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Elizabeth Calfee


1916 - 2017 Obituary Condolences
Elizabeth "Betty" Calfee

July 4, 1916 - Mar 2, 2017

Elizabeth Dissosway Watson was born on the fourth of July, in 1916, in Rochester, New York. She was fortunate to have been born into a distinguished family known for their kindness and generosity. Elizabeth (Betty) Calfee (formerly Stiles and Hoye) passed peacefully onto her next journey on March 2, 2017 at her beloved home in Meadow Vista, CA. Her devoted daughter Annie held her lovingly as she released with a grace and dignity that marked her more than 100 years on earth. This coming July 4th we will celebrate her with her customary fireworks.
Betty led a remarkable loving and generous life. After graduating Swarthmore College in 1938 (with Albert Einstein as the commencement speaker), Betty eventually settled in El Cerrito, CA with her husband Dr. Bill Stiles. There they raised their daughters (Helen and Annie) as Betty began a career of community service and activism that wheeled through their daughters' activities, first as President of the P.T.A. and onward as the first woman president of the Richmond Unified School Board, beginning in 1958, and lasting for 10 years! She helped found the Kensington Youth Hut, was a Girl Scout leader, and extended her reach through charitable activities of the Arlington Community Church. She helped found Neighborhood House, Contra Costa Youth Homes, the Soup Kitchen, and was the first V.P. of the Richmond YWCA board. She also co-founded the Richmond-Shimada Friendship Commission, believing in the promotion of international understanding as a path to peace. A pioneer in the fight for civil rights, Betty was active in the Greater Richmond Interfaith Council and fought for Fair Housing and against segregation in the Richmond public schools. In 1981 Betty received the Roberto Clemente award for her work with improving race relations, one of many awards received over her lifetime.
Betty felt that youth and education were the most important place to put her volunteer energies. "Those of us who are fortunate enough to have had a good education and have time available, should do all we can for others."
Betty's commitment to education found a powerful outlet when she created the Richmond chapter of the "I Have a Dream Foundation". Conceived originally by Eugene Lang, a classmate of Betty's at Swarthmore, the organization, under her direction, adopted two 6th grade classes of under-served students from North Richmond. Betty raised the funds to mentor these students through high school and then cover their expenses through graduation from college. A community of lives changed for the better as beneficiaries of Betty's big hearted generosity and organizational ability.
Following the death of first husband Bill, Betty was married to Paul Hoye of Richmond until his passing in 1987. In 1994 she married Judge David ("Big Dave") Calfee and moved into his beautiful country home in Meadow Vista. There her life of service continued as she and Dave inspired new friends, supporting a host of local charities and organizations (P.E.O., Assistance League and more) into their 90's, as well as welcoming a constant stream of houseguests, including children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. The welcome mat was always out at Yo-Da-Lay as lucky visitors got to experience a loving hospitality filled with food, drink, nature, peacocks and endless board games. In 2014 Betty was widowed a third time, unexpectedly losing her beloved Dave. And now Betty's contributions to the local community will be sorely missed as will her cheerful nature and friendships.
Preceded in death by husbands Dr. William Stiles, Paul Hoye and Judge David Calfee, as well as her dear sister Helen, Betty leaves a large and adoring family behind to cherish her memory. Beloved mother to Annie Stiles-Heller and Helen Stewart, mother-in-law to Steven Heller, Step-Mom to Shirley Hoye, Elliot Aronson, and the Calfee Clan, and "Grammie" to Marielle, Nathan, Emily, Katriana, Samara, Shepherd, Tobiah, Sarah, and Alexa, Corie, David, Eric, Erin, Ethan, Sarah, and Tristan.
Mentally sharp till the end, Betty was well read, loved her crosswords and was a ruthless scrabble competitor. Her example was one of selfless service, humility and compassion, and a great philanthropy, always generously helping those less fortunate than herself. Never without a sense of humor, when asked by her granddaughter how it felt to turn 100, she replied with a smile "Not sure I'd recommend it." We are all better for having known her and will miss her deeply.
In lieu of flowers, the family is requesting a donation made in Betty's name to the I Have a Dream Foundation or any of the charities mentioned above.




Published in San Francisco Chronicle on Mar. 12, 2017
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