Remembering the East Bay’s Vivid People Who Died in 2018

The lives of these 33 Bay Area legends, characters, and personalities won’t be forgotten.


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Photo courtesy of Creative Commons

As the year closes and the new one begins, we look back on the Bay Area legends, characters, and personalities whose lives were lost in 2018. Some lived long — a full allotment of years — but others died too soon. If lives are measured in deeds rather than years, then everyone recalled here led lives packed with meaning that influenced the East Bay, the San Francisco Bay Area, and the world. They won’t be forgotten. Time moves on, and the memories of these individuals whose breaths and heartbeats have stopped on Earth can linger in our minds where their journeys can continue. Their lives have made ours more vivid.

 

Anthony “L’il” Arnerich, 89, and Norma Arnerich, 91

Two Alameda Titans Who Leveled the Playing Fields

The Arnerichs met as teenagers in the late 1940s: Anthony — better known by his nickname “Lil,” which he earned by being the youngest of his family’s six siblings — was playing baseball with the Oakland Oaks of the Pacific Coast League, and Norma was working as a scorekeeper. Together, the Arnerichs became a power couple with a deep love for Alameda’s open spaces and a commitment to foster the opportunities they provided for kids to play and exercise.

Lil Arnerich later served eight years as an Alameda councilmember and vice mayor, but his contributions to the city he called home went far beyond his political titles. As a city leader, he strived to protect parks, pushing an amendment to block the city from selling recreational lands without a vote of the people.

The city will best remember Arnerich, however, for his contributions to Alameda’s youth. As an athletics supervisor for the Alameda Recreation and Parks Department, he was instrumental in creating the “Play Ball” program, eliminating tryouts for kids’ baseball, and finding a place on the team for every child with the enthusiasm to play. In recognition of his accomplishments in youth sports, the city renamed the upper field at Washington Park to Arnerich Field.

Norma Arnerich was a sports enthusiast in her own right, an avid golfer whose love of the game led her to make Alameda a golf haven for young and old alike. She was the first woman appointed to the Alameda Golf Commission and served as commission chair for three years. In 1991, she played an instrumental role in creating the junior golf program at the Alameda Golf Club, which in its heyday allowed over 200 kids to participate in the game for only a dollar each. She helped create the Mif Albright Golf Course and spearheaded the tree beautification program at the Chuck Corica Golf Course facility.

Lil and Norma Arnerich believed in the importance of integrity, good sportsmanship, and, above all, fun. They understood the value of play in building a new generation and together helped build an Alameda that provides for the spirit of its children.

 

Ron Dellums, 82

A Champion for the People

Always a voice for peace and progress, Dellums began his career as community organizer and became a social worker and community activist before transitioning into politics. A rare breed who saw the purpose of politics as serving the people, he leaves behind a legacy of principled leftist ideals after 27 years in Congress as the bane of Washington, D.C., war hawks.

As a congressman, Dellums championed civil rights and social programs, led the campaign to end apartheid, worked for HIV/AIDS care and prevention, and voted against every major American military intervention, with the notable exception of emergency relief in Somalia in 1992. A founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus, he served as its chair from 1989 to 1991. He was famous for taking principled stands no matter how unpopular they were or unlikely they were to succeed, and he was a member of the Democratic Socialists of America long before Bernie Sanders.

A veteran of the Marine Corps and a witness to violence during his work as a social worker in the ’60s, Dellums abhorred violence and was uncompromising in his opposition to war, believing that the funds and energies wasted in military spending should be poured into efforts to promote education, jobs, housing, health care, and relief for the poor. He arrived in Washington as a radical Bay Area Democrat railing against the injustice of the Vietnam War. When his calls to investigate allegations of war crimes were ignored, he held his own informal hearings that landed Dellums on then-President Richard Nixon’s enemies list.

In an ironic twist, his reputation for honesty and integrity led the House Democratic Caucus to name him as chair of the Armed Services Committee, a position that allowed him to work toward his goal to curtail out-of-control military spending. Dellums remained an outspoken critic of U.S. war and imperialism.

Also a longtime Washington lobbyist, Dellums returned to the East Bay to win a landslide victory in a three-way race in 2006 to become the 48th mayor of Oakland. He inherited a troubled city, but worked to reduce crime, keep the city solvent, and leverage his contacts with federal and state leaders to help with Oakland’s economic recovery. He also pursued efforts to reform the Oakland police department, moving Oakland closer to achieving court-mandated settlement terms.

