Born Zell Ann Ross in 1933 to parents Harry Ross and Marcia (May) Lipson. Zell lived her first four years in Denver, Colorado. Harry owned a car dealership, but the post-Depression times were hard, forcing Harry to liquidate the dealership. He watched his equipment being auctioned and decided that wasn’t a bad way to earn a living. So he packed up the family, moved to San Francisco, and in 1937 opened up Ross Mercantile Company. He was now a San Francisco auctioneer.
Zell was their only child, and May spoiled her with the finest clothes a girl could wear. Zell was extremely bright and kept outpacing her fellow grammar school students, so the principal recommended she skip the second grade. She did and still kept advancing past her fellow students, so a few years later the principal recommended she skip the fifth grade too. She was gifted, mature beyond her peers, and studies came easy to her. Harry and May knew she was very smart, and there was only one school in the city at the time for the best and brightest, so Zell was enrolled at Lowell High School. She breezed through Lowell in style, and at the young age of 16 she was off to Cal Berkeley for college.
In addition to her intelligence, she was beautiful. Zell possessed movie star looks and turned heads everywhere she went. She was on a date one night in 1950 walking through the Fairmont hotel and her date ran into an acquaintance who had returned from the War. Her date said, “Hey, Millard,” and he replied, “Hello, Sherman,” but he was looking straight at Zell. She took his breath away; but she casually paid him no attention.
As luck would have it, on a weekend home from Cal a few weeks later, she walked into a cigar store on Geary Street to get a pack of cigarettes (yes, she smoked). Inside the store happened to be that same young good-looking war vet also getting a pack of cigarettes (he smoked, too). He turned when she came in, and their eyes locked. He smiled and called out, “Hey you’re Sherman’s girl,” and she looked at him and coolly replied, “I’m nobody’s girl.”
“Good,” he said, “Then can I have your phone number?” She bought her pack, put it in her purse, and turned to leave. Over her shoulder she said, “It’s in the book.”
Millard wasted no time, calling her up and swinging by in his old man’s convertible. He pulled up, went inside to her apartment, and was told to sit in the kitchen and meet her father. There was Harry, sitting at the kitchen table in his undershirt, with a can of beer. Millard was standing in a flashy suit. They exchanged glances and pleasantries. Zell took Millard’s arm, and off they went.
It didn’t take long: They met when she was 17 and were engaged a few months later. She married at 18 (he was 25) on December 2, 1951. Their first son Ross was born the following September, in 1952. You do the math (yes, they had a very nice honeymoon).
Their first house was purchased in South San Francisco. With the aid of the G.I. Bill, Millard stretched all he could. They bought a corner house in a new neighborhood for $7,500. Millard was stressed but Zell had a calming influence on him. He joined forces with Harry, and the auction firm now doubled in size — from one to two people! In 1954 Zell got pregnant again, so they decided to put the house on the market. Millard later talked with pride of his huge financial flip of the home, selling it for $11,000. They could now afford a bigger place.
In 1955 they bought a new, Henry Dolger-designed home in Daly City near the Olympic Club. With 1,500 spacious square feet they could really spread out now. Second son Kirk arrived in June. Harry and May bought the home next door and took down the separating backyard fence, giving the two houses a double-size backyard for the kids to play in. Life was as good as it gets, for one year anyway. May started to not feel well and then it became apparent she was ill. Breast cancer took her from the family in 1957. An only child, Zell had now lost her mother and best friend at the age of 24. Fortunately she had Millard, and she leaned on him very hard.
They were husband and wife, lovers, companions and best friends. His death in 2008 ended their 57-year marriage. A part of Zell also died in 2008 with Millard. They had traveled the world extensively over the years; favorite spots included Italy, Greece, Spain, Ireland and England. They shared a deep passion for golf but would never practice or even warm up. They always went straight to the first tee! Most trips centered on a round of golf, followed by an extensive 19th hole where Millard would brag about the 5 good shots he had that day while Zell shook her head. She (of course) was the better golfer, routinely beating him, but never bragging about it.
They lived in the Westlake district of Daly City from 1955 through 1973, and they were early buyers in Foster City living there from 1974 until Millard’s passing in 2008. Over the past few years Zell has resided in Burlingame in a Senior Lifestyle condominium.
She is survived by her sons, Ross and Kirk Dove, daughter-in-law Lori Dove, and ex-daughters-in-laws Joan Dove, Kelly Dove and Sharon Dove. She is also survived by her six grandchildren Alex, Justin, Marcus, Grayson, Nick and Katie Dove. New Dove additions include Justin’s wife, Jillian; Nick’s wife, Sara; and Grayson’s fiancée, Kristina.
Per Zell’s request, her burial ceremony will be a brief, simple, private, family gathering. For anyone wishing to make a donation in her honor, we would greatly appreciate any contributions to the Alzheimer’s Association, as we must collectively find a better way to battle this tragic disease.
Finally, if there is a bar in Heaven, you can bet the ranch that walking into the place right now, arm-in-arm, are Millard and Zell Dove. He looks dapper in his Brioni Suit, and she is simply stunning in her long Halston dress. All heads turn in unison when they walk into the bar. He is holding court now, telling stories and is the center of attention. She is sitting right next to him. They each have a cigarette in one hand and a martini in the other. As he spins another yarn, he looks at her. She looks back at him, smiles and simply says: “That’s my Millard.”