Thursday, April 18, 2013
Remembering Berkeley's Maudelle Shirek, 101 (1911-2013)
Queen Mother, Maudelle Shirek
Maudelle Shirek (born June 18, 1911-died April 11, 2013) is a former Vice Mayor and eight term City Council member, Berkeley, California. At the end of her tenure, she was one of the oldest elected officials in the State of California. In 2007, the Berkeley City Council renamed City Hall in her honor. She was my colleague, friend and mentor.
Maudelle and I served together on the Co-op Credit Union board of directors--I was the chair and she co-chair.
In 2001, after the 9-11 attack on our country, we traveled to Washington DC together in support of Congresswoman Barbara Lee. Barbara was the lone vote in the House of Representatives against America's invasion of Iraq--the authorization for use of military force that ultimately gave President George W. Bush seemingly unlimited war powers. Because of that vote, Maudelle was worried about Barbara's personal safety due to the threats Barbara had received. Maudelle asked me to travel to DC with her and I did. We shared a hotel room together and I shall forget our first day after checking in the hotel the night before, how energetic Maudelle was--up early in the morning, exercised, had taken her vitamins, showered and dressed before my feet even hit the floor. She was about 90 yrs young then. Amazing!!! She was patient with me and my "jet lag". Finally, I got it together and off we went to Barbara's Congressional office.
Maudelle and I spent many hours sharing, debating and working on political, civic and community issues, concerns and problems. Maudelle was indeed an unusual talent, brilliant, outspoken, persistent and consistent in all that she did. She was proud of her roots, her family and the lessons that life had taught her. Maudelle was born in Jefferson, Arkansas and grew up on a farm, the granddaughter of slaves. She moved to Berkeley in the 1940s.
Maudelle did not wait to be asked, she just saw a need and got busy. I was fortunate, along with Barbara Lee, Ron Dellums, Gus Newport and many others to be counted as a member of her family. Maudelle did not hesitate to offer her support and love, but also did not hesitate to offer constructive criticism. She always took an active interest in the seniors and was hands-on in the preparation of the meals at the local senior center just down the block from where I live. She was a nutrition and health advocate and practiced what she preached. Her energy, commitment and dedication to her fellow human beings was limitless. I will miss her and I extend my sympathies to her family and friends. May she rest in peace.