Two prominent Coastsiders, John Lynch and Chris Thollaug, died this week. Each was a titan in his own right, with a stalwart attitude toward protecting the environment and endless heart for the Coastside community.
“We’ve lost two shining lights on the coast,” said longtime Coastsider and environmental advocate Zoe Kersteen-Tucker.
Half Moon Bay resident John Lynch is best known on the Coastside for dedicating himself to activism and riding his patriotically adorned scooter around town as he gathered signatures for the environmental fight of the day. Lynch was 95 when he died on Oct. 8, after recovering from an aortic aneurysm and foot operation earlier in the fall. His daughter Allyson Lynch said the COVID-19 pandemic wasn’t easy on her sociable father, and she hopes he is remembered for his tireless devotion to the community.
“He was so dedicated, more than anyone else I know,” Allyson Lynch said.
Lynch got started in his Coastside activism after retiring, when City Councilwoman Debbie Ruddock recruited him to work on passing Measure A. He had worked on the census and dove into local politics when he was appointed to the city’s planning commission. He co-founded the League for Coastside Protection, fought against the Wavecrest development, and for the fire department, the Devil’s Slide tunnels and the Main Street Bridge, and even fought to protect Dunes Beach near the end of his life. At his 95th birthday celebration this year, Lynch proudly stated he had a record of winning 26 out of 30 Coastside efforts.
But to those who worked alongside him, it’s not just his successes that stand out.
Lennie Roberts, longtime legislative advocate, said she won’t soon forget sitting around the Lynch “clubhouse” making signs, debating, shouting and laughing. Ruddock will remember him as a role model for perseverance and selflessness, and for the time he got stuck in mud in his motorized chair on the Wavecrest bluffs after visiting his homeless neighbors.
“John was omnipresent,” Ruddock said.
Montara resident Chris Thollaug’s legacy, too, is one of devotion to the Coastide environment and community. In 1993, he quit his full-time paid position at the Sierra Club to dedicate himself to working full time toward research and advocacy in favor of constructing the Devil’s Slide tunnels over a planned multi-lane bypass through Coastside open space. According to a post online from his family, he died on Oct. 7 at 70 years old a year after suffering a brain hemorrhage.
Kersteen-Tucker, who worked alongside Thollaug on the tunnel campaign, said his intellect, dedication and passion were unmatched. She credits him for saving Montara Mountain and McNee Ranch State Park, and remembers fondly his open heartedness to campaign newcomers and his love for his neighbors and his home.
“Chris was one of the most intense, intelligent and compassionate people I’ve ever met, particularly when it came to defense of the environment,” Kersteen-Tucker said. “It was extraordinary to see him go to work.”
To Kersteen-Tucker and Roberts, the pair’s legacy is a reminder to fight for what matters, to embrace community, to have fun and to never stop showing up.
“You need to remember that life — especially in the case of Chris — can be shorter than you would like it to be,”
Roberts said. “So look at the things that really matter to you and how you can make a difference.”
Ruddock said she has asked city staff to begin preparing a proclamation honoring Lynch’s life and contributions to the city, and said she is also interested in naming a local landmark or creating an award in Lynch’s name for people who follow in his civic-minded footsteps.
No details about a memorial for Thollaug were available at press time. Friends are directed to a memorial site, https://www.forevermissed.com/christopher-linden-thollaug, where they may share memories and photographs. Lynch’s family will be celebrating his life at 1 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 25 on the Coastal Trail to the south of Kelly Avenue where a bench dedicated to him stands.
This version corrects the date and cause of death for Thollaug.