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Physician, environmentalist Bradford Lundborg of Healdsburg dies at 90

Dr. Bradford W. Lundborg became persona non grata to many when he led efforts to curtail development on California’s coast, and to many more when he forced Sonoma County health care providers to serve people with AIDS.

Lundborg, an internist, lover of the outdoors and for a time medical director of the former Health Plan of the Redwoods, emulated his father in advocating for unpopular causes. As chairman of Bank of America, the late Louis Lundborg in 1970 was one of America’s first corporate leaders to denounce the war in Vietnam.

Brad Lundborg “suffered from taking positions of conscience,” said friend Andrea Learned, who worked as a champion for HIV and AIDS patients before becoming an executive with St. Joseph Health.

Son Steve Lundborg of Healdsburg said the physician-activist’s environmental efforts as a member and then chairman of the California Coastal Commission earned him the wrath of many property owners and real estate brokers.

“I’ve heard people refer to him as a strong personality and other things that can’t be repeated in a newspaper,” the younger Lundborg said.

Bradford Lundborg died Sept. 19 at the rustic and remote ranch outside Healdsburg where, for decades, the Eagle Scout taught Boy Scouts manual arts such as blacksmithing and wood milling. He was 90.

His favorite refuge for many years was the hiking paradise of Goddard Canyon, in the Sierra Nevada.

“The mountains were a really big part of his life,” Steve Lundborg said.

Lundborg’s ranch in the woods off Mill Creek Road “was a good place to visit if you had a four-wheel-drive vehicle,” said former Health Plan of the Redwoods chief Bill Hughes of Santa Rosa. “I used to tease him about being the original mountain man.”

Among the myriad facets to Brad Lundborg: He traveled the seas as a merchant mariner, played rugby, was a pianist, created wooden bowls on a lathe and tied his own fly-fishing flies.

A resident of Sonoma County since 1958, he was born July 11, 1927, in San Francisco to former Stanford classmates Barbara Wellington Lundborg and Louis B. Lundborg.

He, too, studied at Stanford before earning his medical degree at Harvard Medical School. Prior to going into private practice in Santa Rosa, he worked four years with the U.S. Public Health Service.

Upon settling with his young family in Santa Rosa almost 60 years ago, Lundborg immersed himself in civic affairs and professional organizations.

He was seeing patients at four Sonoma County hospitals when he was appointed to the advisory board of Sonoma State College in 1965.

Though a buttoned-up physician and registered Republican, Lundborg transformed in the 1970s into an avid conservationist in the mold and company of Bill Kortum, Iva Warner, Chuck Hinkle and Dick Day. He worked to limit seaside development through Californians Organized to Acquire Access to State Tidelands, People for Open Space and the Sonoma County Organization for a Planned Environment.

Lundborg had established himself as a leading opponent of coastal housing projects such as The Sea Ranch and Bodega Harbour when he was elected in 1977 as only the second permanent chairman of the state Coastal Commission. He served less than two years then resigned, saying he needed to normalize his family life.

“A lot of other things got short shrift in order to do this,” he said at the time of his work on the commission, which was charged with overseeing land-use planning and public access along the coast.

When the AIDS crisis gripped Sonoma County in the 1980s, Lundborg was working as medical director of Health Plan of the Redwoods, a nonprofit health maintenance organization. Future friend Andrea Learned then directed Face to Face, the Sonoma County AIDS Network.

Now a vice president of St. Joseph Health, Learned said Lundborg and Hughes saw nearly 30 years ago that some local health care providers were not accepting HIV and AIDS patients. They acted by requiring hospitals, nursing homes, home-care agencies and other providers contracting with Health Plan of the Redwoods to extend care to those patients.

“They saved a lot of lives by doing that,” said Learned, adding that the demand for inclusion of people requiring treatment for HIV and AIDS made Lundborg and Hughes hugely unpopular with many in the local health care industry.

Lundborg co-founded the Sonoma County AIDS Foundation and was a leader of the county’s AIDS Task Force.

In 1990, Face to Face hosted a celebration thanking Lundborg for his “extraordinary level of understanding, commitment and leadership” in combating AIDS.

Hughes said Lundborg pushed hard also for greater access to treatment for mental health issues.

“If mental health is treated properly,” Hughes said, “it really reduces the other medical expenses that people experience.” Owing to Lundborg’s vigorous advocacy of better health care for all, said Hughes, “I always thought of him as the peoples’ doctor.”

Lundborg retired to his ranch in 1997, when he was 70.

In addition to his son Steve, he is survived by sons Kevin, of Healdsburg, and Whitney, of Fairfax; his former wife, Joan Lundborg of Healdsburg; and two granddaughters.

His family suggests memorial donations to Memorial Hospice, 439 College Ave., Santa Rosa 95401.

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