Social, environmental advocate Mary Davey dies

Davey dies of heart-related condition at Kaiser Hospital, ending decades of civic leadership in housing and envrionmental causes

Mary Davey, who divided her energies between supporting environmental and social causes, died Saturday evening at Kaiser Hospital in Redwood City, surrounded by family, following a heart-related illness.

Davey was the current president of the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District Board of Directors, and she had been involved in the formation of the district in 1972 -- she has called it her favorite accomplishment.

"It's a forever kind of thing," she said of the district's acquisitions, now approaching 60,000 acres, in an interview with the Weekly in May, 2007, when she was recognized with a Lifetimes of Achievement award by the Avenidas senior organization.

But her list of community activities has the comprehensive quality of a directory, with advocacy of fair housing high up in her priorities over the years.

Her involvements included serving as director Midpeninsula Citizens for Fair Housing; assistant to the executive director of Economic and Social Opportunities; chief executive officer of Advocates for Women, Santa Clara County; Executive Offices housing advisor; president and CEO of Peninsula Volunteers, Inc. and Planned Parenthood Santa Clara County; interim executive director of Palo Alto Red Cross; executive director of City of Palo Alto Centennial and Palo Alto Endowment Fund (now Palo Alto Community Fund); and a board member of Hidden Villa.

She served as mayor of Los Altos Hills in 1966, but her advocacy of fair housing caused her to be recalled from the Town Council in 1973.

She and her husband, Jack Davey, a retired engineer, also were world travelers, visiting 64 countries -- including witnessing the effects of displacement of 1.5 million people in China to build a dam on the Yangtse River.

Davey was a native of Columbus, Ohio, and was raised in a three-generation household. Her father was a surgeon at Ohio State University who did early research in the role of Iodine in preventing disease. Her mother was the first woman to serve in the diplomatic foreign service.

An avid reader, she was an English and government major in college.

She married Jack, then in the U.S. Air Force, during the Korean War and the couple moved to Baltimore, Md. -- where she ran into pervasive housing discrimination against Jews and racial minorities and first became active in fair-housing advocacy. She served on the city's first Human Relations Commission, and helped open up the schools to persons of color.

They moved to Los Altos Hills in 1961.

In addition to Jack, Davey is survived by

Kit Davey & Tom Podoll of Redwood City; John P. Davey III & M.J. of Atherton; Curt Davey & Charolotte of Missoula, Mt.; and four grandchildren.

Davey has had heart problems for several years, and underwent two prior operations during which she nearly died. She recovered enough to continue serving on the open space district board and maintain other activities.

Davey, frequently described as "ebullient" in her approach to life and people, combined a deep optimism with a realistic assessment of how far society has yet to go, both socially and environmentally.

"I learned that humanity and people are basically built with the same good hopes and the same good aspirations. I honestly think we're all built with that goodness in us," she said in the 2007 interview.

Memorial services are pending.

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Like this comment
Posted by Brian Schmidt
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 3, 2010 at 11:21 am

Mary Davey was a wonderful mentor, always cheerful and optimistic. We'll be missing her and celebrating her at the same time.

Brian Schmidt
Committee for Green Foothills

Like this comment
Posted by Melissa Hippard
a resident of another community
on Oct 3, 2010 at 5:27 pm

Mary Davey was my friend and inspiration. The world is a bit less bright from losing her. However, all the wonderful light she shown onto the world will last forever. I love you Mary.

Like this comment
Posted by Debbie Ford-Scriba
a resident of another community
on Oct 3, 2010 at 8:41 pm

Mary was indeed inspirational, as well as a whole lot of fun. I join the community in mourning her passing & celebrating her many achievements.

Like this comment
Posted by jim sullivan
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 4, 2010 at 7:23 am

May your trails now take you to hidden waterfalls+soft golden meadows.
Mary, Thank You for being,
I considered us friends.

Like this comment
Posted by Brian Steen
a resident of Greater Miranda
on Oct 4, 2010 at 7:25 am

My condolences to Mary's family. She taught us what it takes to be eternally vigilant for land preservation.

Like this comment
Posted by Audrey Rust
a resident of Menlo Park
on Oct 4, 2010 at 10:25 am

Mary kept the vision of a protected landscape alive for all of us. Through tough political battles and tough economic times, Mary's faith in our ability to soldier on and succeed never failed. We will all miss the light of her torch. Audrey

Like this comment
Posted by Bern Smith
a resident of another community
on Oct 4, 2010 at 11:16 am

Charter member of the Wonderful People

Like this comment
Posted by Henrietta J. Burroughs
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Oct 4, 2010 at 11:29 am

What sad news! Mary was such a delightful person. She was always available and very supportive. Like so many who knew her and worked with her, I will miss her terribly.

