Patty Westerbeke, a founder of Westerbeke Ranch Conference Center and a leading player in Sonoma's spiritual community, died Nov. 16 of complications from a fall. She was 87.
Born Aug. 11, 1925, in San Francisco, Patricia Ann was the eldest of three daughters born to Muriel and Richard Van Hoosear.
Westerbeke earned a political science degree from UC Berkeley in 1946. Two years later, she was taking a break from skiing at Sugar Bowl and pouring hot chocolate from a thermos when the insulation broke and glass shards began flowing into her cup.
Donald George Westerbeke approached and offered to buy her a proper drink at the bar.
"She completely forgot that she was supposed to be chaperoning her two younger sisters," said her daughter, Wendy Westerbeke of Sonoma. "She felt sparks, that is what she always said."
"Within a week she went to Shreve & Co. and ordered her silver with a &‘W' on it," she said.
The couple married July 31, 1948.
The pair lived and raised their four children in Mill Valley but spent weekends and many holidays on Patty Westerbeke's family spread on Grove Street in Sonoma. In 1968, the Westerbekes hosted their first retreat on the 70-acre property at the foot of Sonoma Mountain.
"Her very first inspiration was, &‘I've got to share this place,'<TH>" Wendy Westerbeke said. "I've been blessed. This is a huge gift. The biggest gift we can do with this land is to share it with the world. She wanted it to be a healing resort."
Westerbeke traveled the world studying alternative forms of medicine, yoga, meditation and other subjects.