William P. (“Bill”) Jaeger, Jr., retired Napa Valley vintner and vineyardist, attorney, devoted husband, father, and grandfather, passed away on June 2nd in Twin Falls, Idaho after a brief illness. He was 88 years old.
Bill (or “Pooz,” as he was affectionately known to his family) was born in Berkeley, California, on March 15, 1926, graduated from Berkeley High School (where he was Student Body President), and received his undergraduate degree from the University of California, Berkeley. After service as a U.S. Naval Officer during World War II, Bill received his law degree from University of California Hastings College of the Law in 1951.
That same year, he married Lila F. Fletcher and soon began a three-year stint as the chief aide to United States Senate Majority Leader William Knowland in Washington, D.C., where Bill’s lifelong interest in public policy issues was first formed. He then embarked on a legal career during which he became a partner at the Oakland law firm Hardin Fletcher Cook & Hayes, specializing in trusts and estates and tax law and serving for several years as the City Attorney of Piedmont, California. In addition to his law practice, Bill was active in his family’s oil and gas business in Thermopolis, Wyoming, first as Secretary and later as President of Empire State Oil.
In the early 1960s, Bill, Lila, and their four children spent several summers in St. Helena, and the family’s love of the Napa Valley grew strong. In 1967 Bill became a founding partner of Freemark Abbey Winery, and in 1970 the Jaegers moved full-time to St. Helena, where Bill and Lila lovingly restored a neglected 1882 Victorian home and its grounds to their former glory and eventually sited the Jaeger Inglewood estate winery there. The epitome of the Napa Valley lifestyle, the Jaeger family home was always filled with music, laughter, great food, fine wine, and gracious hospitality.
When Empire State Oil was sold to Husky Oil Company in 1971, Bill used his legal and business acumen to form a family vineyard company, Jaeger Vineyards, that continues to farm several hundred acres of prime Napa Valley vineyards. In 1976, Bill seized the opportunity to form a new partnership to acquire the former Souverain of Rutherford Winery in the eastern hills above the Valley floor and to transform it into Rutherford Hill Winery, where Bill served as managing partner for 20 years.
Although Rutherford Hill Winery and Freemark Abbey Winery were sold to new owners in 1996 and 2001, Bill remained involved in the family’s various winery and vineyard related businesses, including the importing and exporting of high-quality wine barrels, until his death.
Shortly after Bill and Lila celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in 2001, Lila passed away unexpectedly of heart failure. After Lila’s death, Bill married the former Beverly Harris and began a new chapter of his life with her in Bellevue, Idaho. He remained active in the Bohemian Club of San Francisco and returned regularly to the Bohemian Grove to gather with his many dear friends at Meyerling. He also continued to serve on the Board of Overseers of the Hoover Institution in Stanford, California.
Bill is survived by his wife, Beverly Jaeger; his daughter, Elizabeth Jaeger Morgenthaler of Portola Valley, California; his sons, William P. Jaeger III of Mill Valley, California, Jeffrey L. Jaeger of Napa, California, and John F. Jaeger of Del Mar, California; his daughters-in-law, Colleen D. Jaeger, Kristen S. Jaeger, and JoAnne S. Jaeger; his stepson, Jeff Meyer; his stepdaughter, Beverly Meyer; his grandchildren, David T. Morgenthaler III, Leah E. Jaeger, William P. Jaeger IV, Alexandra J. Heydorff, Maximilian C. Jaeger, Stephanie E. Jaeger, and Christian M. Jaeger; his sister, and brother-in-law Josie and Don Brunk; his five nephews, Jim, David, Curt, Randy and Chip Brunk; and his cousin, Cathy Haraburda.
Following a private interment ceremony, a celebration of Bill’s life is planned in the near future. Donations in Bill’s memory may be sent to the Claremont Institute, 937 W. Foothill, Blvd., Ste. E, Claremont, CA 91711.