 

Marian Altman, 84.

Beloved Berkeley schoolteacher.

Altman was a forceful presence known for her absolute devotion to students and to the principles of education, but one whose ardor was tempered by a sharp sense of humor. She began work as a substitute teacher at John Muir Elementary School, where she went on to teach sixth grade. Her impact is visible in that the school library there still bears her name. She also served as principal of Jefferson Elementary School.

 

William “Bill” Baker, 103.

UC Berkeley’s first electrical engineer.

 A gifted problem-solver with a quick mind and a keen eye, Baker was the first electrical engineer hired by pioneering UC Berkeley nuclear physicist Ernest O. Lawrence, founder of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Baker worked at Lawrence’s Radiation Laboratory, dedicating over 42 years of service to the lab where he worked on technologies to support particle accelerators. After the war, Baker dedicated himself to finding peaceful applications for nuclear science and was intimately involved in fusion energy research.

 

John Casida, 88.

UC Berkeley professor and esteemed toxicology expert.

A youthful obsession with insects later led Casida to study the effects of pesticides, becoming one of the world’s leading experts on the impact of toxins on both insect and human life. The founding director of UC Berkeley’s Environmental Chemistry and Toxicology Laboratory, Casida received the Wolf Prize in Agriculture in 1993 for research that led to development of safer, more effective pest control methods.

 

Tom Clark, 77.

Berkeley poet and beatnik biographer.

Although closely associated with the Beat poetry movement, Clark eschewed labels and preferred to let his work stand without associations. His own work, spanning 30 collections of poetry as well as eclectic articles, runs the gamut, but he’s best known for his biographical essays. He wrote in-depth biographies of Beat icons Jack Kerouac and Robert Creeley and is famed for his probing 1966 interview with Allen Ginsberg for The Paris Review.

 

Paul Grunland, 93.

Berkeley historian.

Grunland grew up in Portland, Ore., but immediately took to the East Bay as his true home, reveling in the wide-open spaces and rolling hills almost as much as he relished researching the area’s history. He was an avid hiker and outdoorsman who helped found the Berkeley Path Wanderers Association and map Berkeley’s walking pathways. He possessed a deep knowledge of Berkeley’s esoteric history, which he eagerly shared as a member of both the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association and the Berkeley Historical Society.

 

Dana Harrison, 57.

Impassioned East Bay arts booster.

In her early career, Harrison excelled in the business and banking world but found financial work unfulfilling. After a near-death experience in 1998, she realized she needed to pursue her true passion in the theatrical arts. She labored behind the scenes to help grow the fledgling festival Burning Man into a must-attend extravaganza and later became managing director of Theatre Bay Area. In the early 2000s, Harrison helped develop the Noodle Factory, an Oakland live-work-performance space that provided opportunities for low-income dancers.

 

Saba Mahmood, 57

A Pioneer of Feminist and Religious Theory

Born in Pakistan, Saba Mahmood immigrated to the United States in 1981 to study architecture and urban planning at the University of Washington. She earned her doctorate in anthropology from Stanford University in 1998, before becoming a professor of anthropology at UC Berkeley in 2004. At Cal, Mahmood worked with the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, Institute for South Asia Studies, and the Program in Critical Theory. She helped launch the university’s Pakistan Studies Initiative, one of the nation’s first programs dedicated specifically to understanding the history and politics of Pakistan. Mahmood made major theoretical contributions to rethinking the relationship between ethics and politics, as well as religion and secularism.

Ever curious, Mahmood bucked conventional thinking and was not afraid to follow her research wherever it led. Challenging Western scholarship entrenched in archaic stereotypes, she explored the intersection of Islam and feminist theory. Prior to Mahmood’s work, many Western feminist thinkers paid little mind to understanding the nuance of Muslim women’s relationships with their faith, mostly assuming religion was something to be discarded to achieve equality and freedom.  Mahmood’s book Politics of Piety: The Islamic Revival and the Feminist Subject revealed to Western audiences the role that religious women in Egypt played in shaping a uniquely Middle Eastern notion of feminism. Her equally controversial 2015 book, Religious Difference in a Secular Age: A Minority Report, tackled the widely held view in Western circles that secularism was the only cure for violence in Islamic countries.

A meticulous thinker and careful theorist, Mahmood was nevertheless not afraid to arouse controversy when exploring new and exciting theories. Her fearless scholarly work was invaluable in increasing the understanding of how the politics of religion and gender collide, and she leaves behind a rich heritage of writing to help future scholars untangle the knots of political theory.

