Gina Sasso, 49, Berkeley Activist Dies at Highland Hospital Wednesday;
A Large Circle of Friends Plans Celebration in People's Park Sunday

By Ted Friedman
Saturday May 28, 2011 - 09:56:00 AM
Gina Sasso, left, demands dignity before a demo at Moe's
Ted Friedman
Gina Sasso, left, demands dignity before a demo at Moe's

Gina Sasso, 49, who died of complications from pneumonia at Highland Hospital Wednesday, leaves a mournful circle of friends who are organizing a musical and performance event this Sunday in People's Park to celebrate, not mourn, her life.

Sasso's brother-in-law, Ernest "Boom" Carter, a drummer with Bruce Springsteen and David Sancious, will head the list of performers.  

Max Ventura, a long-time friend of Sasso's and a singer, is organizing the celebration, which starts at noon in the park. Other participants expected: Andrea Prichett, of the popular folk trio, Rebecca Riots; Mac, of the Nixons with what he calls "A Handful of Nixons;" Anna-Lisa Smoker, a folkie and activist songwriter advocating for the rights of those with multiple chemical sensitivities and Carol Denney, a well known Bay Area poet, activist, and folksinger. 

Revolutionary Poets’ Brigade members will offer poems on current events, and Katie Stuck, another of Gina’s close friends, will deliver the eulogy in consultation with Sasso's husband, Michael Delacour. 

There has been a massive response to the death of the well-loved activist, who in April had staged one of the biggest and most successful protests in memory against a possible Berkeley ordinance to ban sitting and lying on sidewalks, a sit-down in front of the now-vacant site of Cody’s Books. Led by Sasso, a group from the 75 person protest then marched to the city council with the message “not here, not now, not ever!” 

Friends said Gina devoted much of her life to People’s Park where her life will be celebrated on Sunday. She was a key activist against UC Berkeley’s attempt to introduce volleyball pits in the park in 1992.  

She was on-air at the indie radio station 104.1 FM until her death. 

She was executive director for nine years at Easy Does It, a non-profit organization providing caregivers for the disabled. 

Her sister, Alice Carter, told the Planet that "my sister was always a caregiver, and now an eternal caregiver. She had the biggest heart on the planet, was never angry; even when she was passionately involved in a cause, she never used unkind words." 

Sasso had been ill for a week before she died, but Alice Carter believes she ignored fatal warning signs until it was too late. Carter said that "her death was unnecessary." 

Emergency room doctors at Highland were surprised at the rapid spread of an infection they could not stem, according to the sister. An autopsy report will be released in two weeks, according to Michael Delacour, Sasso's husband, who said that she had recently lost her health coverage. 

Alice Carter said that if her sister Gina’s death teaches us nothing else, it is to not wait when you are having difficulty breathing, or experience other severe symptoms you mistakenly believe are flu. 

Information provided by the Mayo Clinic indicates that pneumonia is often confused with flu, but pneumonia can be fatal if left untreated, as in Sasso's case. Low body temperature in the elderly, fever, cough, shortness of breath, sweating, shaking chills, chest pain that fluctuates, muscle pain, and fatigue are symptoms which must be addressed. 

According to a family member, Gina Sasso's survivors include her husband, Michael Delacour, son, Dusk, and granddaughter Angelina; her mother Jackie, her sister Alice Carter (brother-in-law Ernest Carter) her sister Elizabeth (Michael Martucci) her brother, Randy Sasso; her sister Barbara (Bob Ellison); nephews and nieces Joseph, Gabriel, Rulon, Phillip (Anya), Christopher, Alex and Lindsey (Bronwen); great nieces and nephews Sofia, Zoe, Isabella, Vito and Gabriel. Her father, Roger Sasso, died in 2006.