Jim Updegraff

Date(s) of birth and/or death approximate

Date of Birth

January 9th, 1930

Date of Death

October 1st, 2018

Memorial Meeting

Sacramento Friends Meeting


James (Jim) Updegraff’s long life was divided into three parts. The first was his youth and early adulthood. Next came his mid years and professional life, and finally the senior years and retirement. Each part of his life was associated with different family members. 

Daughter Keli provides the first part of the story: 

In the 1920’s while traveling West working for Fred Harvey, James Gill Updegraff Jr met Ruby Bell Jones, his server, at a Fred Harvey dining stop in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and fell in love. Both hailed from the Midwest, and shared a stoic demeanor and hardworking ethic. Their first son, James Gill Updegraff III, was born on January 9, 1930. Jim was joined later that same year by his brother George. Teedy and Toady as they were known were raised in Alameda, California. While they inherited their parents’ traits and were good sons they also had a rowdy side. According to their Mother they caused her to acquire more than one gray hair with their antics growing up. Both were actively involved in school and sports, playing football while attending Alameda High School. They also both served in the Armed Forces, Jim in the Army and George in the Marine Corps during the Korean War. Jim returned home from the war and began what became a lifelong quest to seek further education. He eventually obtained a BS in Banking and Finance from the University of California, Berkeley, and a MBA in Banking and a MPA in Administrative Management from the Golden Gate University. 

After school, Jim followed his father’s footsteps into banking. It was while working at a regional bank in Oakland that Jim met a fellow employee, Phyllis Ann DoByne. They were married in November of 1954 and established their home on Elston Ave in Oakland California. Jim and Phyllis soon began expanding the family, eventually welcoming four girls: Keli Lynne born in 1955, Rissa Leigh in 1956, Nanci Sue in 1958 and Gretchen Ann in 1961. In 1960 Jim left his position with Wells Fargo Bank and joined the State of California as a Bank Examiner where he would work for the next 20 years, eventually rising to the position of the Deputy Superintendent of Banks. While a bank examiner he spent most weekdays traveling throughout California. This allowed him to pursue his love of genealogy while compiling information on the Updegraff family. In each new stop the first thing he would do was check the local phone directory for Updegraff listings, and if there were any he would call them to discuss their ancestry and how they might be connected. In this way, he had a complete family tree compiled long before the age of the internet and Ancestry.com! In discovering his roots in Quakerism, it also launched him on a lifelong journey to immerse himself in all things Quaker. 

After Jim and Phyllis divorced in 1962 the girls spent every other weekend with their father for years, and have many happy memories of their time together. Friday evenings were usually spent cuddled in his easy chair with him while he read to them. Sherlock Holmes or articles from the Encyclopedia Britannica were always his favorites. Saturday afternoons were usually spent with his parents in Alameda and grandma’s fried chicken. Shared memories include the traditional Christmas Eve’s with Daddy at their Grandparent’s apartment with Uncle Toady and his family also in attendance. When not having meals with their Grandparents, Jim would do the cooking. While later in life he would become known for his gourmet cooking, some of his earlier efforts were met with outrage by his daughters; such as canned SpagettiOs mixed with tuna fish which was one they all agreed was probably the worst. During the week the girls always looked forward the post cards he would send from the town where he was currently working. They knew that on their off weekend he would call like clockwork on Sunday evening, always insisting that he could only talk to them in birth order from oldest to youngest. While not always physically present there was never any doubt in his daughters’ minds that he was always there for them, and they could reach out to him at any time. 

The second part of Jim’s life is provided by son Barry: 

In 1968 Jim gained his second family - which I will call the Clark clan - when he married Helyn Sorensen Clark. His love was big enough to encompass all of us as his family and not step- family. So Lezlie and Barry became his daughter and son - for the rest of the clan he was known affectionately as Grandpa Jim. Here he has five grandchildren: Kristin, Christopher, Andrew, Alejandro and Maria; nine great grandchildren- Jack, Dakota, Tucker, Keigan, Cadan, Zakiaya, Jacob and Taro and Jacy. When asked how he wanted to be remembered, Jim wrote "Quakers don't brag." Given that, a factual listing of events and relationships shouldn't be considered "bragging". Jim enlisted in the Army on June 26, 1951 and was honorably discharged from active duty on June 3, 1953 as a Staff Sergeant of the 3rd Infantry Division, having served in Korea from 1952- 1953. He was given $3.00 as mileage allowance for his separation. 

All of us have valuable and loving memories to take with us. We also have his wit - in 1996 Jim wrote "I do not want a funeral, memorial services, or grave side services. I think funerals, etc. are pagan rituals by which the unsophisticated and superstitious placate their fear of the unknown". [Jim later decided he did want a Memorial hence our being here today.] 

Maria, one of Jim's granddaughters said it best for all of us: "I've never thought about what I would say or how I would say goodbye.... I think most importantly, I love you." From all the Clark family, “We love you.” 

Jim and Helyn were married for 25 years, living first in Oakland before moving to Sacramento where Jim continued his work with the State Banking Department under Reagan as Governor. Helyn worked at Kaiser both in Oakland and Sacramento. Helyn died of lung cancer in 1993 and Jim was a widower for a number of years. From Jim, himself, the following tells about his professional career: 

I have spent my working career in the field of commercial banking. Following graduation I worked in a few years for a regional bank in Oakland and then went to work for the State of California as a bank examiner. I retired after 20 years as a Deputy Superintendent of Banks in charge of the Sacramento office and then accepted a position with a local bank. Wanting a change in my work life, I decided to join the world of the self employed. For the last years of my working life, [he finally decided to retire at age 80] I worked as a banking consultant in the area of credit quality control as well as an expert witness primarily in civil cases involving lender liability.

Then came the third part of Jim’s life as shared by his surviving wife, Kristy. 

Representing the 3rd family, I came on board the last years of Jim’s life. He was witty, intellectually sharp, in good health, financially independent, nice looking, and a real gentleman. How could I not fall in love with him? However, due to all the complications of our large families and many, many friends and associates, it was easier to just elope, so we did just that in 2001 in Australia! Six months later we reaffirmed our vows under the care of the Sacramento Meeting. We were both active in the Meeting serving in many roles. Jim served as Treasurer for many years as well as clerk of the Library Committee, and was a member of the Finance and Oversight Committees among other tasks fulfilled for the Meeting. The Meeting and Quaker activities were an important part of our life. 

Some of the activities of my journey with Jim that stand out for me are the many “walking vacations” we took to England, Scotland and Newfoundland. Walking or hiking 5 to 10 miles per day with good company, great food and friendly historic places to sleep was a terrific experience. We also traveled to Norway a couple times to see my relatives and finally our last great trip was the Viking River Cruise from Budapest to Amsterdam – a once in a lifetime adventure for sure. 

Not to be outdone, Jim perfected his cooking skills and did indeed become a wonderful “gourmet” cook which he did for most of those 17 years of our marriage, thus spoiling me completely. There are plenty of cookbooks in the house along with many bookcases overflowing with books as Jim was an avid reader. 

Between the two of us we have 3 sons, 6 daughters, plus 17 grandchildren and 18 great- grandchildren. Blended families are diverse and wonderful. How fortunate I was to have shared those wonderful and enlightening 17 years with Jim. 

As is clearly evident, Jim lived a long and eventful life. He never knew a stranger, was always full of intellectual conversation, and very fond of his Quaker heritage. He was loved by many, adored by all and will always be in our memories.