 

Miriam Hawley, 89.

Former Berkeley City Council member.

Hawley served as the council member of Berkeley’s District 5 from 2000 to 2004, but she first became politically active when she moved to the Bay Area during the tumultuous 1960s and helped to organize anti-war marches. Hawley’s political career was characterized by bridge-building, and her open and forthright leadership style left a continuing legacy.

 

Ken Hofmann, 95.

Businessman, developer, and sports team owner.

Hofmann was a successful real estate mogul first and foremost, the brains behind development projects like Discovery Bay in the San Joaquin Delta, but he was also an Oakland native and a sports fan. So when the A’s were poised to abandon the Bay Area in the ’90s, Hofmann and others came to the rescue, buying the team for $72 million and keeping the A’s at home in Oakland.

 

David Humm, 65.

Former Oakland Raiders quarterback.

Humm joined the Raiders in 1975 and played with the team for four years; he returned to the team again at the end of his career in 1983-84. He was celebrated as one of the best high school quarterbacks in his native Nevada when he was inducted into the Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Fame in 1997. After leaving the game, Humm continued to be active as a Raiders radio analyst and color commentator.

 

John Iverson, 69.

Native American and LGBTQ activist.

Iverson was highly cognizant of the injustice of the world from a young age. While a student at the University of Chicago, he helped organize protests against the Vietnam War and later demonstrated in support of the American Indian Movement at Wounded Knee. Among other causes, he tirelessly led demonstrations against Bayer Corp. for price gouging on life-saving medications, founded the Berkeley Needle Exchange, and pushed for greater LGBTQ visibility throughout his life.

 

Ursula K. Le Guin, 88.

Award-winning novelist and science fiction grandmaster.

Le Guin wrote over 20 novels, ranging from children’s’ fables to fantasy epics, always with her thoughtful feminist sensibilities and astute empathy for character. She delighted readers with spectacular science fiction and fantasy worlds in books like The Left Hand of Darkness and A Wizard of Earthsea, but her speculative writing always touched on deeper issues of gender, religion, and politics that gave it a resonance far beyond genre escapism. A new documentary, Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin, is making the rounds now.

 

Carroll Luther Peery, 90.

Music mentor.

An adventurous soul with a lifelong love for blues and jazz music, Peery moved to the Bay Area in the mid-’60s, where he became the manager and owner of Berkeley’s famous folk club, The Cabale. An accomplished musician, he poured his talents and his heart into mentoring a whole new generation of Bay Area artists, collaborating with musicians like Lightnin’ Hopkins, Jimmy Reed, and Taj Mahal.

 

Bob Piper, 86.

Berkeley transportation justice advocate.

As Berkeley’s director of transportation in the 1970s, Piper understood the importance of public transportation to people’s lives and was determined to use his position to ensure that the city was livable for everyone. Even after his tenure as transportation director, Piper continued to be actively involved in the development of mass transportation systems in Canada and the Bay Area.

 

Charles Plummer, 87.

Long-serving Alameda County sheriff.

Plummer may be the longest serving police officer in California history, with more than 50 years of continuous service. He began his career with the Berkeley Police Department in 1952 and was the force’s field commander during the People’s Park riots in 1969. A direct commander with a strict code of conduct, he was elected as sheriff in 1986 and commanded respect for frankness. 

 

Laurance Michael Quintero, 75.

Restaurateur and businessman.

Quintero’s parents, Modesto and Rose, founded Acapulco Mexican restaurant as a takeout stand in 1953. Quintero kept that tradition alive, taking over the family business from his parents and managing the local Alameda favorite until his retirement in 2011. A civic-minded man of boundless generosity, Quintero was always looking for ways that he could give back to the city that he called home. He was a founding member of the Greater Alameda Business Association and often hosted or catered local events from his restaurant.

 

Bonnie Reiss, 62.

Former California governor adviser.

Reiss was a consummate jack-of-all trades, equally comfortable in the worlds of education, politics, and entertainment, although she may be most remembered as a policy adviser to former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Under Schwarzenegger, Reiss led a charge to boost after-school programs and environmental protections. She later served as a regent for the University of California and as director of the USC Schwarzenegger Institute.

 

Shelley Rideout, 70.

Berkeley Historical Society.

