Lee died of a heart condition at his Yountville home on May 13, 2018 with his wife Chrissy at his side. He was born in San Francisco July 18, 1940 to Martha Francis Van de Leur Hart and LeRoy Taft Hart. He was the oldest of four children, all boys. At the age of three, the family moved to Yountville where they lived in a house owned by his great-grandfather, Mathias Van de Leur. They moved to Napa few years later. He went to Westwood Elementary School, Ridgewood Junior High and graduated from Napa High School in 1958. He continued his education, attending Napa Junior College in the early sixty’s , graduating in 1964 with an AA in Business Administration.
Lee married Robin Boardman of Fairfield in 1960. They lived in Napa all their married life. They divorced in 1988, but remained friends. He was the proud father of Victoria(Vicki), Elizabeth (Liz) and LeRoy Mathias (Matt) all still in Napa. As a family they enjoyed vacationing, usually camping. The children also deer hunted, fished and camped with him when they were young . He also enjoyed being a grandfather of 10 and great-grandfather of 6.
Lee worked for the Napa Valley Register from age 11 as a paperboy to 1961 when he was Assistant Circulation Manager. He was hired by Bank of America in 1961 as an operations trainee in Vallejo. When he left the bank in 1969, he was working in the Richmond Branch as a Real Estate Loan Officer. He continued his career as an Escrow Officer for TI Insurance and Western Title, R E Loan Officer for Silverado Savings and Loan.
He was a member of the Napa Police Department Reserves for several years starting in the late 60’s and in 1973 was hired by NPD as a police officer. This was a job he loved. One of the highlights of his career was saving the life of an infant who had stopped breathing while with its family at Fuller Park. He was honored by the Napa Chamber of Commerce as ‘Peace Officer of the Year’ for this. He retired from the NPD in 1998. He then worked another ten years for the Napa County Sheriff’s Office as a Marshall.
Lee started training at Suisun Self-Defense Institute in 1964, a school for Kajukenbo Karate and continued this discipline until his death. He was a Grand Master, 10th Degree Black Belt. He medaled 3 times at California’s Police Olympics, including a Gold. In the 1980’s and into the 90’s, he was an instructor at Napa College for Self-Defense. He also worked for their Police Academy instructing Self-Defense and baton skills.
He was an avid hunter, fisherman, camper. He especially loved the Sierra City/Lakes Basin area of California.
Another of his interests was California history, Napa County’s 1800’s in particular. This was sparked when in he was asked to join the board of directors of the Yountville Cemetery Association in 1963 by his cousin Jack Forrester. After Jack’s death in 1965, he became its President and had been until his death. Former mountain -man , and founder of the Town of Yountville, George Yount became one of his heroes. Lee studied him then ‘became him’. As George, wearing authentic mountain-man attire, Lee gave many talks to Napa County groups and school children and could be seen as part of the Yountville Day’s celebration every October and the Yountville Cemetery’s Memorial Day services every May. He was also a Life Member of the Napa County Historical Society, serving on its board as Vice President for several years in the 70’s. Lee was recognized as ‘Historian of the Year by NCHS’ in 1990, particularly for his involvement with the Yountville Cemetery. He was also a proud member of E Clampus Vitus, an organization that recognizes and promotes California History, especially the California Gold Rush era. He enjoyed collecting books on Western US history.
In 2011, Congressman Mike Thompson presented Lee with a Certificate of Recognition, with a copy of the declaration made on the floor of Congress honoring Lee ‘for his outstanding work in Napa County’
His motto was ‘Anything done in moderation is boring.’ Lee loved hosting a party, his favorites were the annual luaus every July during the 1980’s in his back yard with about 150 guests enjoying the traditional Hawaiian food, dancers and karate demonstrations. To honor his Irish heritage, he and Chrissy always had a big St. Patrick’s Day celebration for family and friends.
At the time of his death, Lee was also a member of Ducks Unlimited, California Waterfowl Association, Native Sons of the Golden West, Toastmasters, Kiwanis of Yountville, Focus and the George C. Yount Mountain Men which he founded in 80’s.
In 2000, Lee met Chrissy and Chrissy met Lee. Life was wonderful and they were married on July 14, 2001. Lee and Chrissy started wonderful adventures together and a wonderful life. Lee has left us with many stories and memories that will be passed on for years to come.
Lee is preceded in death by his parents, and brothers William and Michael Hart. He is survived by wife Chrissy Hart; brother John; daughters Vicki and Liz; son Matt , daughter-in-law Susan; former wife Robin Hart; cousin Tim Borman; grandchildren Mallory (David) Aquino; Cassandra Clements; Jillian (Cassidy) Nolan; Jessica Hunter; Steven Hunter; Zane Alessio; Brenden Hart; Ciera Johnson; Rick Beavin; Katie Love and great-grandchildren Asher, Ruby, Arianna, Melanie, Colt and Ava, extended family, cousins in Virginia and many nieces and nephews.
Funeral services will be on Friday, May 25th at Claffey and Rota Funeral Home at 10:00 AM and burial at Yountville Pioneer Cemetery at Noon.
Memories and notes of sympathy may be shared at claffeyandrota.com. In Lieu of flowers send donations to the Yountville Cemetary Association, PO Box, Yountville Ca 94599.