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Sheila Dowd

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Sheila Dowd Obituary
Sheila T. Dowd

September 6, 1925 - March 2, 2015

Sheila T. Dowd, the University of California at Berkeley's head of library collections for 15 years, died peacefully at her home in Mill Valley on March 2, of complications of Alzheimer's disease. She was 89.

Born to Irish immigrants in Berkeley and reared in Walnut Creek, Dowd displayed an early love of books and libraries. She received degrees as an English major, cum laude, from the College of the Holy Names in 1947 and in library science from U.C. Berkeley in 1948. She served two years as a librarian with the U.S. Army in Heidelberg, Germany, and two more with the U.S. Information Service in Marseille, France.

In 1953 Dowd launched a 35-year career at the U.C. Berkeley library. For two decades she developed its principal map collection. In 1974 she was named head of the Department of Collection Development and Reference Services, where she shaped the library's overall collections, oversaw 65 librarians and built a national reputation. Upon her retirement in 1988, she was awarded the university's highest honor, The Berkeley Citation, for distinguished service.

Those who knew Dowd recall her wit, erudition, spirit, curiosity, love of conversation, and impeccable prose style. She loved travel, especially in France and Ireland; 19th-century novels, especially those of Trollope, Austen, and James; the poems of William Butler Yeats; Italian opera and mid-20th century American pop standards; the Democratic Party of FDR; and the Roman Catholic Church. She was generous and loyal to family and a legion of friends. She had a ready smile and a full and lovely laugh. She touched many, and she'll be missed terribly.

Survivors include her step-sister, Patricia McCormick, of Novato; six nieces and nephews; Father James Walsh, a cousin, of Sacramento; and many relatives in County Kerry, Ireland.

A funeral mass will be held at 10 a.m. on Thurs., April 9, at Our Lady Of Mount Carmel Church, 3 Oakdale Ave., Mill Valley. A memorial will be held from 5-7 p.m. on Fri., April 10, at the Morrison Reading Room, Doe Library, on the U.C. Berkeley campus. Contributions in her memory may be made to the Sheila T. Dowd Endowment for the Western European Collections, sent to the Library Development Office, 131 Doe Library, UC Berkeley, Berkeley, CA 94720-6000.

Published in San Francisco Chronicle on Mar. 29, 2015
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