A staple of the Berkeley Historical Society, Rideout was known as a quiet woman with a gentle demeanor and a firm resolve — and above all a deep and infectious love for local history. She adored the vibrant culture, iconic music, and outrageous fashion of ’60s and ’70s Berkeley, a love that led her to co-author the society’s 2008 book Berkeley Bohemia and organize concerts with ’60s legends Country Joe McDonald and Alec Palao.

 

Gerald “Jerry” Robbins, 66.

Alameda resident and transportation career planner.

Robbins had a distinguished career in urban and trans–portation planning that spanned almost four decades, leading him to positions with BART, SF Muni, Caltrain, and other California transportation agencies. Robbins was instrumental in San Francisco’s 1987 public awareness “Don’t Block the Box” campaign, which encouraged motorists to avoid blocking crosswalks and helped to ease the city’s chronic gridlock.

 

Joyce Roy, 83.

East Bay transit watchdog.

A proud patron of public transportation, Roy closely scrutinized transportation issues in the East Bay for over two decades, using her website and her pen to advocate for the rights and safety of riders. An architect, she opposed plans by AC Transit to purchase a costly fleet of buses known to be a safety hazard to elderly and mobility impaired riders, even launching a grass roots campaign to run for the AC Transit board in 2008.  

 

Judy Shattuck, 76.

Berkeley union activist and social justice leader.

A warrior with a fierce appetite for justice and a burning desire to do right, Judy Shattuck was a common sight at Berkeley protests. She joined demonstrations against war, against police brutality, and against exploitation, sometimes braving arrest for civil disobedience in service to the causes she believed in. In her day job, Shattuck worked at UC Berkeley, where she was instrumental in organizing the university’s independent clerical union and leading it in its fight for fair labor practices.

 

Twigger “Twig” Shellman, 67.

Telegraph Avenue vendor and local Berkeley character.

A constant and colorful presence on Telegraph Avenue, Shellman was known just as much for his warm and giving personality as for the rainbow tie-dye fabrics and sparkling crystals that he sold. He first arrived in Berkeley in 1996 following the Grateful Dead, but ended up making his home on Telegraph Avenue. He is well remembered as a centering and calming presence on the avenue, where his kindness endeared him to everyone who passed by his stall, from tourists to students to homeless people.

 

Kent Rosenblum, 74

The One True King of Zin

With over 30 years of winemaking, Kent Rosenblum displayed a meticulous taste and expert nose that earned him the nickname “The King of Zin.” But the King of Zin wasn’t always a dedicated vintner. He was a veterinarian by profession and a skier by passion; he only fell into winemaking after discovering a previously unknown talent while home-fermenting for his ski club. Nevertheless, Rosenblum threw himself into his new hobby with all the dedication and zest that he showed in all his pursuits, and it soon grew from a diversion into a full-time side-business. 

In 1978, Rosenblum and his wife, Kathy, launched their first wine business, Rosenblum Cellars, and shortly thereafter purchased a 52-acre vineyard in Healdsburg. The first few years were bumpy, and they considered abandoning the venture after the birth of their daughter, until Rosenblum by chance experimented with planting Zinfandel grapes. The result was a hit wine with a distinctive dark, fruity taste that propelled the couple to winemaking superstardom and turned their struggling winery into a tourist destination. Rosenblum Cellars was one of the state’s first urban wineries and further cemented California as a premiere wine tourism destination. In wine circles, the name Rosenblum has become synonymous with California Zinfandel to the point that some connoisseurs refuse to drink Zin, unless it’s made by one of the “Three R’s” — Ridge, Ravenswood, or Rosenblum.

The couple sold the business in 2008, but daughter Shauna launched Rock Wall Wine Company in Alameda the following year, and Rosenblum eventually joined her in the business. Known for his warm personality and his corny sense of humor, Rosenblum was endlessly giving with his time. He mentored a younger generation of California winemakers, as well as served as president of the Alameda Chamber of Commerce, the West Alameda Business Association, and the Berkeley Ski Club. Always experimenting and forever obsessed with capturing the perfect essence of grapes in a bottle, Rosenblum left an indelible imprint on the world of wine and the community of Alameda.

 

Nia Wilson, 18

A Compassionate, Talented, and Driven Young Woman

The murder of Nia Wilson sent shockwaves through the East Bay. Wilson’s life was horrifically cut short when she and her sisters were attacked by a knife-wielding stranger as they transferred between trains at the MacArthur BART station in Oakland. Her sisters survived, but Wilson died on the scene. The attack, perpetrated by an angry white man against a young African-American woman, prompted protests over the ubiquity of racist violence in the Bay Area and beyond and associated biased media coverage.

