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Warren Hedgpeth, prominent Sonoma County architect, dies at 69

Warren Hedgpeth would pause to sleep. But mostly the accomplished and insatiably curious Sonoma County architect sketched designs of homes or doodled over lunch, read voraciously and eyeballed vacant lots while imagining how he might transform them into places for people to live.

Hedgpeth also spent waking hours indulging his love of nature, savoring his family, painting abstract expressionist art with his primo stereo cranked up, playing the piano by ear and delighting in deep, philosophical conversation.

The notably vigorous and multifaceted California native, who founded his architectural firm in Santa Rosa in 1983, died April 27 from complications of an aggressive cancer.

He was 69.

Hugh Futrell, a leading Sonoma County builder who knew and worked with Hedgpeth for about 35 years, is among those mourning the loss. “I think the news of his death is particularly a shock,” Futrell said. “He had such an electric, live personality.”

As recently as late last year, Hedgpeth was still fully engaged at Hedgpeth Architects Inc, and with its staff of six. “He thought he would work into his 80s or 90s. He loved it so much,” said his wife of 45 years, Jennifer Hedgpeth.

But at that time several months ago, the architect/artist grew concerned about numbness that spread on one side of his body, then his speech began to slur. Medical scans revealed a glioblastoma brain tumor.

His wife said she takes comfort from knowing that he “was a person who squeezed every drop from life, every day.”

In his working life, Hedgpeth was a prominent 45-year architect whose firm designed and upgraded all sorts of buildings, among them the Boudin restaurant and several other tenants of Montgomery Village, and the home of Marin Community Clinics in San Rafael. But Hedgpeth’s focus and greatest passion was multifamily housing.

He was a Sonoma County leader in the designing of both affordable and market-rate apartments. The projects include Santa Rosa’s Kawana Springs, Lago Fresca, Orchard Commons and Magnolia Place apartments, and The Arbors in Rohnert Park.

Hedgpeth’s community service includes the 20 years he served as a member of Santa Rosa’s Design Review Board, which examines whether proposed developments comply with municipal design standards. He also donated time to a number of social-service nonprofits.

“I don’t think he got the credit he deserved for the improvements he made to the community,” said Tom Schwedhelm, the Santa Rosa City Council member and former mayor and police chief. “But I think that’s the way he liked it.”

Hedgpeth was born in San Diego in 1952 to Florence Hedgpeth, a French teacher, and Joel Hedgpeth, a renowned and hugely colorful marine biologist and conservationist who helped to defeat plans for a nuclear power plant on Bodega Head and for a time directed the Pacific Marine Station at Dillon Beach.

Joel and Florence Hedgpeth brought their family to Sonoma County for a time before moving north to Newport, Oregon. Warren graduated from high school there, and in 1977 earned a degree in architecture from the University of Oregon, where he also studied biology and fine art.

It was at UO that he met fellow student Jennifer Wagner of Portland.

“He had a unique way of expressing himself,” she said. “And his mind was so active and vibrant. He was unlike anyone I’d ever met. He stood out because of his intense curiosity about everything.”

The two hit it off. They married on Dec. 29, 1976, in Portland, then started their lives together there and welcomed the first of their four children.

Two years later, the young family moved to Santa Rosa because Warren Hedgpeth’s parents were living there again, and Joel Hedgpeth was having some serious health issues. Warren Hedgpeth worked for a couple of Sonoma County architectural firms before opening his own.

As passionate as he was about his work, and about helping to create housing for people, his profession comprised only one of the many facets of his life.

“He was artistic and quirky and generous – and unique,” said developer Futrell.

One of Hedgpeth’s daughters, Caroline Hedgpeth Fuller of Sebastopol, said she regards him as “a complete Renaissance man.”

Fuller is a Santa Rosa real estate broker who works out of the offices of Hedgpeth Architects and partnered with her father in a host of housing developments. She has stepped in for him at his firm.

Hedgpeth routinely carried a journal, and throughout his life filled a good many of them. He’d be seated in a café or a park or anywhere, and he’d take out the journal and sketch a scene or landscape, or the faces of people nearby.

Fuller said it always astounded her that he could sit across from you and sketch upside down, so you could see the sketch come together right side up.

Hedgpeth consumed and absorbed knowledge. “Anything (in print) that he could get his hands on, he would read,” his wife said. She is the Celebrate Community Partnership manager for Sonoma Media Investments, parent company of The Press Democrat.

He loved music and compiled a vast selection of records and CDs, which he’d play while he painted. Many of his abstract expressionist pieces, some quite large, hang in his and his wife’s home and in a gallery at SOMO Village, off Petaluma Hill Road in Rohnert Park.

Warren and Jennifer Hedgpeth’s children all were grown when they adopted a granddaughter, Aria, who is now approaching age 8.

Among Warren Hedgpeth’s personal gifts: He could hear a piece of music, then sit at his grand piano and play it. He found joy spending time in his garden and in open spaces. “He had a bone-deep love of nature,” Jennifer Hedgpeth said.

The couple were long active in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. “He read the Scriptures every morning,” she said.

Then he’d rise from bed, Jennifer Hedgpeth said, and take to the new day like a blank canvas.

“He loved the power of possibilities.”

In addition to his wife in Santa Rosa and his daughters in Santa Rosa and Sebastopol, Hedgpeth is survived by his sons, Sean Hedgpeth of Madison, Wisconsin, and Matthew Hedgpeth of Santa Rosa; daughter Emily Jackson of San Francisco, sister Sarah Boly of Hillsboro, Oregon, and granddaughters Madeline and Samantha Fuller of Sebastopol.

Services will be 11 a.m. on June 2 at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1780 Yulupa Ave. in Santa Rosa.

Hedgpeth’s family also invites the public to a reception at the gallery where more than 70 of his artworks are exhibited for sale. It happens from 5-8 p.m. on June 3 at SOMO Village’s First Flight Gallery, 1400 Valley House Dr., in Rohnert Park.

This is a link to the invitation: http://evite.me/T5DgVjnVVS. Hedgpeth’s family asks that RSVPs be submitted by May 27.

Reception guests may choose to stay on at SOMO Village for a separate, 8 p.m. concert by Stephen Marley, son of Bob Marley. But tickets to the performance must be purchased.

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