February 18, 2004

A Life Well-Lived

A woman, less well-known outside her immediate community than she should have been, Sara Zimmerman Conner has set aside her earthly work. Among many accomplishments she leaves behind the living legacy which is the non-profit affordable housing developer Eden Housing, Inc. where she was a member of the Board of Directors and well-loved by staff.

Her self-authored obituary follows:

Sara Zimmerman Conner was born in Cleburne, Texas on October 6, 1925 and died in her home in Castro Valley on February 14, 2004. She, her parents Cash and Ruby, her younger sister, Ann, and the occasional boarder, lived in one of the 5 small houses built by her grandfather along South Buffalo Street in Cleburne. It was a genuine family neighborhood, as the other houses were full of aunts and uncles and cousins.

After graduating high school, she went to the University of Texas at Austin where she earned a Bachelors degree in Business Administration in just 3 years. In 1946, she went to Washington, D.C. to work for the State Department to save the world. There, she met Jack E. Conner, a Foreign Service Officer with the State Department, a position he had gladly chosen some months earlier when it seemed his only other option was to stay in the Navy for two more years. After Jack had been assigned to the US Embassy in Brazil, Sara flew to Rio de Janeiro where they were married on August 18, 1947. In 1949, they returned to the US and have spent the years since then in Palo Alto, Houston, and, since 1962, their home in Castro Valley. She is survived by her husband, Jack, their children, Kay and Edward, two grandsons, Andrew and Scott, and her sister Ann.

Sara was a student of politics, had a passion for effective government, and possessed a rare talent for getting things done. She believed strongly that an individual can make a difference, and she devoted much of her life to working with local government to make the world, and the Bay Area specifically, a better place for people to live. This combination of traits led to a lifetime of accomplishments as a “professional volunteer” which is truly remarkable:

· President of League of Women Voters of the Hayward Area
· President of the Board of Directors of Eden Housing, Inc.
· Chairman of the Alameda Country Housing Commission
· Chairman of the Alameda County Senior Housing Needs Task Force
· President of the League of Women Voters of the Bay Area
· Member and Chairman of the Castro Valley Municipal Advisory Council
· Member of the Credit Union Advisory Board
· Alameda County Representative to the Bay Delta Resource Recovery Board
· Member of the Bay Vision 2020 Blue Ribbon Commission
· Trustee, Alameda County Transit District Retirement Plan

Sara received widespread recognition of her energy, enthusiasm, and dedication to public service including the following:

2002 -- Unsung Hero Award, honoring outstanding contributions in affordable housing and community development

1996 -- Member’s Resolution No. 146 of the California State Legislature, which commended Sara on “her vision and dedicated volunteer work for the people of the 18th Assembly District and the 10th Senatorial District, and the people of the San Francisco Bay Area”

1988 -- Achievement in Housing Advocacy, awarded by the Bay Area Council for her outstanding contibution in creating affordable housing.

1987 -- John N. Pappas Humanitarian Award, the City of Hayward’s top award recognizing voluntary contributions to the betterment of Hayward

1987 -- Presidential Recognition Award for Community Service, awarded by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development

1983 -- Outstanding Volunteer Award, 14th Assembly District

1981 -- Award for Outstanding Contribution to Public Service - Program Innovation and Housing, Bay Area Chapter of the American Society of Public Administration

1979 --Grand Award: Advocacy for Public Transportation, awarded by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission in recognition of her contribution to public transit.

Sara was an expert gardener, as all who have visited and explored the grounds of her Castro Valley home will readily attest. She liked to travel, not only to exotic and interesting places around the world, but to see the people in her life that she loved and cared about, even if it meant being in Texas in the summer or the Midwest in the winter. When the occasion required it, and it often did, she was a strong, caring, and supportive wife, mother, daughter, sister, aunt, grandmother, cousin, in-law, and friend -- sometimes all on the same day.

No one knows where she found the time, but she was also a superb and avid bridge player, and loved the challenge of the game whether playing with actual humans or against cyberspace opponents. Sara was a fiercely competitive racquetball player, and was especially gracious in victory over those many years her junior. She also treasured her morning walks with “the girls” around Lake Chabot, a pastime she enjoyed until the very end.

Posted by rollingrains at February 18, 2004 02:45 AM

Thank you, Scott, for putting this message out about Sara, and letting a wider array of folks know and learn about her and the amazing work she did during her numerous "careers" over the decades. My introduction to Sara came about 17 years ago, during my previous work with ECHO Housing, the fair housing agency here in Hayward. She was part of the original "No Name" committee, a grass roots group of community activists who came together in the 1960's to fight housing discrimination. Sara was instrumental in the founding of both ECHO and Eden. She was selfless, down to earth, kind, caring, supportive, and most of all, REAL. She will leave a void that will be difficult to fill, especially in the hearts of those who knew and loved her.

Posted by: Eileen at February 20, 2004 01:32 AM