'On January 20, 2009, just hours after President Obama took the oath of office, our nation lost a tremendous American: Richard Sklar.
'My friend Richard Sklar was a master builder: of family, of ideas, of infrastructure, of peace, of the future.
'My husband, Paul, and I first met Richard and his beautiful wife Barbara in the 1970s. I remember the day the Sklars moved into the neighborhood. My daughters Christine and Nancy met them first, running home to exclaim to me, “A new family has moved in. They have children our age. Their mother is beautiful, and their father sings show tunes. And did I tell you, they're Democrats?”
'My five children became fast friends with the Sklar children: Karen, Eric, Marc, and Pamela. We all quickly came to cherish Richard's larger-than-life personality, sense of humor, and love of life and family.
'Richard was like the pied piper when it came to children. When one of my kids wasn't home, there was a good chance that the Sklars were hosting a basketball game, movie, meal, or party. Over 20 years ago, the kids saw the Smurf movie and bestowed Richard with the nickname “Papa Smurf.” They - and he - used it ever since.
'With a zest for the organic and the exotic, Richard and Barbara were “foodies” long before the term was officially invented. You could count on expanding your palate at the Sklar tables in San Francisco and Napa. He was proud of his homegrown grapes and figs, and enjoyed the small celebrations - weekends in the country, birthdays, and family dinners - as much as the big holidays. Though Jewish and proud of his heritage, Richard put up the biggest Christmas tree anyone had ever seen.
'Richard was a master builder of ideas. A brilliant engineer, businessman, diplomat and mediator, Richard brought his passion, talents and determination to every challenge he faced. As pragmatic as he could be in business, Richard was at heart a dreamer - always pursuing big ideas, big ideals, and big innovations.
'Richard loved people - earning the respect of all, from the people on the street to the President of the United States. His confidence in their possibilities inspired greatness in return.
'But Richard wasn't afraid to use tough love as well, because he was passionate, mission-driven and fearless in all his endeavors. In one such tough love work moment, he said 'I didn't come here to be uncritically loved; I get that from my grandkids.' He certainly had his priorities in order.
'Richard had an opinion about everything and was never shy about expressing his views - whether about family, movies, books, or politics. Richard wanted the last word in any conversation - and usually he got it.
'Richard and I shared a birthplace - Baltimore, Maryland - and a love for progressive values and Democratic politics. Richard and Barbara were long involved in local and national politics from McGovern to Obama, They participated in every election cycle, building coalitions and urging participatory democracy. They opened their home for candidates for office at all levels of service. If you showed up at the Sklar house during Teddy Kennedy's 1980 campaign, any number of Kennedy family and friends might be there for breakfast or dinner.
'And more often than not, you would see that great Sklar and Kennedy friend, Anna Eshoo. Richard delighted in Anna's success as a Member of Congress over the years.
'Richard and Barbara taught their children to be active in civic life and have always taken great pride in their children's public service.
'Throughout the years, Richard's role as master builder of ideas manifested itself in his work to preserve our planet for future generations. A force of nature himself, he never stopped thinking about new ways to save the planet, promote energy independence, and create innovative solutions by sheer force of will and intellect.
'San Francisco will always bear the mark of Richard the master builder of infrastructure. In his lifetime, Richard oversaw construction of the Moscone Convention Center, kick-started Muni, and supervised the reconstruction of San Francisco's historic cable car system.
'When you attend a conference at the Moscone Center, commute on an electric bus, or catch a cable car ride, you are among millions of people benefiting from the city that Richard helped rebuild.'