Jane Petroff (Amidon)
(1929 - 2018)

Profile:
Jane Petroff (Amidon)
Nickname: Bunny

Birth:
MA, United States of America
September 25, 1929

Passing:
California, United States of America
October 3, 2018

Interests:
Art, Tennis, Skiing, Hiking, Travel
Memorial
We know Serge’s story because he wrote an autobiography. We don’t know Jane Amidon (Bunny) Petroff’s story as well. Our opportunities to interview her later in life, given her long battle with dementia, were incomplete.

We do want to capture the lore within our family for our family…. let’s call it Mom’s narrative so that we can remember her well.

Mom grew up in West Newton Massachusetts. She was born 1 month before the start of the Great Depression and her experiences as a pre-adolescent during the Depression informed her psyche. Her parents both worked for AT&T, her mother was an operator, her father an engineer. They were not rich but they had means and helped their community. During the depression, their home had an open-door policy for dinner. They fed many neighbors and families that were in need. Mom talked a lot about always having new people at the dinner table and that her parents never made their guests feel uncomfortable. She held this affinity to help others she learned early, her entire life.

She was 12 years old at the start of World War II, graduating from high school in 1947. These formative years had a lot to do with her sense of justice and her willingness to help others and serve herself last.

The house she grew up in at 343 Otis Street was big (over 4000 square feet). Her mother grew raspberries and blueberries in the back yard. We all spent summers at one point or another at her Mom’s house going to camp and living in the house. Grandma was stern and a very proud woman. Andy and Greg were scared of her when we summered with her. Paul and BZ summered there circa 1966 as well.

Mom had 2 brothers, Perry 3 years older and Jim, 5 years younger. Perry was an air force pilot who flew C-130’s in the Korean and Vietnam Wars. He retired from the air force in 1970 and lived with Grandma until her passing in 1979. Perry later moved to Georgia. Her brother Jim is an Oceanographer who lived and worked in North Carolina, and is now retired, living in Maryland.

Mom must have played sandlot baseball and football as young woman. She was an amazing athlete. When Andy and Greg were growing up she could pitch strikes, throw a football with a perfect spiral for 20 yards and punt it perfectly even farther. She was an accomplished and graceful skier. More on that in a moment.

She went to Carleton College in Minnesota for 2 years and completed her schooling at Simmons college. We were never completely certain why she changed schools, but she has said her family’s finances were too tight to afford completing Carleton. Nevertheless she thought of herself as a Carleton grad. When she finished school her mother as she tells it started to introduce her to eligible young men. Whether it was this or some other wanderlust, at age 22 she bought a bus ticket to San Francisco and never looked back.

In San Francisco she worked in the marketing department of Shell oil and hung out at City Lights Book Store and the North Beach scene in SF. This would be 1951, time frame. Somewhere in 1952-1953 she was on a ski trip with friends to a now defunct ski area in the town of Strawberry on highway 50 where she met Dad. Mom was great skier. She met a nice young man on the slopes who was a good skier too. She ditched her friends and skied the rest of the day with Serge Petroff and got a ride back to San Francisco with him. She complained that it took him 2 weeks to ask her out on a proper first date after their ski meet up.

They married in 1954 at the Otis Street house. The day before their wedding Hurricane Edna passed over Cape Cod as a category II hurricane. (Hurricane Carol had hit Massechusetts just 11 days prior), Many down limbs were cleared, the storm had passed and Mom introduced Dad to her family. It must have been really interesting to have Mom come home to her family with the Russian refugee. Dad was handsome, charismatic, smart, well read, and loved the outdoors. He was not what her parents were expecting their daughter to come home with but she chose well.

Mom got more than skiing in the bargain. Serge loved rock climbing, mountaineering and back packing and brought mom on trips. They climbed the middle Palisade together in the Sierras before they had kids. Paul came along in 1956 and BZ (Elizabeth) in 1958. They lived in a 2nd floor apartment at 2565 Gough Street (above the Hostess Market at the corner of Gough and Green) in San Francisco. Paul went to kindergarten and started first grade at the catholic school nearby.

In April 1963 the family moved to San Jose as Dad took the job of managing New York Life’s San Jose office. They bought an Eichler home near Willow Glen (1714 Hudson Drive) and filled it with mid-century furniture and art. Serge’s aging father Paul (affectionately named Deda, short for Dedushka) moved in with us in San Jose. Mom spent a lot of time with Deda at home and with him after he moved to a nursing home after he fell and broke his hip. Mom and Dad were both very design conscious people and with this first house they honed their modern design vision.

