Virginia Silber was born in New York City on August 30, 1943. She died at her sister’s home in Berkeley on March 16, 2007, from metastatic lung cancer. Between those two dates lived a remarkable woman: a loving mother of Adam, a creative early-childhood teacher in the Oakland School District, and a sister, relative and friend who will be missed more than words can convey.
Gina went farther afield after high school than the other two of us kids—to New Mexico. She lived there for 10 years, getting her BA degree and working for a while for the Bernalillo County Health Service. She adored New Mexico and made many friends there who remained in touch to her last days. She also took some time to work for Vista for a couple of years and again made life-long friends there.
Her politics were always firmly on the left, a family tradition for our parents and for me as well. Thus we attended lots of demos, where we would each get to meet each other’s friends on the picket line. She became an honorary Grandmother Against the War recently, and would wear her button with pride. Over the years she attended the civil rights March on Washington in 1963, and alway worked for reproductive rights, Native American and Middle East justice, and much more. She continually and loudly spoke out against the Bush administration and all they represent.
She taught for over 20 years at Hintel Kuu early-childhood center in Oakland. (This is one of the centers that are part of the Oakland School District.) Her love of the children and her interest in Native American struggles and history made this center a perfect place for her. She made close friends with the teachers, and was a Union rep for a few years at the OUSD meetings.
Gina lived at Peace Gardens in Oakland with her son Adam. This is a Northern California Land Trust property, and the community of people who live there have been immensely important to Gina. Adam may stay in the cottage where they lived, and would know that he would be supported with love and friendship.
Since her death, I have heard many people say that they never heard Gina say mean or critical things about others. Her cheerfulness and smile were known everywhere, and her optimistic outlook on life was contagious. The number of friends she has maintained since early childhood is astounding. A tribute to her deep friendships is the number of old friends who came out to visit when they heard she was gravely ill. We will be always grateful to them and to her Oakland, Berkeley and Santa Cruz friends for their unswerving support and love.
Lorie Brillinger is the sister of Virginia Silber.