In remembrance: Marietta Ruth Allison Harvey, 1934–2015

Ruth HarveyCellist, public health nurse, mother, wife, and neighborhood activist Marietta Ruth Allison Harvey passed away at peace and surrounded by her family Sunday, January 4, 2015.

Marietta was born in the Philippines to missionary parents and traveled to California aboard ship in a basket at the age of one. She attended school in Corning and McCloud in the shadow of Mount Shasta and then spent her teen years in Ontario, California at Chaffey High School and College where she developed her passion for music, especially the cello. She won the fine arts award and was twice selected as a member of the All California Honor Orchestra. She considered a career in music but was discouraged by her teacher who said in 1954 “Women can’t get jobs playing music.”

Marietta then scrapped together scholarship funds and enrolled in the School of Nursing at the University of California – San Francisco where she was elected president of the freshman class. Preferring people to bed pans she chose public health as her field. On graduation she married attorney Frederic Harvey. The couple settled in Berkeley where they have parented three children, and have been active in civic affairs. Concerned about danger at school cross walks, in 1965 Marietta organized PASS, Parents for Action on School Safety. Marietta and Fred were co-presidents of the Emerson School PTA in 1968, the year “the busses rolled”. She helped ease the transition to fully integrated schools. She was also a member of the citizen’s committee which planned the new Willard Park in 1971, and was a founder and for many years co-chair of the Willard Neighborhood Association. As a civic activist, Marietta took leadership in issues related to traffic, parking, and commercial and residential zoning.

Marietta and Fred joined St. John’s Presbyterian Church in 1957 and the Berkeley Democratic Club in 1964. At St. John’s Marietta has served as choir singer, soloist, elder, chair of the child care board, and Bible study teacher.

Marietta’s professional career began with a year at the Oakland Health Department. Then following six years as a stay-at-home mom and private duty nurse, including special duty for a young student who suffered a gunshot wound in the People’s Park riots, she became an Oakland school nurse working at many West Oakland Schools and with the physically disabled children at Whitton School. She found her work with multi-ethnic low income families with complex problems particularly rewarding.

In 1984 Marietta returned to the School of Nursing to earn a master’s degree. Subsequently she taught at the University of San Francisco School of Nursing and Patton College and trained children’s protective service workers.

The last fifteen years of Marietta’s professional life were spent with the Alameda County Health Department where she worked with families suffering sudden infant death syndrome and refugees from Viet Nam and Afghanistan. This work was interrupted in 1994 when Marietta was flown by the National Guard in a troop transport to Southern California to minister to victims of the Northridge Earthquake.

Throughout these years Marietta photographed every flower she could find and maintained an active musical life as a chamber music player. Her final passion was “Health Care for All”. She was an active member of “Vote Health” working for the day when California would obtain an “ObamaCare” waiver and establish a first in the nation single payer health care system.

Though she faced many health challenges in her journey through life, Marietta always maintained the vibrant, questioning, and enthusiastic spirit which attracted and inspired all who knew her.

At her death Marietta was surrounded by the love of her life, her husband of fifty seven years, Fred Harvey, her three children, attorney Ruth Harvey, chemist Daniel Harvey, and trumpeter William Harvey, and her seven grandchildren Michelle Harvey, Jay Harvey, Matthew Harvey, Lizi Pinkus, Alex Pinkus, Andrei Pinkus, and Camern Pinkus.

Marietta’s life will be celebrated Monday, January 19, at 2:00 PM at St. John’s Presbyterian Church, 2727 College Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94705. Contributions in her memory may be made to St. John’s Presbyterian Church for refugee support programs, to the Angelman Syndrome Foundation, 75 Executive Drive, No. 327, Aurora Il 60504 in honor of Matthew Harvey.

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