Geneva Agnes Gates Foote, a widely-admired and wise woman, writer, naturalist, spiritual seeker, and Westbrae neighbor, passed away peacefully on Tues., Nov. 9 surrounded by friends and loved ones. She was 81 years old.
Geneva’s life was spent deeply involved in spiritual and humanitarian endeavors. An early participant in The Guild for Psychological Studies, Four Springs, and what became the Esalen Institute, Geneva studied with Krishnamurti, Vimala Thakar, and Howard Thurman, as well as with Alan Watts at the Academy of Asian Studies.
Her affiliations included the Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists, the Unitarian Universalist Church of Berkeley, the Friends Meeting, the Sanctuary Movement, and several environmental groups. Geneva helped initiate the North Peralta and Northside community gardens and up until her death was active with the Tibetan community, several Native American groups, and many, many spiritual, cultural, and environmental organizations.
Born in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts on April 15, 1923, Geneva graduated Phi Beta Kappa from St. Lawrence University in Canton, N.Y., in 1944. With further training at the Philadelphia School of Occupational Therapy, Geneva moved to California in 1951 where she practiced OT with disabled children at Charles Whitton School in Oakland. From the time Geneva was 16 she battled diabetes and after 25 years at the Whitton School she suffered blindness, a common result of the disease, which terminated her work.
Geneva was well known to her Northside Avenue neighbors and friends where she lived since 1960. Her husband, Abbot Foote, whom she married in 1991, remained her confidant, champion, caretaker, and admirer for these past 13 years. Geneva, Abbot and their little dog, Betsy Jingle (and then Buster) have been sought-after companions each morning as friends and neighbors joined them for sunny and scintillating conversation, daily, near several of the nearby little shops on Gilman Street. Geneva, who always engaged with the world and had a penetrating wisdom, never disappointed.
Geneva Agnes Gates Foote was honored as one the City of Berkeley’s Outstanding Women of 2001. In her honor, the City of Berkeley named the small path she frequently traveled between Northside and Gilman, after her. Geneva’s life and thought can be known through seven of her small books of poetry and stories. Three more are ready for publication.
A memorial gathering will be held at a later date to honor her wonderful life. Geneva lived her motto: Love and caring are what life is all about.
For more information about Geneva’s books, contact Cindy Neveu at Cneveu@aol.com