Serge Paul Petroff
(1922 - 2014)

Serge Paul Petroff

Harbin, China
November 1, 1922

California, United States of America
January 19, 2014

Surrounded by family, Serge Paul Petroff passed peacefully on January 19, 2014 in Los Gatos, California at the age of 91.

The Petroff Family is hosting a remembrance and memorial gathering in Mill Valley on Sunday March 23, 2014 starting at 11 am at the Acqua Hotel (555 Redwood Highway).

As a friend of Serge and Bunny you are welcome to attend and participate in our March 23 remembrance. (If you plan to attend, please send us an email at

** His Life **
Serge was born in Harbin China on November 1, 1922 following his mother’s escape with thousands of other White Russian refugees from the fall of Vladivostok to the Bolsheviks. He and his mother Olga were reunited months later with his father, Major General Paul P. Petroff, Chief of Staff of the Far Eastern Army, after General Petroff completed the negotiations for the safe resettlement of White Army personnel and their families. Serge spent his childhood in Harbin, Mukden (Shenyang) and Shanghai until, in 1932, the family relocated to Yokohama, Japan. In 1941 Serge graduated from St. Joseph’s College, (a prep school established by Marianist Priests). At the height of WWII, the family was consigned to an internment camp, where Serge and his two brothers, Nikita and Michael, survived relying on leadership, guile, and ingenuity. At the conclusion of WWII, the brothers worked with the American Red Cross during the Allied occupation. For the rest of his life, Serge remained fluent in Russian, Japanese, and English.

Serge had always set his sights on becoming an American, and arrived in the United States in 1947 to attend the University of California Berkeley. Serge became a US citizen in 1952. He took his citizenship very seriously. After he participated in the 1952 Republican Convention he decided to become a Democrat. He always kept a copy of the US Constitution on his desk. He loved to talk politics.

He had a successful 28 year career with New York Life Insurance Company. He gained his CLU, and over the years acted as General Manager of the San Jose, Palo Alto and San Francisco Montgomery Street sales offices, where he managed and mentored a diverse group of insurance professionals.

Serge retired from New York Life in 1983 and went back to school, earning a Masters Degree in History from San Francisco State University. A successful author, he wrote several books about his father’s homeland and the conflicts of the early 20th century. History was one of his passions, and reflecting on his roots became one of his main intellectual pursuits.

He returned to Russia several times to reconnect with his parents' families and to participate (by chance) in the dissolution of the Soviet Union. His impassioned speech, in August of 1991, in the Russian Congress about the benefits of constitutional democracy surprised many journalists who wondered who was this American with the perfect Russian accent.

His love of the mountains started on the slopes of Mt. Fuji in Japan and lasted his entire life. He passed this love on to his children, who have passed it on to their children. He and Bunny, his wife of 59 years, met in the singles’ line at a ski resort at Lake Tahoe and settled in Mill Valley, CA. They raised their family at the base of Mt. Tamalpais, where the mountain could be their children’s playground. They lived in Mill Valley for over 40 years, becoming intertwined in the fabric of the community, including acting as a board member of the Mill Valley Library and as a Scout Master for Troop 34 where he led young men on more than a few epic adventures. A lifelong member of the Sierra Club, Serge was an accomplished climber and mountaineer, gaining credit for several first ascents in the Palisades of the Sierra Nevada. He continued skiing into his 80’s.

Serge and Bunny were world travelers and they did it well. Together they visited all the continents – forever on a quest to understand history, the planet and the human condition. They were among the first visitors to Tibet after the borders opened in the 1980’s. They walked the Inca Trail to Machu Pichu, visited the bazaars of Morocco, climbed the pyramids of Mexico and went on many other adventures. Their home was filled with artifacts, mementos and sometimes, new found friends whom they met on their travels.

Serge is survived by his wife, Jane (Bunny) Amidon Petroff of Los Gatos, CA, his sons, daughter, their spouses and children: Paul (Pamela) of Portland, OR, Greg (Patrice) of Monte Sereno, CA, Andy (Patti) of Felton, CA, BZ (Roy Kissin) of San Francisco, CA, his nine grandchildren; Erica Davis, Emily Petroff, Peter Kissin, Sonia Kissin, Lily Petroff, Nick Petroff, Thomas Petroff, Amelia Petroff and Veeda Petroff, and his great-grandson Christopher Davis. His brothers Nick and Mike Petroff predeceased him.

Serge was an avid reader and a life long lover of books. His family requests any donations in his honor be made to the Mill Valley Library Foundation by going to their website at or by sending a check to MVLF, 375 Throckmorton Ave., Mill Valley, CA 94941.

