Remembering Rosemary Richie DeSerio, Montessori teacher, fearless beacon of compassion and social justice

Through the Berkeley pre-school she directed for over 40 years, Rosemary instilled an early foundation of heartfelt generosity, cooperation and curious and confident self-expression in hundreds of Bay Area children.

Rosemary Richie DeSerio
Rosemary Richie DeSerio. Photo: Courtesy family

Rosemary Richie DeSerio, May 13, 1948-June 8, 2020

Rosemary Richie DeSerio was a Montessori teacher, a mother, a music and arts advocate and a fearless beacon of compassion and social justice.

Born in Akron, Ohio on May 13, 1948, Rosemary grew up in Cleveland with her parents, Wanda and Ralph, and her younger brother Ralph.

After a sincere post high-school period of novitiate, she left the convent to earn her BA in Art History and Literature from Loyola University Chicago.

She studied abroad in Rome, Italy, and Tokyo, Japan — and was pursuing her MA in Art History at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor when dreams, friends and a thirst for new opportunities drew her to California.

From 1972, with her first two children in tow, Rosemary rooted herself in Berkeley. She gained certification in Montessori pedagogy, and Orff and Kodalay music literacy and education methods, and founded her own in-home, neighborhood preschool which she directed — first in the Lorin District and later in the Elmwood neighborhood — for more than 40 years.

She remarried in 1976 and had three more children.

In life, Rosemary dedicated herself entirely and tirelessly to fostering and fomenting love — for children, among families, in community and around the globe. She believed in the power of being together: cooking, singing and dancing, playing games and watching sports, taking in the wilderness and showing up to champion equity and access. She kept a rich and dynamic schedule of local outings, cultural events, committee meetings, family celebrations and anything she could do to help.


Her wisdom was timeless and true; her affection was unabashed.

Alongside her own five children and eight grandchildren, she instilled an early foundation of heartfelt generosity, cooperation and curious and confident self-expression in hundreds of Bay Area children — to be righteous ambassadors of kindness, collaboration, and creative discovery and to make the world a better place. 

Rosemary made lifelong friends wherever she went — forever present with a warm hand squeeze, nurturing words, a ridiculous joke and her vibrant, indefatigable heart.

Always open and ready to highlight the unexpected delight (Subarashii!), encourage adventure (Gambate!), defy consumerist distress (It’s only money), honor the richness of multiple cultures and traditions (Ci vediamo dopo!) and bestow affection (Take heart), Rosemary filled every space with unlimited love. Her heroic patience and commitment to beauty, virtue, and genuine human connection will continue to inspire and cajole us to be the best, most thoughtful, artisan-minded, grateful and endearing people we can be. 

Walking peacefully at the Berkeley Marina at sunset on Friday, June 5, Rosemary had a sudden hemorrhagic stroke. After two and a half days bathed in love, tender touch and devoted song with her entire local family, and the gift of comforting words from dear friends and family afar, she passed away on Monday June 8 as the sun was rising up over the Oakland Hills. She was 72 years young.

Plans for an in-person memorial are on hold until we can gather together safely. For now, please share your memories of Rosemary on this Kudoboard, and join us in honoring her life and legacy with a donation to the causes that were closest to her heart.