Like this comment
Posted by Carole Leigh Hutton
a resident of another community
on Oct 4, 2010 at 12:03 pm

Mary Davey helped United Way Silicon Valley launch it's 211 informational and referral service nearly four years ago because she believed everyone who needed help should be able to find it. She was a wonderful member if the UWSV Board for several years and an Extraordinary advocate for those whose voices aren't always heard. And she was one of the warmest and smartest people I know. Such a loss for all of us.

Like this comment
Posted by Catherine Martineau
a resident of Menlo Park
on Oct 4, 2010 at 12:26 pm

I will miss Mary dearly. Her enthusiasm and encouragements have meant a lot to me. I wonder if she ever knew how inspirational she truly was.

Like this comment
Posted by Julie Weiss
a resident of another community
on Oct 4, 2010 at 1:22 pm

Mary was a stellar role model of how to live life joyfully and in service to her community. She was fun, lion-hearted and she made a point to tell people that they were valued. You couldn't leave Mary's presence without feeling more optimistic about whatever work laid ahead. Her presence most assuredly will be deeply and truly missed. Mary, as you have said to so many people "You are WONDERFUL, WONDERFUL WONDERFUL." And you always will be.

Like this comment
Posted by David Smernoff
a resident of Portola Valley
on Oct 4, 2010 at 2:23 pm

Dear Mary - Thank you for your wonderful spirit and and for everything you accomplished for others and for the Earth. You always had a positive outlook and heartfelt thanks for everything that everyone else did. Your resounding" Wonderful People!" and "kiss, kiss, kiss will be dearly missed. We promise to keep up the good fight and the wonderful attitude you shared so generously.

Like this comment
Posted by Susan Stansbury
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 4, 2010 at 2:31 pm

I was just thinking about Mary, earlier today, before hearing about her passing. She often quoted Emerson (I believe), that "Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm." She certainly embodied that and inspired many in the process. Thank you Mary, for a life well lived! Your commitment, enthusiasm, intellect and warmth will certainly be missed, but your light continues to shine.

Like this comment
Posted by Marjorie Bridges
a resident of Stanford
on Oct 4, 2010 at 3:32 pm

We on the board of Funeral Consumers Alliance also express our condolences to the Davey family. She was a great supporter to our cause and a long-standing member. She sympathized with our efforts to preserve open spaces by means of green cemeteries. I'm sorry she didn't live long enough to see it happen.

Like this comment
Posted by Marcia Fein
a resident of Mountain View
on Oct 4, 2010 at 3:51 pm

Mary was a driving force behind many of the causes and organizations that are a part of my life. She helped to keep us on track, FUNDED, and feeling appreciated!

Like this comment
Posted by Owen Byrd
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 4, 2010 at 3:56 pm

Mary was a mentor and friend to countless people, especially young people, who wanted to get involved in civic life. She will be sorely missed.

Like this comment
Posted by Susie Richardson
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 4, 2010 at 4:00 pm

I think that one of the most amazing things about Mary was her combination vision, leadership and the willingness to do whatever it takes. How many personal notes and phone calls does it take to change the world? I don't know, but last week I received yet another personal request from Mary to support a candidate! Her energy and commitment will be sorely missed.

Like this comment
Posted by Litsie Indergand
a resident of Greendell/Walnut Grove
on Oct 4, 2010 at 4:14 pm

I was so excited to be working with you -- you were an inspiration I did not think I could match. I will miss you, as I think this entire community will.

Like this comment
Posted by Jenny Whitman
a resident of another community
on Oct 4, 2010 at 10:55 pm

Mary was a pioneer woman. A couple hundred years ago, women like her conquered the West. I will always be indebted to her for her role in saving Openspace and Bear Creek Stables.

Like this comment
Posted by Steve Barrager
a resident of another community
on Oct 5, 2010 at 5:53 pm

What a happy warrior for good in the world. I learned so much from her. My thoughts and prayers are with her family and friends.

Like this comment
Posted by Barbara, Kevin & Hailey Mead
a resident of another community
on Oct 5, 2010 at 8:08 pm

An amazing, accomplished and generous woman...she will be sorely missed by friends, family and all the community causes she supported. Our hearts are with you John, MJ & Colin during this difficult time. Xxoo

Like this comment
Posted by Joel
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 8, 2010 at 1:16 pm

Damn it! Some people deserve to live forever for the bettering of society. Mary is one. Hail and hugs to her.

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