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April 15, 2009 > Mary M. Hewitt

Mary M. Hewitt

Jan 24, 1925 - March 31, 2009

"Grant me the courage to serve others, for in service there is true life."
- Cesar Chavez, from Prayer of the Farm Workers' Struggle

Mary Hewitt - long time California and Fremont resident, community service volunteer, activist and agency director; beautiful, loving wife, mother and friend to many - passed away at age 84 at her home in Niles on March 31st. During an extended illness Mary enjoyed constant contact with her children and was comforted and cared for by her daughter Cathy and home health worker Robin. With her children, minister and caregivers present, Mary's fruitful life ended in peace - on the California state holiday honoring the birthday of the great labor and civil rights movement organizer, Cesar Chavez. Her life was a full, exemplary embodiment and expression of the Christian and universal spirit, principles and practices of peace, non-violence, justice; volunteerism and humanitarianism, service to community and people in need; compassion, forgiveness, love, respect for all beings and mother Earth. Ever in the present, on the path of loving kindness, social and spiritual transformation, Mary truly walked the walk of Jesus, Buddha, Gandhi and contemporaries Jane Goodall, Sister Helen Prejean, Martin King, Dolores Huerta and Chavez.

Mary Margaret Hewitt was born in Peoria, Illinois on Jan 24, 1925, daughter of Gladys Marguerite and Reuben Bowman, sister of Henry Bowman. At age 7 her family moved to Everett, Washington and at 11 to Santa Cruz, California where she attended middle school, Santa Cruz High School and met her future husband, George William Hewitt. During the war while George served overseas in the Army Air Corps, Mary moved to Tiburon and worked on tanker and cargo ship blueprints in the Engineering Department of Marin Shipyards. Mary and George married on Jan 4, 1945, lived in Texas until his service discharge, returned to the Bay Area and later owned their first home in San Leandro. They moved to San Lorenzo, Castro Valley, to Fremont in 1970, finally to their beloved Niles district home on 2nd St. (originally purchased as rental property, but as Mary loved the town, Niles canyon and the view of the hills, they couldn't resist settling there). George was an investment banker in San Francisco; both Mary and George were real estate brokers with an office in Centerville.

The couple lovingly raised three children, Cathy, Linda and Mark, instilling their lives with strong independent characters, sense and talents for both civic and business affairs, pride and respect for California living, history, natural beauty, outdoor recreation, public education and services. The family was fortunate to spend summers and vacations at their Clear Lake home, the Feather River Resort in the Sierras, and other country retreats.

Mary is missed but her memory and example continues always for her children, for Mark's wife Ruth, Linda's husband Bob English, her grandchildren Greg and John, Johana and James, great grandchildren Simone and Soraya, as well as countless friends and associates in northern California.

While Mary was a devoted, cherished wife, mother and business woman, she served the civic needs of her community and underclass populations with an unrelenting passion, commitment and effectiveness. Mary attended the Niles Congregational Church and chaired its Board of Social Concern, where her association and friendship with Grace Draper, founder of Tri-City Volunteers (TCV), lead her to that organization in 1973. Mary may be most admired and remembered for her 17 years service employment with TCV as chair of the Board of Directors, Executive Director (appointed 1980) and administrator until her retirement in Dec 1990. Besides working to open the agency's community thrift shop, Mary developed TCV into a far reaching, dynamic emergency multi-services agency for the underserved, homeless, low and no income populations of Fremont, Union City and Newark. Mary had a special concern for the homeless and hungry and co-founded the Tri-Cities Homeless Coalition (now Abode Services). She also served on the Board of the Emergency Services Network of Alameda County and volunteered with other Alameda County service agencies and community groups, including the Food Bank, Homeless Task Force, General Assistance Task Force, Tri-City Independent Elders Coalition and Safe Alternatives to Violent Environments.

On Jan 30, 1991 the California State Legislature Assembly, by resolution introduced by Delaine Eastin, recognized Mary for her long term dedicated public service, her "...impressive, distinguished, outstanding record of career and civic achievements, professional service and civic leadership;" she received similar commendations from the Alameda County Board of Supervisors, Union City Council, Mayors of Fremont and Newark. Her various awards include the American Business Women's Association, Pathfinder Chapter "Woman of the Year" 1978, United Church of Christ Women's Network "Woman of the Year," Human Relations Commission "Outstanding Service to the City of Fremont" 1988, 18th Assembly District "Citizen of Distinction" 1990 and Rotary International Foundation "Paul Harris Fellow" 1997.

Beyond her public service positions and career, Mary's life was defined by a unique character and personal style, tenacious, fighting yet loving spirit; extensive political contacts, tireless activism and effective advocacy for the poor; by her human interactions and constant practice of caring for and giving shelter to families and individuals, as well as to many fortunate stray or rescued animals who found homes with Mary and her family members over the years. Articles in the San Jose Mercury News (5/4/92) and the Argus (6/21/04) describe a complete, contemporary, renaissance woman who persistently lobbied Bay Area and state politicians, power brokers and governing bodies (at meetings and restaurants, by phone) to support her progressive causes and public programs; practiced civil disobedience, at age 66 in June 1991 submitted to arrest with a group of activists protesting budget cuts for homeless services at the Alameda County Board of Supervisors; collected clothing donations in her home and grew fruit for the needy in her yard, befriended and assisted a homeless man for many years, gave a Thanksgiving turkey to a group of homeless people in exchange for their labor unloading frozen turkeys, hung out with her tenant and friend Michael McNevin (local folk singer and musician) at the Nile Cafˇ and relaxed at home with her two cats, Andy and Kitty Cat.

A public memorial service and celebration of Mary's life, including open mic tributes, will be hosted by the Niles Congregational Church and minister Jeff Spencer on Saturday April 18 at 1:00 PM, 255 "H" St. at 3rd St., followed by a reception at the family home, corner of "H" and 2nd Sts. (near the church), catered by Essanay Cafˇ, with music by local artists and friends. In lieu of flowers and at the request of Mary and her family, donations may be sent to Tri-City Volunteers, 4300 Peralta Fremont CA 94536 and Niles Congregational Church, P.O. Box 2265 Fremont CA 94536.
Fremont Chapel of the Roses
(510) 797-1900

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