Marin hero Robert Praetzel dies at 97

“When people walk on the open space of Marin County they should be grateful to a man of talent, vision and perseverance.”


Photo courtesy of Wikimedia (Creative Commons)

By Nathan Robinson

Robert Praetzel, a Marin County lawyer who played an instrumental role in stopping the Marincello real estate development and the creation of Marin County Parks, died of natural causes at age 97 on Feb. 4. 

Praetzel was a native to Marin. He grew up exploring Mt. Tamalpais and the nature surrounding it. He attended Tamalpais High School until 1942, when he dropped out to join the Navy. Praetzel served for three years on a supply tanker, before returning to Marin. 

Upon his return, Praetzel enrolled at Marin Junior College, then went on to UC Berkeley and finally Hastings Law school, where he earned his law degree. In 1954, Bob joined a San Anselmo law office, launching a 60+ year career of helping those in need of his expertise in Estate Planning and Probate.

 In the 1960s, Praetzel and his law partner Martin Rosen fought against a proposed residential development in the Marin Headlands, known as Marincello. The Marincello development was planned to be constructed in the Gerbode Valley of the Marin Headlands, and included 2,160 acres designed to house over 30,000 people in homes, townhouses, and low-rise apartment towers. 

Pushback from Praetzel and Rosen, along with other environmentalists caused the Marincello project to be abandoned in 1972. The only remnant of the proposed Marincello is the Marincello Trail in Tennessee Valley, which was once intended to be the main entrance to the city. 

According to Rosen, “It was [Praetzel’s] brilliance alone that was responsible for the creation of the Golden Gate national park district.” 

Rosen continued, “When people walk on the open space of Marin County they should be grateful to a man of talent, vision and perseverance.”

Nancy Praetzel, his wife of 66 years, described Robert Praetzel, saying, “He was a wonderful man, full of integrity, compassion and generosity, he employed all that as a lawyer,” she said. “His crowning joy was Marincello, but he had a million other things he did.”

Praetzel was an avid outdoorsman, traveler, conservationist, and philanthropist. According to his obituary published in the Marin Independent Journal, “Bob (Praetzel) lived a bountiful life filled with countless remarkable experiences. These included backpacking the Sierra Nevada range from 1948 on, fly fishing (tying his own flies), duck hunting, hiking every nook of his beloved Mt. Tam, gardening, coaching his kids’ sports teams, and traveling extensively with Nancy through 6 continents.”

Praetzel will be remembered as a true Marin hero. His legacy will live on eternally through the beautiful Marin Headlands he helped to save.  He is survived by his wife of 66 years, Nancy; his children Matt, Susanna, Eugenia and Anne Marie; his sister Lola Saylor; his brother Patrick Praetzel; and numerous grandchildren.