William Amos Key, 1936 - 1994

1971 BHS Alumnus of the Year

(From two news articles)

Bill Key - 1936-1994

Former Hillsborough Police Chief, William Key, 58, died November 17 at Mills Peninsula Hospital, San Mateo, from adult respiratory distress syndrome, caused by an unknown virus. He was a native of San Mateo and lived his entire life in the immediate area.

Key was a graduate of Hillsborough Elementary School, Burlingame High School and San Jose State University where he received a BA and MA in Administration of Justice. With the exception of two years served in the Army, he spent his entire professional career in law enforcement.

Key was a member of the Hillsborough Police Department from 1957 to 1991, serving as Chief for 14 years. At the time of his death he was the Law Enforcement Coordinator for the Northern District of California for the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Key's professional memberships included the FBI National Academy Associates - California Chapter, International Association of Chiefs of Police, California Police Chiefs Association of which he was the co-chair of the Law and Legislation Committee, Police Chiefs Association of San Mateo County, Bay Area Law Enforcement and Security Liaison Group, and Bay Counties Peace Officers Association.

Throughout his adult life, Key was active in community and Episcopal Church affairs. He was a member of the Burlingame Lions Club, Native Sons of the Golden West - El Camino Parlor 289, and the Pacific Locomotive Association. Key was also a member of the vestry of St. Matthews Episcopal Church serving as the Junior Warden in 1990, and Senior Warden in 1991, and served on the vestry of the Episcopal Church of the Transfiguration from 1974-1976.

Most recently he was the co-chair of the 1994 Burlingame Train Station Centennial Celebration Committee. This year the Burlingame Lion's Club named him Burlingame Citizen of the Year.

He is survived by his wife, Karen, of Burlingame, and two daughters, Elizabeth and Suzanne of Sacramento.

A funeral was held November 21 at the Episcopal Church of Saint Matthew in San Mateo.

The family prefers contributions to the Bill Key Memorial Fund at either Peninsula Re-Care of San Mateo County or St. Matthews Episcopal Church in San Mateo.

Key remembered by the city that loved him

Police chief, husband, father, friend. Bill Key, who died November 16 (1994), was the best of all these things, according to friends and former colleagues. Bill Sammon, who worked for (??) different police chiefs during more than four decades as a cop, rated Key as "one of the most compassionate chiefs I ever worked for." Key hired Sammon as the Hillsborough Police Department's stationmaster in 1980, soon after Sammon retired from the San Francisco Police Department.

One example of Key's compassion Sammon remembers occurred when one of the officers, a father of two small children, and his wife, were expecting another baby. When the baby was born with problems, Key volunteered to go to their house on the coast and babysit the other kids so the couple could spend as much time as possible with the infant.

(?)arlene Camilleri was Key's secretary from 1970 until the time he retired in December 1990. She said that among the things she'll never forget about Key is his kindness and caring about people. "He always tried to make sure that people had what they needed at work and it extended to personal issues, too," she said. "Bill knew the importance of family to a cop." Camilleri said Key valued tradition, family, church and close friends. "And he was a stickler on propriety - things like being on time and having polished shoes," she said.

Hillsborough's current police chief, Bob McNichol, worked with Key for 17 years.

"He was inquisitive and effective as a police officer," McNichol said, "And when Proposition 13 passed he became an instant expert on budgets." McNichol also remembers Key for his festive ties. "He must have had quite a collection - he seemed to have a festive tie for every occasion."

Key's sense of humor is something almost everyone mentions. Georgette Naylor, Executive Director of the Burlingame Chamber of Commerce, got to know Key when she worked for his wife, Karen, at the Chamber. "He always had a joke to tell," Naylor said. "He was a good guy." During Karen's tenure at the Chamber, Key also developed a reputation for his work in the rose garden, which he tended for 109 years.

Marilyn (Dickman) Short (BHS'55), archivist for the Burlingame Historical Society, knew Key longer than most people. They were high school classmates. "He was a big, good hearted, good natured guy, with a tremendous sense of humor," Short said. "He loved people and he embraced life so tremendously."

"He loved trains and the train station and having the Chamber office in the stationmasters quarters," she said. In fact it was the train station that led Short and Key to renew their acquaintance. As the station's centennial approached, Key began talking about a celebration. His wife encouraged him to stop talking and do it. At the first planning meeting, Key said he was reluctant to chair the event because of time constraints. Short, who was there on behalf of the Historical Society, offered to serve as his co-chair.

Both Short and McNichol agree that Key was in his glory on the day of the centennial. Dressed in a stationmaster's hat and vest, he saw his dream of a centennial celebration become reality. "The train station centennial celebration definitely sprang from the imagination of Bill Key," Short said.

It also may have played a role in helping Key partially fulfill a lifelong dream. Seniors in the Burlingame High School's 1955 yearbook were asked to list their secret desires. Bill Key, former police chief and a law enforcement coordinator for the Northern District of California for the U.S. Attorney's Office, wanted to be a locomotive engineer.

(The above news articles were included in and copied from "Panther Tracks - 1995", an addendum to our 1955 Yearbook created for our 40th class reunion in Year 1995. Certain words and margins were clipped, and where missing words could not be inserted from context, question marks (??) were inserted. While paragraphs have been combined, nothing has been omitted.)


On June 6, 2008, the City of Burlingame celebrated its Centennial Birthday and completed a year of festiviities culminating in the Centennial Ball. And who was the chairperson of the Centennial Ball? Karen Key. Over 500 celebrants gathered in Burlingame's Hyatt Regency Hotel Grand Ballroom for dinner, entertainment, fireworks, and dancing to the 70's music of the Mid-Life Crisis Band..