Greg was born in 1963, followed by Andy in 1964. Andy was born on their 10th wedding anniversary, September 12th. The San Jose years were perhaps Mom’s busiest as Captain of our house. Four kids under the age of 10, an 80+ year old father-in-law and Dad in midst of his management ascent.

1967 was a big year. Dad’s job moved to San Francisco and the family moved to Mill Valley to the house at 15 Castle Rock Drive. Again, a very contemporary home that sat on a rock overlooking Homestead canyon with views of the Marin Headlands and the Bay. Living in the Castle Rock house was like living in a museum. Wonderful lighting and everything in it’s place. Shortly thereafter they also purchased a cabin in Alpine Meadows (1569 Upper Bench Road), near lake Tahoe.

At this point Mom’s life was centered on her family. She was involved with PTA, she was the UNICEF fundraising chair for the school district. We spent winter weekends at the cabin skiing. Her parenting style let us pretty much do what we wanted to do as long as we had school work covered. Andy and Greg would roam the woods around our house, run down the Dipsea trail stairs (sliding the banisters to get down faster) to go down town and buy candy at Bennet's Variety or the Rexal). Paul had basically the same roaming freedom, doing the same sort of things with his free time.

She always had friends over. She and Serge had a very active social life. She played tennis at Scott Valley tennis club, book club with girlfriends etc. When Andy and Greg started middle-school she became involved with the De Young Museum in San Francisco as a docent. She became an expert in art from the Pacific Rim, Oceania, Native American Indians, Asian Art. Eventually she became the head of Docent training at the De Young and trained hundreds of docents. The 1979 King Tut exhibit at the De Young was a blockbuster experience for the Bay Area, and she was deeply involved. She brought us all through the exhibits as our private tour guide.

Mom had a very loving relationship with Serge. But Serge was not the easiest person to get along with. He was stubborn, and overly confident about things. But they shared so many things in common. They loved the opera and symphony and had season tickets to both. They both were avid readers. Our house as a kid was pretty boring. After dinner Mom and Dad would retreat into the living room and open their books. Mom read about art. She also liked fiction but usually returned the fiction books to the library before we could see what she was reading. Dad read about history and politics. We did our homework nearby. They frequented the Mill Valley Library, walking down the Dipsea stairs to find new things to read.

They loved the outdoors and hiking. Our summer vacations were usually family backpacking trips in the Sierras, extended car camping to mountainous locations in the West or in Canada, or extended stays at the Cabin with Mom, with Dad arriving on weekends.

They loved to travel and could travel light. After the kids all moved out, the two of them hiked the path to Machu Pichu, walked huts in the Alps, traveled to Russia, China, Japan, Panama, Mexico and all over Europe.

Some events that describe Mom:

Mom and Dad went on a vacation to Baja and met a young French traveler named Gui. When they came back, they brought Gui with them and he stayed with us for 3 months. 2 years later Gui’s sister Analise came over and did the same thing.

We had an older English couple, The Forwards, who lived on Castle Rock Drive. They were invited to Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner every year. When their roof started leaking Mom organized the neighborhood to raise the money and the work party to re-roof their home.

When Andy and Greg were in elementary school she noticed that there was a family that was not packing lunches for their kids so she organized a lunch program where 5 families packed extra lunches for kids in need.

Mom and Dad took a 3-week trip to Europe and left Paul in charge when he was only 17. Could not do that now…..

She artfully created a myth around “If I have to tell your father” that kept us in check. Turned out later Dad had no idea of this.

She loved Tennis. She was very good player. We watched all of the Bjorn Boerg / John McEnroe era matches. And the Chris Evert / Martina Navratilova matches. They were epic.

She was proper. Always dressed up when out. (Even when going grocery shopping)

She could tell stories with a flourish and often with a little too much embellishment.

She loved to laugh and loved people who were interesting and funny

She was into her history. She researched her genealogy, finding the roots of her side of the family. Strachen’s and Amidon’s and Lassetters. She claimed we had Native American in our heritage. (if you believe 23 and Me DNA results she was right, somewhere around 1680 we have an Native American ancestor).

She collected African Art.

She loved to bake and make hot chocolate for her grand kids.

She was a gorgeous skier. You could see her skiing a mile away with her distinctive graceful posture.

Sadly, at the end of her life her mind started to slip away. It was a very long process. Not able to remember things, buying the same things at the store were the early signs. Her last years after Serge’s passing she moved to not really recognizing us. But we were grateful to see her. She still had her feisty sense of humor and kind eyes.

