If you passed by the intersection of highways 9 and 1 you’ve seen the sign on the Rebele Family Shelter. If you’ve seen Shakespeare in the Park, the Santa Cruz Symphony, or sent kids to the teen center at St. John’s Church, or Cabrillo College or UCSC, you’ve benefited from their generosity. Or if you’ve gone to Watsonville Hospital, or read this magazine, the Rebeles had a hand in your life.
It was a sad day November 25 when Rowland Rebele died at the age of 93 after a lifetime of service and philanthropy. Many will be reeling from the loss for a long time.
Reb, as he preferred to be called, was a Stanford grad and Navy officer who made a fortune in what is today a dying industry–publishing newspapers. He scraped his way up from an internship in the Central Valley to owning more than a dozen publications, which he began selling as he neared retirement age.
He pledged to give away the money he amassed before he died and from his home in Aptos, and later Dominican Oaks. He did just that, writing checks for those in need.
When Watsonville Hospital fought to recover from bankruptcy and serve a county that desperately needed more medical care, he wrote a check for a million dollars. He gave another million to fund arts programs at UCSC. He’s given an endowment to Cabrillo College and Stanford University that will keep journalism students doing paid internships forever. And yeah, he kept this magazine alive when we faced bankruptcy because of Covid. He believed families needed the information we provide.
Notice the hat in the photo here? I ran into him at Safeway when he was wearing it, showing the colors for Santa Cruz’s only family magazine. I couldn’t resist the photo. It made me so happy and proud.
I never met anyone like him and he forever changed my life. He was a compassionate conservative at a time when conservatism seemed to mean amassing fortunes, and not necessarily helping others. He didn’t buy so-called “trickle-down economics,” knowing that nothing trickles to those who can’t put a roof over their heads or feed their children.
“We are our brother’s keeper,” he said, a truly spiritual man whose deeds matched his words.
He not only donated, but he trekked down hillsides and along the rivers to take a census of homeless people to make sure they were able to get needed services. The first time I met him he was covered in mud from his work, well into his 80s.
I feel lucky that just two months ago I wrote a thank you note to him in this column, while he was still alive. I’m sad that we spent a long time preparing a cover story at Good Times weekly about him but it ran after his death.
His wife of 69 years, Pat, was his partner in all of his efforts. She learned of his death on her 94th birthday. They had been separated because he had pneumonia and then Covid.
If you didn’t know him, I hope this lets you know of a man who did so much for our county. If you did, you know he and the whole family of three grown kids, deserve thanks and a big salute for their sacrifices.
Thanks, Rebeles, all.
Editor and Publisher