They Made a Brighter Future
To usher out 2017, we’re bidding a final farewell to East Bay luminaries who made the future brighter.
Ruth Kosene Belikove
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We each only have one journey through life, and every day we make choices about where that journey will take us. Scientists and scholars, activists and artists, and those who we simply knew best as friends, here are some of the Bay Area luminaries who have reached the end of their journeys but who made every second count in the ways they touched our hearts and changed our lives. Though the world feels darker for their passing, we can take joy knowing that their works will live beyond their years to give the world a brighter future.
Ruth Kosene Belikove, 95. Cofounder of Live@The Library for the Alameda Public Library. Belikove lived her life according to her own principles, always defying convention to follow the beat of her own drum. She graduated from Rutgers University with a master’s in library science before embarking on a career as a high school librarian. She loved the ballet and the opera as well as the quiet of the library; after moving to Alameda, she combined her passions by cofounding the city’s free Live@The Library concert series, currently in its ninth season.
She Gave Peace a Chance
Over her life, Mary “Peace” Head, 94, was known by numerous nicknames to the people whose lives she touched. She was one of the first residents of Parchester Village (since annexed into Richmond), a then new development built to house the influx of African-American workers pouring into the Kaiser shipyards during World War II, and her lifelong dedication to turning the city into a community earned her the honorary title “The Mayor of Parchester.” While her husband served with the Navy stationed at Treasure Island, Head worked as a welder in the Richmond shipyards, known since to many as one of the original “Richmond Rosies.”
But it was also here that she first earned her most enduring nickname, “Peace,” for being a voice of understanding and calm among her co-workers. Whenever tempers flared among the workers, Head took the lead, asking everyone to hold hands and join her in a prayer circle. Head liked to build bridges and bring people together, her positive energy a constant source of inspiration for the people who knew her best. Peace was a constant mantra throughout Head’s life, and she always greeted friends and strangers alike with a wide smile and by holding up her fingers in a peace sign.
As African Americans, Head and her husband faced discrimination as they struggled to find their place in the Bay Area in the ’50s; when the couple first arrived in Parchester Village, Head described the new development as a dream. Work in the shipyards originally brought them to the area, but Head worked tirelessly to turn the new community into a home. For over 60 years, Head was a vocal booster for community improvement, an active presence at civic events, and a surrogate grandmother to the community’s children. She helped to get funding to start the neighborhood community center and served as an honored member on Richmond’s city Commission on Aging. Even later in life, Head never lost her intense curiosity and her overpowering enthusiasm to try new things; she graduated from beauty college at 54, and she made headlines when she earned her high school diploma from West Contra Costa Adult School at 78.
Nick Bertoni, 76. Maker Movement godfather. While working with San Francisco Exploratorium founder Frank Oppenheimer as head of the Exploratorium’s artist-in-residence program, Bertoni first began to wonder about the potential of people tinkering. In 1997, Bertoni founded the Tinkers Workshop in Berkeley, a collective of woodworkers, metal crafters, cunning artisans, and do-it-yourself inventers. Ever inquisitive, he mentored a generation of do-it-yourself experimenters and ushered in a new wave of homebrew enthusiasts.