In Memoriam: Sylvia McLaughlin

In the days following Sylvia McLaughlin’s passing we received hundreds of emails, social media comments, and phone calls celebrating her life and legacy. Here are some of the most moving tributes to our co-founder.

“Her vision for the Bay was revolutionary even by today’s standards. So thankful for her dedication to our region’s greatest natural treasure.”
– Allison C.

“In the face of a multitude of environmental problems, Sylvia’s life reminds us of the power of optimism and determination. To keep pushing forward even when discouraged or set back. To never lose hope when fighting for what you believe in. That is how a true leader reaches such accomplishments.”
– Jon B.

“I am deeply honored every day to carry on the legacy of this great woman, of the vision she and her friends had to see San Francisco Bay as a natural treasure. Every time I catch a glimpse of our great bay, I am grateful for the work she did for all of us and inspired to keep working for a better bay. Rest in peace, Sylvia. I know that you are still enjoying the view.”
– Monica C.

“I had the great privilege of meeting and working with Sylvia throughout my tenure at Save The Bay. It was always such a pleasure to spend time with her because her stories were so inspirational, her wit was enviable, and her kindness and warmth were so welcoming. I never tired of telling others Save The Bay’s foundation story, nor did I ever tire of hearing it from Sylvia herself. She, along with Kay and Esther, did something truly remarkable and revolutionary — even for today’s standards — and I continue to draw inspiration from their courage and commitment everyday. She was such a gem, and she will be truly missed.” Amy R.

“In my work as a local activist, I remain inspired by the hard grassroots work Sylvia took up, believing that hope must be enacted if we are to save local places we love and spare the planet more devastation wrought by thoughtlessness and greed.” – Marilyn B.

I remember Sylvia as a force of nature — tireless in her advocacy for doing the right thing, and no less when that meant acting as the conscience of powerful people.  Not only SF Bay, but the entire community and the University are the beneficiaries of Sylvia’s dedicated energy and gentle but firm voice.”
– Rob G.

“Sylvia inspired whole generations of Bay area citizens to embrace and tirelessly advocate for our beautiful Bay. She was the embodiment of grit, grace, generosity and perseverance. May we honor Sylvia by carrying on her fierce love for the Bay for generations to come.” – Mary S.

“Sylvia, Thank you for changing so many lives so that we can enjoy your efforts in saving our Bay.  It seemed very apropos that you chose to depart on a day when many women were meeting in Oakland to try to carry on your legacy.  Thank you.” – Janet L. 

Greatness in passion, women at the helm, thank you Sylvia in making our jewel of the bay a lasting environmental masterpiece.”
– Catherine B.

“With great appreciation for a life well lived and for setting the bar so high for environmental activism and stewardship. I appreciate Sylvia’s work every time I walk or cycle the Eastshore waterfront — which is often — and think of how lucky we all are to have such a beautiful spot in an otherwise intensely urban environment. I am grateful for her efforts, Sylvia McLaughlin was one of a kind.” – Susan A.

“For over twenty years I had the pleasure and honor of working beside Sylvia on the board of Citizens for East Shore Parks, and she always had our mission clear, and she kept us steering the right course with graciousness, kindness and respect. Such a lovely, dear woman.” – Teddi B.

“She was a tireless worker and an inspiration to all Bay Area residents. We will miss her and always remember what she did for us and for California.”
– Velma K.

“Sylvia used her life on our tiny blue planet in a way that will long be remembered, and which beneficially served the multi millions of residents and visitors to the Bay Area.  One of the most important aesthetic and economic features is our Bay and this small, determined woman saved it for all of us.  Well done, Sylvia.  I salute your  well lived life and thank you for this beautiful legacy.” – Jan B.

“Thanks, Sylvia, for all that you did to keep our bay healthy. I am so thankful to have met you and remain truly inspired by your tremendous contributions.” – Mike O.

Oh what a legacy she leaves. Honing her advocacy in an age when women were to keep silent, she did not! She, Dorthy Erskine, and a host of other women saved our landscape, our bay, our region. Our hearts are sad tonight, but undoubtly she is now hard at work helping protect a higher realm.”
– Steve V.

“Kay, Esther, and Silvia…the grand goddesses of the movement… are all gone now which leaves us old acolytes to pick up and share their institutional memories. And the burden of the fight goes to you and the other younger warriors who have the knowledge, fire, and determination to continue to win the battle to protect the best of the past to create a better future. My deep sense of sadness is palpable.  Let us help where we can.  Continued good luck.” – Rod D.

“Sylvia was one of my husband, John Dewitt’s supporters and friend when he first started working under Newton Drury at the Save the Redwoods League in 1964.  I got to know her better at the League Council meetings and then as a guest in her home.  Her energy and determination was astounding.  I will never forget her generosity, commitment to conservation, and dedication to making this place a more beautiful, more healthy, and one that could be enjoyed by all who live here.  Her efforts changed the bay from a toxic place, devoid of any plant growth, invertebrate graveyard, unable to support bird or animal life, to a vibrant jewel that it is today.” – Karma D.

“One of the most important qualities in life is tenacity (or, I daresay, stubbornness), which Sylvia and her co-founders had in spades. They will always be heroes to California and to the world.” – Amber K.

“Sylvia spoke to the kids at Berkeley Montessori School about 10 years ago. She was passionate as she told the kids about how difficult it was to start Save the Bay (thousands of index cards with supporters’ names and addresses were written and filed, lots of old fashioned phone calls were made and letters sent). The kids were daunted by the thought of no computers, Facebook or email. Sylvia just smiled!” – Colleen N.

“Women like Sylvia McLaughlin are so important as role models to both men and women. I didn’t know her personally, but her example gives me courage to generate positive change in my own fields. I know she will be sorely missed by those who knew and loved her.” – Melitta V.

“Save the Bay co-founder Sylvia McLaughlin has long been one of my role models. Pushing on when people told her it wasn’t possible, advocating for what her community needed, leading with grace. The highlight of my time as Board Chair was escorting Sylvia to Save the Bay events, hearing her stories, learning from her wisdom. When I’m feeling stuck, I ask myself what Sylvia would do. Our world is a much better place because of her. I’m honored to have known Sylvia.” – Jody R.