Christopher Linden Thollaug, longtime Coastside resident and activist, passed away on Oct. 7, 2020. He was 70 years old.
Chris grew up in El Cerrito and attended a Quaker boarding school in Nevada City, Calif. After being drafted in 1971, Chris attained conscientious objector status and completed his alternative service with Planned Parenthood, where he started out delivering contraception to all Bay Area locations. On weekends, he played handball with the residents of San Quentin or backpacked the remote Sierra Nevada wilderness. Chris attempted to through-hike Pacific Crest Trail in 1977 – but was foiled after 500 miles by an unexpected May blizzard in the high Sierra.
Chris continued to work at Planned Parenthood for several years before completing his MBA at Golden Gate University. He was hired immediately by Xerox, but over time became frustrated with the ethos of corporate America and quit to start his own reprographics firm in fledging Silicon Valley. After selling his company, Chris worked for the national Sierra Club where he restructured finances, labor models and administration in order to lower overhead. As a result of his work, the Club was empowered to direct more resources toward environmental protection campaigns nationwide.
After moving to Montara in 1991, Chris left the Sierra Club to serve as chairman of the Tunnel Initiative and, later, Measure T. He was instrumental in stopping Caltrans’s proposed bypass from scarring Montara Mountain and fundamentally altering the landscape and population of the Coastside. He also served for many years on the boards of the Montara Water and Sanitary District and Sewer Authority Mid-coastside, which earned him the superhero moniker “Sewer Man” from his young daughters.
Chris and his wife, Suzanne Stephanik, raised two children and four dogs in the back of Montara, adjacent to what is now part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. His passion for the outdoors took Chris to 30-plus national parks as well as countless state parks, national wilderness areas, and national forests. By example, and through many camping trips, he passed a love of wild lands and an ethos emphasizing environmental preservation to his daughters.
In retirement, Chris discovered a love of beekeeping and devoted himself to his “girls.” His belief in cooperative labor solutions was cemented by his observation of the bees, who seamlessly work together for the good of all. Chris continued to hike Montara Mountain regularly – at increasingly fast clips – to take in the beauty of the natural world. Fellow regulars on the mountain would often spot him, jars of honey in hand for friends and strangers alike, marching to the summit with his faithful yellow Labradors.
Like the Quakers who educated him, Chris believed passionately in working for just causes, in the equality of all people, and in peace. Those who wish to honor his memory may make a donation in his name to the American Friends Service Committee, the National Parks Foundation or the Sierra Club.
A memorial will be held following the COVID-19 pandemic. In the meantime, please share memories and photographs at www.forevermissed.com/christopher-linden-thollaug.