PALO ALTO, Calif. — Charles “Charlie” Fordyce Bisbee, 70, died March 4, 2020, at his home in Palo Alto, Calif.
A memorial service will be at noon Monday, March 23, at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Palo Alto.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to KQED or your public radio station, Doctors Without Borders or the Stuhr Museum of the Prairie Pioneer in Grand Island.
Charlie was born Jan. 31, 1950, in Grand Island to Mac and Dorothy (Shaw) Bisbee. He earned a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering in 1972 from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and his Master of Business degree in Finance in 1979 from the University of Southern California.
Charlie’s work ethic was formed at an early age, working in a variety of jobs, including delivering papers, detasselling corn and roofing. After graduating from UNL, Charlie joined Bechtel, working initially in Houston, then transferring to San Francisco before heading to Alaska during construction of the Trans-Alaska pipeline. After three years in the cold he attended USC, spending summers working in London and the North Sea. He rejoined Bechtel in San Francisco and worked on projects in the United States, Mexico and Canada. In 1992 he had the opportunity to work for a year in Kuwait managing the rebuilding of the oil facilities after Desert Storm.
In 2002, Charlie joined Genentech’s engineering team as a project manager, supporting the development of pharmaceutical production facilities. He found it gratifying to be part of an organization that made so many important medical breakthroughs. He was an excellent mentor to many young project managers. He was known for his boundless passion for the teams he worked on and for always bringing a wry humor when needed. His efforts will continue to deliver for years after his passing, whether they be scientific labs or production facilities for the most advanced medicines.
Throughout Charlie’s long career, he valued building relationships while working with others to meet demanding challenges. He enjoyed that his work took him to so many places around the world.
He married Mary Elizabeth Clifford in 1991 and they were blessed with two children, Christopher and Danielle. When they moved to Palo Alto in 1998, they knew they had found their lifelong home.
His generosity and enthusiasm for life included bringing home lobster tails, passing out full-size candy bars on Halloween, annually pre-ordering large turkeys on Nov. 1 and buying overly tall, massive Christmas trees that sometimes had to be engineered to stay upright with a pulley system.
Charlie’s many passions included public radio, Giants baseball, rock bands, movies, mysteries, musicals (especially “Les Miserables” and “Hamilton”) and Nebraska, USC and 49ers football.
He was a loving and devoted husband and Dad. He cherished his children and his wonderful wife, Mary. He treasured his many cousins, who were like siblings to him, and doted on his nieces and nephews.
He made lifelong friends wherever he was: the UNL Bourbon Street group, his Alaska cohorts, his Bechtel and Genentech teams, the annual Gentlemen’s Lunch and the New Year’s Eve Dinner Club. Charlie was always kind and considerate and showed great compassion toward others. He was generous to his family and friends, and his wonderful sense of humor will be missed.
In addition to his wife and children, he is survived by two sisters, Ann Willis and Marjorie Bisbee.
He was preceded in death by his parents and his sister, Mary Louise Bisbee.