Arlette Merritt Bischoff|
Dec. 13, 1929 - Mar. 11, 2014
Resident of Richmond
Arlette Bischoff died on March 11, 2014 of ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease), complicated by MDS (Myelodysplastic Syndrome). She leaves her husband and beloved companion of thirty-two years, Stephen Bischoff, who cared for her and her family in sickness and health; her daughter Karen Sturgill and husband, Jim; her sons Duncan Merritt and wife, Agnes; Webster Merritt and wife, Lois; and Daniel Merritt; her grandson Nicholas Merritt and granddaughter Tamara Romero Gomez and her husband, Phil. She mourned the loss of her daughter, Hilary Jo Merritt Romero, to breast cancer, but was grateful to her for the gift of remarkable grandchildren.
Arlette Rosabel was born in 1929, in Monterey Park, California, to Evan W. and Florence Zenaide Morrison. She grew up in the Bay Area, in Lomita Park and Los Altos, and attended Burlingame and Mountain View High Schools. After World War II, her family moved to a ranch in Oregon, where she graduated from Springfield High School. She attended the University of Oregon on scholarship from the Oregon Federation of Labor, graduating in journalism and political science in 1951.
In college, she married Jack Merritt, a Navy veteran of World War II, when he was recalled into the Korean War. They were married for 30 years and had five children. In the 50's, the family moved to the Bay Area and, then, to Burbank, returning to the Bay Area in 1969. Arlette was glad to be at home while her children were young, but she also went to college in the evenings, earning her M.A. in English in 1968 from California State University, Los Angeles, where seminars in computational linguistics introduced her to computers, an enthusiasm for the rest of her life.
In the 70's, friends in the Eden Area League of Women Voters invited her to join groups working to improve the lives of persons with mental illness. She met the Executive Director of the Mental Health Association of Alameda County, Stephen Bischoff, and, as president of the Association, helped him found the Families of the Mentally Ill in Alameda County in 1977. Arlette was named to the Napa Hospital Advisory Board by Governor Brown and served as a Trustee of United Way of the Bay Area and on the Board of the Alameda-Contra Costa Health Systems Agency during these years.
Arlette taught English part-time at Chabot College for two decades. In 1978, she took up what turned out to be her life work, managing nonprofit agencies. In 1983, she became executive director of Early Childhood Mental Health Program in Richmond shortly after it was incorporated. She worked with Board and staff members to help it grow and thrive. She retired reluctantly in 2011 when she became disabled.
Arlette lost her sister, Diana McCrossin, in 2010 and her brother, Stephen Morrison, in 2012. She is survived by her sister, Nancy Burgraff, and her sister-in-law, Mazie June Morrison, both of Oregon, several dear nieces and nephews, and kind friends.
In recent years, Arlette joined her daughter and others in documenting the history of the pioneers on both sides of her family who came to North America in the 17th century as well as her Native American ancestors. She was pleased to know she was descended from Abraham Clark, signer of the Declaration of Independence, and proud of the diversity of her extended family as it evolved over the generations.
Arlette was a reader, a writer, and a crossword aficionada; she appreciated art, theater, movies, and many kinds of music. She read two newspapers, including the comic strips, every day. She traveled and camped enthusiastically. She was a life-long liberal Democrat. She was full of stories and was sincerely interested in other people's stories. She was grateful for the care of Dr. Will Adlai North, Kaiser Hospice staff members, and the staff of Forbes-Norris ALS Clinic in San Francisco. She appreciated the Richmond firemen of the Valley View substation. She hoped her friends would remember the Mental Health Association of Alameda County www.mhaac.org.
Friends and family are invited to a memorial gathering at 2:00 p.m. on Sunday, March 30th at Rockefeller Lodge, 2650 Market Ave., San Pablo
Published in Contra Costa Times on Mar. 23, 2014