Remembering Nicki Anne Spillane, environmentalist and personnel specialist

Cesar Chavez Park, Berkeley, San Francisco Bay, Golden Gate Bridge. Marina
Nicki Spillane worked with the Citizens for East Shore Parks to create shoreline parks. Photo: Melinda Young

Nicki Anne Spillane, 1942 – 2019

Nicki Anne Spillane was born in Oakland to Anne and Cal Hills on Nov. 11, 1942. She was raised in San Leandro, where she attended grammar and high school. Nicki attended UC Berkeley and graduated in 1964 with a degree in history.

Nicki went to work as a personnel analyst at the Naval Supply Center and then at Oak Knoll Naval Hospital in Oakland. While there, she met her future husband Tom Spillane. They were married in 1970. After living on California Street in Berkeley, they moved to Kensington.

Nicki then went to work for the city of Berkeley in 1973 as a personnel analyst. She worked for the city for more than 30 years, eventually becoming director of the personnel department. Nicki retired from the city in 2004.

Nicki was a people person, always upbeat.

“She always had a smile on her face. She had this wonderful demeanor. She was just a wonderful person.”

Nicki was always interested in nature. As a child, her family lived on a hill next to an open space where there were dray horses that pulled a combine, deer, raccoons, possums, lizards, snakes and tarantulas. The creatures became her friends. When she pulled her pet snake out of her pocket one day to show her mother, it prompted a horrified reaction. On another occasion she took her pet tarantula to school for a “show and tell.” Nicki used to let the spider crawl over her hands. Her classmates were fascinated.

Nicki was a bird watcher and she introduced her husband to the activity. They started going on Audubon outings, which led Nicki to become involved with the Golden Gate Audubon Society. She eventually served on the board of directors of the Audubon Canyon Ranch in Marin County.

Nicki worked with Sylvia McLaughlin to stop the uncontrolled commercial development of the shoreline in Emeryville, Berkeley and Albany. She was also active with Citizens for East Shore Parks, which works to establish a necklace of shoreline parks from the Oakland Estuary to the Carquinez Strait.

Nicki, 76,  died of a pulmonary embolism on Aug. 4 at Eden Medical Center in Castro Valley. She is survived by her husband, Tom, her sister-in-law Terry Gaskill and her nephews Jay and Brian Gaskill.

Nicki will be buried with a graveside service at Sunset View Cemetery in El Cerrito at 11 a.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 20.