There is lots more to report. But that’s Mom in a nutshell. She was the center of us and poured her love into each of her kids. She wanted us to be true to ourselves and follow our own paths. For this confidence she instilled we are all grateful!


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https://www.legacy.com/obituaries/sfgate/obituary.aspx?n=jane-petroff&pid=190622067

Jane (Bunny) Petroff
Bunny Petroff passed away calmly on October 3, 2018 in Los Gatos, California. She was 89. She was born Jane Amidon in Boston MA on September 25, 1929.

She became a gracious, athletic, and loving woman, known to all as Bunny.

She moved to San Francisco in 1952 and met Serge Petroff, the love of her life, in a singles chairlift line while skiing at Tahoe. She lived 40+ years in Mill Valley.

Bunny’s four children all attended Tam High. She taught them all to ski, how to enjoy an outdoor lifestyle and how to embrace a liberal attitude toward people and cultures.

She was active in the Scott Valley Swimming & Tennis Club. She was a docent at the de Young, specializing in art of the Pacific Rim, Oceana and the Americas.

She had many friends in Mill Valley and throughout the Bay Area. She made friends all over the world while traveling with Serge during their retirement years, and many of these far flung friends came to visit and stay with her in Mill Valley.

Serge died in 2014 and during the last few years she lived in Los Gatos. She was unable to get out and about, and needed to be cared for by family.

All are saddened by her death.

She is survived by her four children, nine grandchildren and one great-grandson, and by her younger brother.





Guest Book Wall (What is this?)

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Guest Book (10 entries)
Many memories over 50 years. Bunny opening up the house every Christmas - all agents and staff from Serge's Financial Center office invited regardless of race, color, creed or anything else! Remarkable! Serge's Office opening luncheon on the 42nd floor of the Wells Fargo Bank Bldg. in early 1968. Bunny made all the table decorations herself - turned the room into a showplace - did it all herself! 50 years ago! Yes, she embraced "a liberal attitude toward people and cultures" To be sure! Ron Woods
Ron Woods (Long time friend)
November 5th, 2018
Bunny was a beautiful and amazing woman. My primary memories are from the Mill Valley days - about a generation ago, when I was in my 20’s, the age that my children are now. As good friends of Greg and Patrice’s, we gravitated over to their Castle Rock home pretty often. Bunny made us feel so welcome and she was interesting and fun to talk to. Their home was stylish, and comfortable at the same time. I hoped that I would have a home and a life like hers when I “grew up”.

With love and admiration
Amy
Amy Wong Nunes (friend of son, Greg)
November 2nd, 2018
Dear Family of Bunny Petroff = We were sad to read the news about Bunny in the Chronicle and appreciated the added information provided on site. We were introduced to Bunny when she was leading docent training for Africa, Oceana, and Americas at DeYoung. In those 1980 times, the training was arduous, and Bunny was a great leader much admired.

Our friendship bloomed when Serge organized a trip to the Soviet Union in 1983. What a trip it was! We had a great time together with others from the museum and Serge’s insurance friends. Would you believe we went to opera in five different republics, with the opera all sung in Russian. For Serge it was a sentimental journey indeed, and his spirit lifted all of ours. As to travel, we also were in the group that went to Tibet in 1989.

We’re disappointed that circumstances didn’t keep us in close touch as the years progressed. We hold very happy memories of our times together and extend sympathy to all who loved Bunny. May the choir of angels welcome her to Paradise! = Jan & Don Elliott
JAN & DON ELLIOTT (friend)
November 2nd, 2018
Dear Petroff family,

My most heartfelt condolences are extended to you all for the loss of your dearest loved one, Jane. May you find comfort in knowing that Mrs. Petroff is safe in the memory of our loving heavenly Father, who gives us the hope of being reunited with our lost loved ones in the very near future. (John 5:28, 29)
J
November 1st, 2018


Well I remember Bunny's statuesque beauty, charm, always smiling and her absolutely dazzling BLUE eyes! We met at Mill Valley schools and our
children knew one another. I served more than 25 years at the Asian
Art Museum in Golden Gate Park. One day I looked up in the Docent
Council office and there was Bunny who was in the Oceania program...so we ran into one another regularly. WONDERFUL woman in every respect. How privileged we were to have known her. Carter and Diana join me in extending our very best condolences to her family on a life well-lived.
Patty Collins (Mill Valley, Asian Art Mu)
November 1st, 2018
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"I was privileged to be a guest at many holiday dinners at Castle Rock. Bunny took care of me after a serious neck operation. I will never forget her hospitality & kindness to me. Farewell Bunny."
Jo Mackenzie
November 1st, 2018

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