Although police have found no evidence that Wilson was killed because she’s black, her death has become about something much larger than one act of violence. Wilson’s name has become a rallying cry for justice, her story a reminder of a country’s legacy of devaluing the lives of African Americans.

But while her death has made her a cause, in life she was much more, a young woman of boundless compassion and talents. A recent graduate from Oakland High School, she was a gifted athlete on the basketball court and a cheerleader. She was a budding rapper in a music group with her cousins, Girls N The Hood. Friends recognized Wilson’s knack for makeup.

Even at her young age, she was no stranger to tragedy. At a 2016 vigil for Wilson’s boyfriend, who had drowned in a reservoir, a gunshot was fired into the crowd, striking one attendee in the neck. Wilson stayed with the victim until medical help arrived. On graduation, she expected a bright future ahead of her and considered joining the military or becoming a paramedic. Tragically, that was not to be.

 

Sarita Smedberg, 99.

First female editor of UC Berkeley’s Daily Californian.

Smedberg attended UC Berkeley in the late 1930s, when leadership opportunities for women were limited at best. Nevertheless, Smedberg proved her mettle as the first woman to become head editor for the university newspaper. After graduation, she married fellow Daily Cal alumni Renwick Smedberg. The couple lived overseas while Renwick served in the Army but they eventually returned to California and settled in Fairfield.

 

Bob Stinnett, 94.

Oakland Tribune photojournalist, long-standing Research Fellow at the Independent Institute.

Stinnett spent most of his 40-year career as a photographer at the Oakland Tribune, where he used his expert eye and unfailing reporters’ instincts to always be in the right place at the right time for the perfect shot. He covered everything from Elvis concerts to the infamous Caldecott Tunnel fire, but is most known for capturing the iconic image of a breath-taking last-second kickoff at a Cal football game that came to be known simply as “The Play.”

 

Stephen Stoll, 69.

UCPD emergency preparedness director.

Stoll began his career in the Navy before transitioning to serve in the UCPD. Seeing the potential of the campus’s student first responders, he helped found the Berkeley Medical Reserve Corps, part of a national network of emergency responders, and pushed the university to integrate them into its campus disaster planning. A meticulous planner, Stoll knew never to leave anything to chance in an emergency — but his seriousness was belied by a warm and empathic leadership style that brought out the best in his staff.

 

Peter Ross Tannenbaum, 63.

Berkeley rent control watchdog.

Dubbed the “great general of Berkeley’s rent-control battles” for his grassroots work in fighting for tenants’ rights as part of the ad hoc committee to save rent control, Tannenbaum was a force to be reckoned with for over four decades of Berkeley politics. He was involved in causes as diverse as labor rights and homeless advocacy. His friendly demeanor and easy laugh made him well-liked, but his passion for justice earned him respect from friend and foe alike.

 

Frances Townes, 101.

Crusading homeless advocate.

Townes was born to a wealthy family who lost its fortune during the Great Depression, giving her a lifelong appreciation for how precarious life can be. After moving to the Bay Area later in life, Townes became an outspoken voice in support of Berkeley’s homeless population. She founded the Berkeley Ecumenical Chaplaincy to the Homeless to bring the city’s churches together to provide meals and shelter to homeless people, fostering a spirit of cooperation that persists.

 

Photo Credits: Arnerich courtesy family, Dellums courtesy Dellums Institute, Altman courtesy BUSD, Baker courtesy UCB, Casida courtesy UCB, Clark courtesy Boulder Daily Camera, Grunland by Glen Lindwall, Harrison by Jared Grunewald, Mahmood courtesy Hass Institute, Hawley courtesy family, Hofmann courtesy California Homebuilding Foundation, Humm courtesy Oakland Raiders, Le Guin by Creative Commons, Peery courtesy family, Piper courtesy family, Plummer courtesy Alameda County Sheriff’s Department, Quintero courtesy family, Reiss courtesy Schwarzenegger Institute, Rideout by John Aronovici Berkeley Historical Society, Robbins courtesy family, Roy by Paul Kimo Creative Commons, Shattuck courtesy Seth Newton Patel, Rosenblum courtesy family, Wilson courtesy family, Smedberg courtesy UCB, Stinnett reprinted with permission © Independent Institute, Stoll courtesy family, Tannenbaum courtesy family, Townes courtesy Regent Press.

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