Remembering Gary Gerard

Back row, Ian McKee (grandson) Second row: Vin Di Bona (son-in-law); Erica Gerard Di Bona (daughter); Annie Gerard (daughter); Steven Gerard (son) Front row: Betty Gerard (founder); Gary Gerard (founder)

It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of one of our founding board members, Gary Gerard. Gary died on July 22, 2019 in his home in Emeryville, CA at age 96 of natural causes.

It was Gary who coined the name Committee for Green Foothills. He proposed the name during the initial meeting in 1962 that led to the founding of our organization. Gary and his then wife Betty had gathered at the home of Ruth Spangenberg along with 27 other people, including Lois Crozier-Hogle who was the catalyst for bringing everyone together. Gary’s daughter, Erica, fondly remembers attending picnics in the hills with Ruth and the others, while wearing their signature green hats, during the organization’s early days.

Gary spoke 8 languages and was the ultimate diplomat. One of his unique traits was his ability to work for change both within the system, and outside it. In addition to his work with Committee for Green Foothills, Gary was heavily involved in local politics, supporting those who took strong environmental positions. He was a big supporter of eight term Congressman Pete McCloskey and was involved in McCloskey’s initial campaign for congress in 1967.

In spite of his career in the corporate world as Director for the Center for Technology for Kaiser Aluminum and Steel, he wasn’t afraid to hold a sit-in or protest when necessary. As a Holocaust survivor, Gary knew what it meant to have one’s voice and freedom taken from you. This perhaps was one of the biggest influences behind his strong sense of justice and dedication to activism. He felt it was important to speak up about the things that mattered to him, and urged others to do the same. In 2016, he heard about a group of residents organizing against a proposed development in Malibu. Gary sent a letter to one of the organizers urging him to persevere and sponsored a bus that brought people from Southern California up north to a California Coastal Commission hearing so they could provide public comment on the issue.

Gary and Betty attended Committee for Green Foothills’ 50th Anniversary Celebration at our Nature’s Inspiration event in 2012. There, they revisited the foothills they worked so hard to protect, filling Gary with a sense of pride and joy to have been part of such a beautiful legacy. It was truly one of his proudest achievements to have helped start Committee for Green Foothills and preserve local nature for future generations. His children shared that sense of pride for all  he had done for the local environment. That he and the other members of Committee for Green Foothills stood up and won against powerful interests and developers is an undeniable testament to the importance of citizen activism – a value he instilled in his children and countless others.

We’re grateful for everything Gary did for Committee for Green Foothills, our community, and local nature. His is a legacy of perseverance and hope, and we are fortunate to be able to carry on with it. We’re touched by Gary’s request that donations in his memory be made to Committee for Green Foothills. Our condolences go out to Gary’s family and loved ones.

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