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Alan Furber


Alan Furber, a Cloverdale rancher with a firm handshake and a vision for the town's growth, died July 12 after a heart attack. He was 95.

Furber was born July 5, 1918, to William and Marguerite Furber and raised on a 640-acre ranch south of Cloverdale that had been in his family since 1879.

Today, the ranch has been transformed into a shopping center, park and neighborhood imbued with memories of the Furber family in street names such as Marguerite Lane, Elbridge Avenue, William Circle and Wallace Lane.

"We were in the path of progress, and he wanted to be part of that," said his son, Alan Furber Jr. of Cloverdale.

As an only child, Furber's main chore was to chop enough firewood for the midday meal prepared for the work hands who tended the family's prunes, grapes and sheep. Furber's only sibling, a brother named Wallace, died as a toddler before Furber was born.

Furber's commitment to the Cloverdale community was forged during his youth, as were his views that the town must grow, said his sons, Craig Furber of Healdsburg and Alan Furber Jr.

His family had 200,000 gallons of wine when prohibition passed, forcing them to sell it as vinegar for "pennies to the dollar," Alan Furber Jr. said.

Furber was active in the theater club at Cloverdale High School and was king of the Citrus Fair in 1935. After graduation, he attended Santa Rosa Junior College.

He served during World War II as a second lieutenant with the Army's 3505th Ordnance Company. While on leave in 1942, Furber married Helen Dubs of Sausalito, whom he had met on a blind date. They had been married nearly 60 years when she died.

After the war, the couple lived in San Rafael and Furber ran a gasoline distributorship. He moved his family north and took over the family ranch after his father died in 1956.

He continued growing fruit and raising sheep. To make ends meet, Furber also did road maintenance on Kelly Road, then a private logging road running from Cloverdale past what is now Lake Sonoma and on to the coast.

Furber was 60 when Cloverdale leaders began serious talks about annexing more land so the city could grow. Rugged hills stood as a barrier to the north. The obvious move involved his ranch to the south.

Furber sat down with his sons, and they agreed the family land should become a Cloverdale neighborhood.

But it was not a simple matter of selling the property and watching the town grow. It took three years for the city to annex the land, in part because the town's planner was borrowed from Clearlake, traveling to Cloverdale on Wednesdays to handle matters, his sons said.

The sewer, septic and water systems became the next hurdles. Furber opted to borrow the money to build water tanks and sewer lines. "We took major risks," Craig Furber said.

"But my father was willing, and thank God it worked," Alan Furber Jr. said.

Furber and his sons — a rancher, a banker and a high school teacher — spent nine years wrangling with permits and processes and in 1987 began construction on the first home of their Rancho de Amigos housing development, which eventually grew to 110 homes.

Other developments followed, including an upscale retirement community and other residential projects.

In 1997, the Furbers built the Furber Ranch Plaza shopping center that today houses Ray's Food Place, Mary's Pizza Shack and other businesses, some hand-picked by Furber to make sure they didn't poach business from downtown, his sons said.

"He had the vision of making things happen for the city of Cloverdale that needed to be done," Alan Furber Jr. said.

In addition to his sons, survivors include three grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

A public memorial service will be held for Furber at a later date. Memorial donations may be made to the Cloverdale Historical Society, 215 N. Cloverdale Blvd., Cloverdale 95425.