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Doras Briggs

1918 - 2015 Obituary Condolences Gallery
Doras Briggs Obituary
Doras Moreton Briggs

July 4, 1918 - May 4, 2015

Noted rail advocate Doras Moreton Briggs died peacefully in her sleep at her home in Emeryville at the age of 96. She was born in Waterloo, Iowa, to Arthur Ralph and Blanche Moreton; her family moved to California during the Great Depression. Doras attended Oakland Technical High School and UC Berkeley, where she received a degree in music in 1942. She was a chimes mistress for the campanile on the Berkeley campus for many years and played the organ for several local churches. Doras also worked at the Richmond Shipyard during World War II. From 1951 to 1978, she served as an assistant to the vice president in the University of California Office of the President, and she ultimately became assistant director for the UC Expansion Project.

Doras was passionate about politics, genealogy, and rail travel. She fully researched her family tree, and got to know dozens of family members previously unknown to her. Doras fell in love with trains on her fifth birthday, when she took her first trip from Waterloo to Cedar Falls, Iowa. She and her husband were active members of the East Bay Model Engineers Society. Once she retired, Doras devoted herself to promoting rail travel through local and national advocacy and lobbying. She served as a member of Amtrak's Customer Advisory Committee, Director of the National Association of Railroad Passengers, and Director of the Train Riders Association of California, among other rail advocacy positions. She often spoke to local groups and traveled to Washington to lobby for Amtrak, and she testified before a Senate committee about the importance of Amtrak for seniors.

In 2001, at the age of 83, Doras founded the Station Host program at the Emeryville Amtrak station, training volunteers to provide information to passengers. Under her leadership, the program spread to many other California stations and has spawned similar programs in other states. She received frequent recognition for her rail advocacy, including the California Golden STAR Award, the George Falcon Golden Spike Award, and Amtrak's Champion of the Rails. In 2003, she moved from her long-time home in Kensington to an apartment overlooking the Amtrak station in Emeryville, and she continued to go to the station every morning and travel on the trains until just weeks before her death. Doras was known around Emeryville as the "train lady," and she wore her conductor's hat proudly until the end.

Doras is survived by her step-son Russell Briggs (Anna Lange), Campbell; step-grandson Richard Briggs, Emeryville, who became her faithful companion and caregiver during the past several years; nieces Barbara Schmedding (Dave), Corvallis, Oregon; Valerie Hauser (Dave) of Dallas, Oregon; and Lucy Moreton-Hall (David Book), Reno; nephews, Paul Moreton, Walnut Creek; and Ron Briggs, Alameda; cousin, Christine Buck, Alameda; three step-nephews; numerous grand nieces and grandnephews; and hundreds of Amtrak staff, volunteers, and passengers who appreciated her devotion to the cause of rail travel. She was preceded in death by her husband, Robert Lowell Briggs; brother Fred Moreton; sisters Violet Cooper and Bethene Moreton; and niece, Sandy Faustino.
A memorial service will be held on June 10, 2015 at 2:00 p.m. at the California State Railroad Museum, 125 I Street, Sacramento. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Station Host program, the Yosemite Conservancy, and the First Church of Christ, Scientist, Berkeley. Info: Richard Briggs 408-645-8639.
Published in San Francisco Chronicle on May 24, 2015
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