Celebrating the Legacy of a PACE Pioneer

Robert 'Bob' EdmondsonRobert “Bob” Edmondson, who served as CalPACE’s first chair of our board of directors and as Executive Director in the initial years of the association, died unexpectedly on April 20th. He is survived by his wife, Susan, and their three sons.

Bob was a devoted advocate for the care and well-being of seniors during an impressive career spanning 40 years. In 2005, he became CEO of On Lok in San Francisco, which was founded 50 years ago and created the PACE model.  In addition to the CalPACE board, he served as a board member at the National PACE Association. He also served in many leadership roles in government and private sector, non-profit and for-profit HMOs in Northern California, and in national and international health organizations.

Bob recognized the need to establish an organization to become a common voice for PACE organizations in California, and he was instrumental in creating CalPACE as the nation’s first state-based PACE trade association in 2007. When referring to CalPACE, Bob used to say, “This is important business, folks.”

Among his many contributions to PACE in California, Bob was the driving force behind the formation of CalPACE in 2007.  He led forums for PACE organizations to collaborate regularly and meet with state and federal policymakers. He led CalPACE’s efforts to remove barriers to expanding PACE so that more people could be served by PACE. He also contributed greatly to improve PACE enrollment practices and the development of a new payment methodology for PACE. During Bob’s service on CalPACE’s board, the number of PACE organizations grew from 4 to 10 and the number of people enrolled grew from 2,100 to nearly 6,000.

Colleagues remember Bob as kind, compassionate, and visionary. He was also a thoughtful mentor who helped build a new generation of PACE leaders.

“Bob was a generous person who valued others and was very considerate, easy to trust because he kept his word,” said Peter Szutu, former CEO of the Center for Elders’ Independence and founding board member of CalPACE. “He was the right person to lead CalPACE in the early years. He set the tone for friendly competition between PACE programs, beginning with our own.”

“Bob Edmondson was a gentleman to his fingertips, and he expressed that in business relationships as well as in personal interactions,” said Cheryl Wilson, CEO of St. Paul’s Senior Services and early board member of CalPACE. “His love of the PACE model inspired him to support St. Paul’s first Center, in San Diego. We became successful and we continue to grow on the shoulders of Bob’s gracious guidance.”

“Working closely with Bob to deepen On Lok’s reach and impact gave me the chance to build on his legacy as he prepared me for an opportunity of a lifetime,” said Grace Li, CEO of On Lok. “His contributions to On Lok and the communities we serve will always be remembered.”

“Bob’s drive to help disadvantaged and underserved populations made him one of the most inspiring people I have worked with,” said Peter Hansel, CEO of CalPACE. “He tirelessly offered his time and insights to mentor me, helping me transition from a career in public policy to managing CalPACE today.”

“Bob saw the benefits of the PACE model in making a difference in the lives of frail older adults and was deeply committed to bringing PACE to new communities,” said Eileen Kunz, current Chair of CalPACE board of directors, and On Lok Chief of Government Affairs and Compliance.  “His leadership and dedication to CalPACE, and to the importance of PACE organizations working together to advance PACE in California, laid the foundation for CalPACE’s success.”