Mountain View Voice

News - October 8, 2010

Social, environmental advocate Mary Davey dies

by Jay Thorwaldson

Mary Davey, who divided her energies between supporting environmental and social causes, died Saturday, Oct. 2, following a heart-related illness at Kaiser Hospital.

Davey was the current president of the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District board of directors, and called formation of the district in 1972 her favorite accomplishment.

"It's a forever kind of thing," she said of the district's acquisitions, now approaching 60,000 acres, in a 2007 interview, when she was recognized with a Lifetimes of Achievement award by the Avenidas senior organization.

But her list of community activities has the comprehensive quality of a directory, with advocacy of fair housing high up in her priorities over the years.

Her involvements included serving as director Midpeninsula Citizens for Fair Housing; assistant to the executive director of Economic and Social Opportunities; chief executive officer of Advocates for Women, Santa Clara County; Executive Offices housing advisor; president and CEO of Peninsula Volunteers, Inc. and Planned Parenthood Santa Clara County; interim executive director of Palo Alto Red Cross; executive director of City of Palo Alto Centennial and Palo Alto Endowment Fund (now Palo Alto Community Fund); and a board member of Hidden Villa.

She served as mayor of Los Altos Hills in 1966, but her advocacy of fair housing caused her to be recalled from the Town Council in 1973.

She and her husband, Jack Davey, a retired engineer, were world travelers, visiting 64 countries.

Davey was a native of Columbus, Ohio. Her father was a surgeon at Ohio State University who did early research in the role of iodine in preventing disease. Her mother was the first woman to serve in the diplomatic foreign service.

She married Jack Davey, then in the U.S. Air Force, during the Korean War and the couple moved to Baltimore, where she ran into pervasive housing discrimination against Jews and racial minorities and first became active in fair-housing advocacy. She served on the city's first Human Relations Commission, and helped open up the schools to people of color.

They moved to Los Altos Hills in 1961.

Davey, frequently described as "ebullient" in her approach to life and people, combined a deep optimism with a realistic assessment of how far society has yet to go.

"I learned that humanity and people are basically built with the same good hopes and the same good aspirations," she said in 2007.

Memorial services are pending.

JayThorwaldson is editor of the Palo Alto Weekly.

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