Serge published his autobiography in 2008 and it is available on

A celebration of Serge’s life will be held on Sunday March 23, 2014 at 11 am at the Acqua Hotel in Mill Valley, 555 Redwood Hwy, (415)380-0400.

Guest Book Wall (What is this?)

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Guest Book (29 entries)
It was a great opportunity to work with Serge's bother Nick!

Serge's book Life Journey gave me an insight to his family & his life in Japan.
Thomas OBrien
March 24th, 2016
We would have liked to be with you to honor Serge's life, but distance prevents our attending. In the times that we were able to be with Serge and Jane, we enjoyed talking with him, hearing about his life and many travels.I was very glad to have one of his books which I enjoyed very much knowing he was a real expert.
My brother, Jere, and I came to know Harold and Polly Amidon when we came east to Cambridge to attend college. Harold and my father were first cousins. Polly and Harold were most gracious in inviting us to their home in West Newton to celebrate holidays and often enjoy a great meal.When Jane (as we knew her) and Serge were married in West Newton, I was privileged to serve as an usher in their wedding. This was a very memorable day, New England having experienced a hurricane the day before. There was no power in the church for the rehearsal, and the beautiful back yard of their home where the reception was to be held was flooded. Undaunted, the Amidons and Serge just moved the reception to the side yard, and everyone had a delightful time. Harold always made any occasion festive with his special drinks.
Over the years Jane kept us in touch through her wonderful Christmas letters. Dottie and I were able to visit Jane and Serge on numerous occasions when we visited CA where two of our children now live. They were always as gracious to us as Jane's parents. They entertained us at their Mill Valley home, Jane took us to the DeYoung Museum, but most of all, I enjoyed my talks with Serge, hearing abou his life and many adventures. They enjoyed many good yers together, loved their family very much, and Serge will be greatly missed.
We look forward to visiting Jane on a future trip to CA, and will be thinking of you all tomorrow for Serge's memorial.
Our love, Norman & Dottie Sears
Norman Sears (Friend & Relative)
March 22nd, 2014
It was a privilege and a pleasure to have known Serge and Bunny for over fifty years. We cherish the memories. RIP dear friend. Pat and Phin
Pat and Phin Kuhl (friends)
March 22nd, 2014
It was my great privilege to have Serge as my Boss for 14 years and as a friend for life! Who could forget those early Christmas parties when Serge & Bunny would throw open their home to all in the Financial Center Office. All invited and all came!The grandeur of his achievements are topped only by his greatness as a man. Clearly, Serge was one of the best things to ever happen to me in my life. Ron and Sheppie Woods
Ron Woods Woods (Friend )
March 19th, 2014
Dearest Bunny,

I was so sorry to hear about Serge's passing. I can't imagine how it must be for you after 50 years of such a close personal friendship and love together!!! I remember all those communiques from your exciting trips and adventures! I send you my deepest condolences and love in your hours of sorrow!

With deepest love, Johnnie
Johnnie Scheff (Friend)
March 14th, 2014
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"Dear Bunny, Read and I were so sorry to hear of Serge's passing. He was always such a vital and interesting companion. I think of you as a "charmed pair" each contributing tp the other. All our best wishes. Harriett & Read"
Harriett Redwine
March 20th, 2014
"I meet "uncle Serge" throw my dear friend Desireè Petroff, from me and my family our deepest condolonces to entire Petroff family. Carmen, Stefano & Giorgio Nikita Castellani"
Carmen Arboleda
March 19th, 2014
"My deepest condolences to Bunny, BZ & the entire Petroff clan. Serge was a wonderful man, he will be much missed."
Josephine Mackenzie
March 8th, 2014
"Serge Petroff was a wonderful person. Memory about Serge always remains in my heart. I will never forget our meeting in San Francisco and Chelyabinsk. He was a true historian. Let he rest in peace ...”"
Evgeny Volkov
February 4th, 2014
"It has been my great privilege to meet Serge Paul(Sergey Pavlovich) Petrov when he came to the Urals, Russia, to visit the places where his ancestors lived and to share his life-story and family memories. God Rest His Saul. (Tsarstvie Nebesnoye)"
Julia Khmelevskaya
February 4th, 2014
"bunny, I was reading the sunday chronicle and saw serge'spicture. what a wonderful person. he was. love anne robinson"
anne robinson
February 2nd, 2014
"Our family has always admired Serge and Bunny, and their fine children. The loss of such a wonderful and accomplished partner and dad must be so deeply felt, yet he will continue to shine always as an exemplar of life lived fully and well."
Sandra Mardigian
February 2nd, 2014

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