Dorothy-Ann Sloan, a resident of Berkeley for more than six decades, passed away March 5. She was born in 1925 in the small town of Yale, Oklahoma, and raised there through the economic depression of the 1930s. At the height of World War II, she moved with her parents and brother to the West Coast and eventually Berkeley. Soon after, Dorothy-Ann enrolled at the University of California and went on to receive both an associate arts degree in 1945, and a bachelor of arts degree in 1953. She was also recognized as an honor student.
Since her early days in Oklahoma, Dorothy-Ann had always loved song, dance and the theater, interests that she carried throughout her life. While at UC Berkeley, she also pursued her passion for writing and eventually landed a job as a food-and-fashion copy editor for the Oakland Tribune. She said that was where she acquired the nickname Deede.
Those who had the opportunity to know Deede will attest to the fact that she was a woman of strong character, one who formed and held her own opinions and possessed the intellectual ability to defend them. This characteristic did not lessen in anyway the kindness of her nature. Deede gave so much of her time and energy to others. She was a special friend to animals and took in many a stray cat.
Perhaps Deede is best remembered for her extensive legacy of community involvement and activism. Known for her special organizational abilities, she worked tirelessly as an advocate and volunteer. These activities began with her first days in Berkeley when she assisted with the American Red Cross.
Few have a record of public service to match Deede’s. She contributed her time and talent at the North Berkeley Senior Center for more than a quarter of a century to promote its activities and growth including the Retired Seniors Volunteer Program, Meals on Wheels, and the Coffee Bar.
As president of the Gray Panthers, Deede pursued one of her greatest passions, that of social justice. She actively championed fair labor practices and living wage policies, marched with seniors at the state capital and walked local picket lines. She was an acknowledged supporter of Oakland’s Children’s Hospital and lobbied for improvements in healthcare for all.
Some will remember seeing her, the slender, 5-foot-2, blue-eyed polling volunteer and elections precinct inspector at the Number 2 fire station where she served for more than two decades.
In her high school valedictorian speech Deede said, “In life there are, of course, hellos and good-byes.” She said we must move on but never forget where we have been or those who we have embraced. Truly, Deede’s gift of friendship has warmed many hearts. The memory of her kindness, caring nature and special smile will remind us how fortunate we have been to have known her.
The life of Deede Sloan will be honored and celebrated on Sunday, March 29, at the North Berkeley Senior Center from 1 to 5 p.m. Those who knew her are encouraged to attend and share their stories.