Susan Gaines Dinkelspiel Stern Cerny passed away peacefully on Dec. 1, 2016, after a long and brave battle with cancer. Born in San Francisco on September 28, 1940, she lived in Berkeley for more than 50 years. A graduate of Dominican High School in San Rafael and UC Berkeley with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Art History, she spent many years as an artist and potter before finding an additional passion in architectural preservation.
Beginning in the 1960s, Susan created beautiful oil-on-wood floral art pieces which she displayed and sold at art fairs throughout the Bay Area. She was a notable participant of the Live Oak Park Fair as well as serving several years on its organizing committee. She added pottery to her repertoire, working out of the Berkeley Potter’s Guild and displaying at the ACCI Art Gallery in Berkeley. She also taught children’s art classes at ACCI and at her home art studio. Susan continued to produce art works, including much-loved personalized cards and gift wrapping, for family and friends until the time of her death.
Upon receiving her real estate license in the 1970s, Susan began to focus her interests on local architectural history and historic preservation. She joined the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association (BAHA) and her first major project was a comprehensive study and presentation on architect Henry H. Gutterson. She was a member of the BAHA board beginning in 1980, served as its president from 1985-1987 and again from 1995-1996, and served on and as the chair of the City of Berkeley Landmarks Preservation Commission. Susan was honored twice by Berkeley for her work in preservation: first in 1998 as an “Outstanding Berkeley Woman,” and again in 2015 when she received a proclamation in recognition “for her many contributions to the preservation of our beautiful city and for educating our citizens about our community’s history.” At the 2015 proclamation ceremony, Susan also received a resolution in her honor from the California Preservation Foundation for her “immeasurable contributions to protect the architectural heritage of Berkeley for the enjoyment of current and future generations of Californians.”
In the 1980s, Susan began writing columns on local architectural history for the Berkeley Gazette and later for the Berkeley Voice and Berkeley Daily Planet, as well as walking tour brochures. These articles and brochures became the foundation for her first book, “Berkeley Landmarks, An Illustrated Guide to Berkeley, California’s Architectural History,” published in 1994, and an updated version in 2001. She was the editor of and contributor to “An Architectural Guidebook to San Francisco and the Bay Area,” published in 2007, which encompassed the significant historical structures of the nine Bay Area counties.
Susan also enjoyed traveling and spending free time in Inverness, Marin County, where she and her husband Joe spent many enjoyable weekends at their cabin, hiking, making huckleberry jam, and socializing at the Inverness Yacht Club.
Susan is survived by her husband Joseph Cerny; her children Elizabeth Stern Coleman of El Cerrito, David Stern of Richmond, Katherine Stern Meurer of El Cerrito; grandchildren Miles, Diego, Jacob Stern; Alexander, Nicholas, Zachary Meurer; and Sara Coleman; siblings Robin Miller of Kentfield, Joan Dinkelspiel of Seattle, Anne Dinkelspiel of Berkeley, and Richard Dinkelspiel, Jr. of San Rafael.
A celebration of Susan’s life will be held at a date to be announced at the Berkeley City Club. In lieu of flowers, please donate to the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association in Susan’s memory.
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