Sacremento CA – The Reverend Rufus Lee Page passed in Sacramento on January 3, 2021 following a year of battling with cancer held at bay for more than 35 years. Among the many who mourn Lee’s passing are two of his three sisters, Edith Romaine and Susan Donahue, his sister Gretchen passed on recently; his wife, Gayle Page; his daughters from his first marriage to Jo Webber: Courtney Page and Sean Yurica; Lee’s third daughter, Meghan Page and his stepdaughter Neysa Paz from his second marriage to Gayle Page; and his grandchildren Dean Michael, Nathaniel, Timothy, Kinsey and Piper. He now has a brand-new great granddaughter, Marcela, whom he did not live to meet.
Lee was born in Ionia, MI, to Mary Pana and Rufus Lee Page Jr. on July 16, 1934. He was raised in Dixon, Illinois, where he was accustomed to days of labor on the family farm. Summers on the lakes of Marquette, MI, inspired in him a lifelong passion for sailing small wooden boats. Lee completed his undergraduate education at Shimer College in Mt. Carroll, IL. Shimer at Great Books College where, according to The New York Times, students shared a love of books and a disdain for the conventional style of education.
The students tended to be individualistic and creative thinkers. Those who knew Lee recognize him in this description. Lee was known for his passion for knowledge and books. He had an ability to synthesize ideas gathered from diverse fields,- philosophy, the natural and social sciences, and religion, and to convey these ideas with conversational ease making them accessible and relevant. He was a fine and patient teacher, always generous with his knowledge, not infrequently shared across a chessboard upon which he was deftly thwarting the best, but sadly doomed, efforts of his interlocutor to remain afloat.
From Shimer College, Lee went to the Philadelphia Divinity School in Philadelphia. He was ordained an Episcopal priest in 1958. A varied pastoral career beginning in Poughkeepsie, NY which led him to Southern California and finally to Sacramento. The Capitol of California became his home. He actively worked throughout his time in Sacramento to create a welcoming environment for others through his pastoral efforts which were as gentle and loving as they were varied. He was made Rector at St. Paul’s on J Street. Creating community was a broad theme in Lee’s life, and, while he was Rector, he worked to make everyone feel welcome.
During his seminary years in Philadelphia, Lee was drawn to the gatherings at the city’s famous coffee house, “The Gilded Cage”. It was the time of folk music, poetry readings and an exploration of new ways to connect with others. Lee was so moved by this period in his life, he carried its ethos into both his time as a posted parish priest and his role as an informal parish priest to those seeking community and meaning in Midtown Sacramento in the 1970s and 1980s. Lee bought his first coffee house, Giovanni’s, in 1972 and began its transformation to becoming Weatherstone Coffee and Tea Co.
In his coffee house years, 21st and I Streets were central boulevards through the Sacramento counterculture, and Lee was the impresario of Weatherstone, one of its places-to-go. Filled with unmatched furniture, shelves full of eclectic well-worn books from Lee’s library, battered chess boards, a piano, a hissing espresso machine, and a wood stove that burned coal constantly through chilly days and evenings, Weatherstone welcomed everyone from regulars and drop-ins to tourists. Our dear friend Lee Page was always there with coffee and impromptu conversation. He is remembered as an intelligent, articulate and kind debater of ideas, a counselor, a kind ear, a raconteur, and a singer who sang his way home thus giving all the street tidings of his approach.
Lee was silenced for a time with a laryngectomy in 1985. Weatherstone continued on thanks to many dear friends, especially David Rose who kept the doors open. Lee regained his health and through perseverance learned to speak again. For many years he volunteered as a visitor to new laryngectomies and was active in their support group.
Seeking a new sense of purpose, Lee successfully reimagined himself into the world of IT. He taught himself machine code on a personal computer gifted to him by Dr. Gene Oldfield. Lee completed a vocational program in coding, and worked for the State of California from 1989 until his retirement in 2014, as a Senior Software Specialist with the California Department of Technology Services. He loved the comradery as well as the work. He felt grateful for each new phase in his life and his family.
A gathering is planned to remember Lee on May 2nd at 1:30, at Odd Fellows Lawn Cemetery at 2720 Riverside Blvd., Sacramento. All are welcome.