then built
by a contractor suggested by Eichler.
Soon after, Rex became involved in the effort to establish the Town of Los Altos Hills
as a separate municipal entity. The small group of movers behind this effort soon
realized that they needed to research and document a lot of information before
incorporation could be attempted, let alone take place. Specifically, information was needed on
- Map outline of the proposed town
- A budget covering income and expenses for the operation of the proposed town which
- Number of voters in the proposed town
- Assessed valuation of properties in the proposed town
- Revenues to be expected using different tax rates
- Inventory of roads, and road-length in town to establish maintenance costs
- Police and Fire service costs
Because Rex's boss at PG&E was prepared to give him sufficient time off to perform
this work, Rex became the de facto volunteer staff to research and assemble this
information. It is that set of documents - created at that time - that forms the core of this
Rex Gardiner was born in Taft, California, in 1922. His parents had moved to San Jose
in about 1924, and thus most of the family are long-time Santa Clara Valley residents.
He attended school in San Jose - Hester Grammar School on the Alameda (since torn
down - the oldest grammar school in California), Hoover Junior High on Park Avenue,
and San Jose High School (the old, old San Jose High then on the corner of Forth and
Julian, an area now part of San Jose State's campus.) and went on to San Jose State
College, now San Jose State University. .
After three years at San Jose State, at the onset of WWII,
Rex went to work at the Alameda Shipyards fitting copper pipes in Victory Ships
He was subsequently drafted into the army in 1942. He was sent under the Army
Special Training Program (ASTP) for two years at Texas A & M for training in electrical
engineering. The war ended just after he graduated from A&M. He could have spent
six more months at A&M and obtained his engineering degree, but decided not to.
His first wife thought this had been a bad decision and Rex admitted it probably was, but
he was not interested in being an electrical engineer
as his father had been; he wanted to do something more.
After coming home to the family house at 45 Page Street, a half block off of San Carlos
Street, Rex walked down to San Carlos Street to hitch a ride to the college so he could
take a few more classes. He was picked up by a fellow named Claude and his
sister-in-law, a recent WWII widow, Phyllis. Claude was taking Phyllis to
San Jose State for a class. That's how Rex met his first wife.
Subsequently, Rex was employed by Pacific Gas and Electric (PGE) with a territory that
stretched all the way from The Peninsula down to King City. It was during this period
that his involvement with Los Altos Hills began.
He was initially a candidate for City Council in the first election held by the town, but
now his boss at PG&E indicated that he had devoted enough time to town matters and
informed him that he could either be a council member or retain his job at PG&E. So
Rex withdrew his name from the slate and ceded all his support to a fellow candidate.
In 1962 Rex founded Foothill Securities headquartered in Los Altos, which eventually
grew to a multi-million dollar company with offices in several Western States .Foothill
Securities celebrated its 50th Anniversary in 2012.
As of this writing (April, 2013, his 91st birthday), Rex is retired but continues to attend Board Meetings
and consult as "Chairman Emeritus" for Foothill Securities, the company he started in Los Altos over 50 years ago.
Rex and his second wife Rita have now been married 40 plus years and they continue to live in their Santa Clara Valley
home. They also enjoy spending time with their children and grandchildren at their vacation homes in Santa Cruz County,
On Sunday August 18th 2015 we were informed by Vicki Gardiner Taylor (Rex's daughter) that
"...My Dad passed away peaceably this morning at Kaiser Hospital Santa Clara, a little after 8:00am.
He was coherent, talkative and appreciative of everyone being (children and staff included) there to just before the end, when he simply rested or slept as his strength faded... "
At that time she provided us with the following brief biography which was prepared to accompany the oral history that was recorded by the Los Altos History Museum.
George “Rex” Gardiner: born April 20, 1922 in Taft, CA; grew up in San Jose, lived in Los Altos Hills and Los Altos. Rex and wife Rita currently reside in Mountain View.
At age 2 Rex moved with his family to San Jose, attended Hester Grammar School, Hoover Jr. High and San Jose High School. Attendance at San Jose State University was interrupted by WWII service in the U. S. Army (1942-1946) which sent him to Texas A&M University. After his honorable discharge he finished his schooling at San Jose State University where he received his B.S. Degree. Rex was a founder of Los Altos Hills and was on the first City Council slate; however he declined at the request of his employer. Rex established the LAH city boundaries, original property tax rate and served as City Roads Commissioner. In 1962 he co-founded Foothill Securities, Inc.. , a stock brokerage and investment advisory firm, in Los Altos. In the past 50+ years the company has grown from one office to 140 offices.
Francis Milton Gardiner: born November 27, 1893 in Sistersville, West Virginia; died June 20, 1972 in Santa Clara, CA.
Myrtle Irene (née Anderson) Gardiner: born April 17, 1894 in Brackettville, TX; died Dec. 31, 1966 in Santa Clara, CA.
Rex’s first wife:
Phyllis Audrae (née Jairl, prior marriage Dillwood) Gardiner Jairl: born Aug. 24, 1922 in Stanislaus County, CA; died October 18, 2011 in Napa, CA. They moved to Los Altos Hills in 1950. Phyllis lived there until 2002.
Their Children who grew up in Los Altos Hills:
- Kathleen Audrae Dillwood: born 1943 in Santa Clara County and is Phyllis’ daughter from her prior marriage.
- Vicki Dee Gardiner Taylor: born 1948 in Palo Alto, Santa Clara County.
- Craig Jairl Gardiner: born 1952 in Palo Alto, Santa Clara County, died 1971 in Yosemite National Park, Mariposa County.
- Curtis Frank Gardiner, born 1955 in Palo Alto, Santa Clara County.
Rex’s second wife:
Rita (née Butala, prior marriage Sperber) Gardiner: born 1932 in Detroit, Michigan. Moved to Southern California in 1954 and to Los Altos in 1959. She and Rex met in 1965 in Los Altos where they both had businesses. They married in 1967.
Their Children who grew up in Los Altos and Mountain View:
From Rex & Rita Gardiner
October 2, 2013
- Donna Lynne (nee Sperber) Gagne: born 1960 in Palo Alto. Rita’s daughter from her first marriage.
- Steven Rex Gardiner: born 1967 in Mountain View, Santa Clara County.
- Michael Patrick Gardiner: born 1969 in Mountain View, Santa Clara County.
As a final note, a "Celebration of Life" for Rex Gardiner was held on November 8th, 2015.