U. S. Ambassador Theodore Edmonds Gildred Dies at 83

Jan 19, 2019 | President’s Column

United States Ambassador Theodore Edmonds Gildred, ambassador to Argentina from 1986 – 1989 during that country’s newfound democratic presidency, died on January 3, 2019, at his home in Montana. He lived primarily in North San Diego County, CA. Ambassador Gildred reported to President Reagan, President George H. W. Bush, and Secretary of State George Schultz. Ted was 83 years old. He had suffered serious illness for some time.

Lomas Santa Fe Inc.

In civilian life, Ambassador Gildred was an influential developer in the San Diego area for over 50 years, having received numerous awards, one of which acclaimed him a visionary in San Diego development. In north county San Diego, CA, his development company, Lomas Santa Fe Inc., built the vast majority of residences, shopping centers, parks, office buildings, and a country club in the sprawling Lomas Santa Fe section of Solana Beach. As Chairman of the Board and key shareholder, he founded Torrey Pines Bank there, which later became part of Wells Fargo Bank.  In business, Lomas Santa Fe was his proudest achievement. But Ted had personal endeavors at which he excelled, as well.

In 1935, Ted was born in Mexico City to an American and Mexican developer, Theodore Gildred, and Maxine Gildred, an accomplished opera singer. Young Ted went to school in Mexico City and in San Diego. After graduating high school, he applied to and graduated from Leland Stanford Jr. University near Palo Alto, CA.

Life of Service

Ted volunteered for the United States Army in 1956 and served as an M.P. in Germany during the late years of the Marshall Plan of reconstruction. Off duty, as is the case in young peoples’ lives, Ted and his buddies were sometimes given to shenanigans, but, he said, he was proud to serve and that service made him grow up.

Spiriting out a Muscovite to Sweden

After that, Ted pursued studies at the Sorbonne in Paris and at the University of Heidelberg, Germany. During that period, just prior to Gary Powers’ U-2 being shot down over Russia, Ted made a trip to Moscow, U.S.S.R., and was instrumental in spiriting out a Muscovite to Sweden, where she lived a long, happy life. Years later Ted became friends with Powers.

Ted Gildred was a founding member of the Buenos Aires chapter of YPO, the Young Presidents’ Organization, which brings together young leaders throughout the world in order to promote understanding and cooperation between countries, cultures, and the unique challenges young entrepreneurs encounter.

French 24 Hours of Le Mans

Ted Gildred was a licensed racecar driver and collector of a wide range of significant, vintage cars. He raced for more than forty years, primarily throughout California.  He enjoyed competing in many car rallies, as well, driving with friends and family. When he had a chance to sponsor and co-drive a car with the famous George Follmer at Le Mans in 1986, he sponsored the car but had to step out of the driver’s seat at the request of the United States Department of State pending his appointment to an Ambassadorship. Ted’s car, painted in proud American flag style, took 3rd overall and 1st in class at the world famous French 24 Hours of Le Mans that year.

Racing and collecting cars was not Ted’s only recreational passion. He was also an avid aviator, attaining the highest instrument rating available from the FAA. While in dire weather in Argentina, the Ambassador was even once asked to and did take the controls of the Embassy plane.

Goodwill Flight

Ted Gildred Goodwill Flight

As Ambassador and as a pilot, he once had the great privilege of riding along with the Blue Angels. He was, like his father before him, inducted into the San Diego Air and Space Museum Hall of Fame. Ted twice re-enacted his father’s record-setting flight from San Diego to Quito, Ecuador. On the 50th anniversary he flew a depression-era aircraft. On the 75th anniversary, he flew a modern aircraft. At the end of the 1931 flight, Ted’s father donated his plane to the Ecuadorian Government teaching postal service pilots to fly the plane, thereby establishing the first airmail system over the Ecuadorian Andes. During the anniversary flights, Ted used the journeys to promote friendship opportunities between officials and dignitaries of Mexico, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, and Ecuador.

Theodore Edmonds Gildred, Ted, was attentive to charities, as well. He donated the land to build the Boys and Girls Club of Solana Beach, was one of the founders of the San Diego Community Foundation, and generously gave numerous other charitable gifts. He gave to many charities over the years, including the Scripps Institute, the Francis Parker School, Stanford University, UCSD, the Madison Valley Medical Center, and the Jonas Salk Institute. Dr. Salk had been a dear friend of Ted and of Ted’s father.

Institute of the Americas Founder

In 1982, Theodore Edmonds Gildred, having returned from a tour of Latin America where he met with heads of state and other dignitaries, founded the Institute of the Americas, seeding it with an ample endowment. With the help of Dr. Richard Atkinson, Ted convinced the University of California, San Diego and its Board of Regents to allow him to build several buildings at the University, one of which houses the Institute. Since then, the Institute of the Americas has raised money, facilitated influential relationships between people in all of South and North America, provided education for young scholars, produced research papers to the academy in order to promote discourse and understanding, and met with officials of governments, the World Bank, the IMF, and CAF to encourage stable, sustainable development and peace in Latin America. Its vital mission continues to this day.

Award-Winning Ranch Community

Ted and a partner bought the sprawling 27,000-acre Sun Ranch near Yellowstone Park in the Madison Valley of Montana, significantly improving it while preserving wildlife habitat. Years later, in the early 1990s, having sold the Sun Ranch, Ted created an award-winning ranch community across the Madison River on 2,000 acres he had purchased shortly after buying the Sun Ranch. Sun West Ranch was ahead of its time in responsible development concept of extraordinary lands, having selected discreet, ample acreage homesites away from the river in order to preserve the pristine landscape. 1,600 of the 2,000 acres is forever dedicated to open space. The development is so well designed that property owners and drivers-by do not see hidden homes within all the natural splendor.

After returning from Argentina in 1989 where polo is ubiquitous and Ted became an avid player, Ted helped found the first Polo Club in north San Diego County. He had always been a good horseman. He further belonged to several service clubs, as well, who honored him for his service and many achievements.

Ted never forgot how fortunate he was for his education. He understood how it opens opportunities for people. Theodore Edmonds Gildred funded permanent professorship chairs of Latin American Studies at Stanford University and of U.S.-Mexican Relations at University of California San Diego.

Love for his Family

All of these worldly accomplishments and more filled one of the fullest and, in Ted’s mind, luckiest lives ever lived. But combined, they did not compare to the love he had for his family. Ted was preceded in death by his brother, Stuart. Ted is survived by the love of his life, his wife, Heidi Coppin Gildred. He is survived by his sisters, Lynne Gildred of San Francisco and Helen Gildred of Marin County, CA. He is further survived by his children: Theodore Edmonds Gildred III of San Diego County, Jennifer Gildred Piper of Sonoma County, CA; Edward Gildred of Los Angeles; John Gildred of Los Gatos, CA; Tory Gildred Hober of Seattle, WA; Stephen Gildred of Del Mar, CA; and Kimberly Dunn O’Neill of Atascadero, CA. Ted is also survived by his four grandchildren, Maximillian Gildred, Joshua Gildred, Sara Gildred, and Harper Charlotte Hober as well as numerous nieces and nephews.  At the end of the day, the love he had for each and all of these people was what mattered most to him. He loved each of them without qualification. He was indeed a busy man, an exacting man, and at times a stern and proud man. But, as the dust settled, he was most sure and heartened that he loved and did it for them.

In lieu of flowers the family suggests a donation to the Madison Valley Medical Center Foundation in Ennis Montana, the Institute of the Americas on the campus of UCSD or a charity of the donor’s choice.

Services will be held at the Village Community Presbyterian Church in Rancho Santa Fe at 11:30 AM on January 18, 2019.