She wore a large 1940s wig -- Loretta Young-style -- and kept her face down. She took shelter under a blue plastic tarp with space for her two shopping carts. And when Valerie "Bunny" Good died on April 24, people who worked with her for decades grieved.
Good, 73, died of heart complications at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center after living on Palo Alto's streets for 34 years, said Heiri Schupisser, homeless outreach specialist at the nonprofit Momentum for Mental Health in Palo Alto. On Monday afternoon, people attended a memorial service in her honor at All Saints Episcopal Church in Palo Alto.
Good was well known in Palo Alto, where she lived within a three-block area around University Avenue. She lived behind the old Apple store on the corner of University Avenue and Waverley Street and behind the 7-Eleven on Lytton Avenue, where a cinder block wall had provided her with privacy and protection from the wind. Most recently, she took up residence across from the University Avenue Starbucks, Schupisser said.
"I was surprised that she made it through the winter," Schupisser said.
He and others had tried for years to find appropriate housing for Good, but she was adamant there was only one place she wanted to live: senior housing community Lytton Gardens.
"She wanted to stay in Palo Alto. It was her home," Schupisser said.
Palo Alto police Chief Dennis Burns even wrote a letter to Lytton Gardens on her behalf, attesting that she was not a troublemaker. She didn't drink or use drugs, but she did suffer from depression, Schupisser said.
But she languished on a waiting list. Schupisser helped her receive Social Security benefits and straightened out a bank error that left her without payments for 3.5 years.
Good had been unhoused since December 1980. Toward the end of her life, she was finally willing to take other accommodations. She lived life the way she wanted to, and she wasn't willing to compromise, Schupisser said. That determination perhaps helped her to survive decades beyond the life expectancy for a homeless person, which is just seven years, he said.
Dr. Joel Wolfberg, a retired therapist who volunteers with Momentum for Mental Health in Palo Alto, worked to help Good. He visited her in the hospital before she died, and he remembers her fondly. In Wolfberg's opinion, she was also the victim of social and political indifference, he said last week.
Good's situation, living surrounded by Silicon Valley's riches, "is unconscionable to me," he said. "She didn't deserve to be raped in downtown Palo Alto or beaten up and made blind in one eye."
If Good seemed a shadowy figure to most passersby, she was to many "a remarkable woman," Schupisser said. She had a degree in mathematics from the University of Chicago; worked at Stanford Linear Accelerator (now SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory) in the 1960s and at NASA Ames Research Center. When she left her job to take care of her grandmother, NASA wouldn't guarantee her a position when she returned. There was a divorce from her physicist husband and a mental breakdown, Wolfberg said.
But some people did look out for her. Palo Alto police officers often brought Good coffee in the morning, and Apple Store employees let her use the computers despite her poor hygiene, Schupisser said.
Her death is at least the second of an elderly homeless woman on Palo Alto's streets in five months. Gloria Bush, 72, who was also homeless due to severe mental illness, died of complications from hypothermia in December.