Looking Back: Los Gatan William C. Allen; My Great-Grandfather’s Final Hour

What the Obituary Tells Us

I've been doing a lot of organizing during the Covid-19 pandemic, and I came across an old obituary for my great-grandfather, Grampa Allen. The article from February 13, 1942 reads, "Death struck suddenly in a well known local home yesterday and claimed William C. Allen, 74, a retired building contractor, of 50 Cypress Avenue [now 50 Roberts Road in Los Gatos]...He was the father-in-law of Police Officer Ralph Phillips."

The obituary goes on to say, "Death was due to heart failure shortly before noon just as Allen was re-entering his car at the Fabbri service station at Olive Street and Santa Cruz Avenue after he had purchased a supply of gasoline. He collapsed and passed away instantly..."

The Rest of the Story

February 12, 1942 was Lincoln's Birthday. That morning, my Great-Grampa Allen was getting ready for a drive up to Oakland.  His son-in-law Ralph Phillips (my granddad) was busily preparing for a horse show at the Gymkhana grounds in Los Gatos. My granddad had just finished loading horses into a trailer when Grampa Allen approached him holding out a broken hood ornament. Granddad was not at all pleased with the interruption, and was hoping that Grampa Allen could see that he was getting ready to leave. Grampa Allen nevertheless asked Granddad if he would repair the ornament. While he could have easily said that he didn't have time, Granddad went ahead and took the parts to the workshop and reassembled them. Grampa Allen's face lit-up when Granddad said, "Well, that should do it." Grampa Allen then happily attached the repaired ornament to his car and then drove off to the gas station where he collapsed and died....My granddad said that he was always grateful that he'd taken the time for Grampa that day.

His Life

William Clarence Allen was born in Georgia in 1867. Upon seeing his neighbor's newborn daughter in 1875, the eight-year-old William declared that he would one day marry her. And so he did. He married my great-grandmother in Hall County, Georgia in 1893. William became a building contractor and the two went on to have nine children, the last being born in Oakland, California in 1915. They moved to Los Gatos in the 1920s, building two homes next to each other (50 Roberts Rd. and 7 Forest Ave.). After Grampa Allen's death in 1942, my great-grandmother lived another thirty-one years. They're buried together at the Los Gatos Cemetery.

More Reading from the California Room: