Saturday, June 25, 2005

Public Nuissance Passes Peacefully in the Night

Eight decades of trouble making ended not with a bang, but with applesauce, in Berkeley:

Helen Corbin Lima died peacefully in her sleep in the early hours of May 5. She had recently celebrated her 88th birthday. On the day she died she had lunch with friends at the North Oakland Senior Center and after a rest helped make a large pot of applesauce.

...In 1938, a self declared atheist and non-conformist, she moved to Eureka, California where her older sister Clara was living. Clara had been part of the community support for the 1935 Eureka lumber strike and that attracted Helen. ... she found a job as the secretary for the fisherman’s union Local 38 in Eureka in 1939. ..... She soon, however, became an organizer. That same year Helen joined the Communist Party and in 1940 she married Albert J “Mickie” Lima who was a local leader in the CP. 1945 the family moved to San Francisco. Helen went to work in the offices of People’s World newspaper. ....1951 ... Mickie and other leaders of the Communist Party were arrested under the Smith Act. ....[she worked] in the spring of 1957 in the kitchen at Herrick Hospital in Berkeley. In the summer of 1958 SEIU Local 250 struck at several East Bay hospitals....Helen, who had been a strike captain, became a rank and file union activist....

In 1979 Helen retired from Herrick and devoted her time to political work. She worked for peace, against racism and South African apartheid, in many local political campaigns and raised money for the People’s World newspaper. She also took care of her son Michael who suffered from schizophrenia until he committed suicide in 1982. In 1995 Helen lost her son-in-law Donzell in a tragic incident of street violence. In 1987 Mickie retired from full time work in the Communist Party early 1991 Helen moved into Strawberry Creek Lodge in Berkeley. ... she applied for Section 8 housing—and a whole new realm of political activity opened up for her.

From then until her death Helen was active in the fight for affordable housing and to save Section 8. In May 2000 she was given an affordable housing leadership award for community activism by the Non Profit Housing Association of Northern California. And in November 2004 she received the Hell Raiser of the Year award from Berkeley’s Housing Rights Advocates.

No comments: