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From Madera High to Berkeley’s vice mayor

For The Madera Tribune

Susan Meadows Hone, 1939-2019.


In 1956, two hundred twenty-three Madera High School seniors marched up to get their diplomas in ceremonies at Memorial Stadium. Among them was Susan Anne Meadows who had compiled a stellar record at Madera High. She then went on to U.C. Berkeley and won a prominent place in Bay Area society and politics, serving 10 years on the Berkeley City Council, most of them as Vice Mayor.

Sue Meadows died in her Berkeley home at the age of 80 on April 2, 2019, and we want to thank Joseph Farias for giving us a chance to recognize this outstanding woman who began to make her mark in Madera.

Susan was born in San Francisco but was raised in Madera where she was active in the Rainbow Girls, the Campfire Girls, and the Trinity Episcopal Youth Group. By the time she was a junior at Madera High, Susan was the editor of the school newspaper and on graduation night in 1956, she was one of the four graduation speakers.

After high school Susan enrolled at Cal Berkeley as an English major. Along the way to her degree, she got married to Michael Curran Hone (at Trinity Episcopal in Madera) and spent a lot of time working as the managing editor of the Daily Californian. Then after graduation from Cal., her life took an unusual turn. She became a political activist and wound up on the Berkeley City Council.

Susan first aroused the attention of the local Bay Area politicians with her work as a member of the League of Women Voters. She became so well known that in 1971 the Berkeley City Council voted to appoint her to fill a vacancy in its ranks. Susan acquitted herself so professionally that she easily won her own term on the Council in 1973.

Four seats were open that year, and 22 people were running for them. Susan garnered more votes than any of them. After her election, the Council members voted her to the position of Vice Mayor.

Throughout her ten-year tenure on the Council, Susan continued her work as a member of the moderate Berkeley Democratic Club. She also championed women’s rights and worked tirelessly to improve Berkeley’s libraries, parks, and public transportation.

In 1981, Susan decided not to run for another term on the Council, but that didn’t mean she was through with public service. She was elected to the Bay Area Rapid Transit Board where she served one four-year term. She also served for many years as a California probate referee.

This former Madera High School standout went on to champion dozens of other causes and assisted the careers of other elected women. She was an early president of California Elected Women for Education and Research. In the 1980s, she was a volunteer with the National Women’s Education Fund and helped train women on how to run for elected offices. As a result of these, she became lifelong friends with a large number of elected women, not only from California but from throughout the United States as well.

Although she wasn’t an attorney, Susan was a founder of the California Women Lawyers Association. She also served as a board member of the McCullum Youth Court, Berkeley’s Town and Gown Club, the Claremont Book Club, and even found time for the Berkeley Tennis Club.

Apart from politics, and her two children and four grandsons, Susan’s greatest personal passion in life was music, and she served on the boards of the Berkeley Symphony, Berkeley Opera, Berkeley Piano Club, Merola Opera Young Artist Training Program and as chairman of the Board of San Francisco Classical Voice. She was also a member of New York’s Metropolitan Opera Club.

Susan was also an avid reader, an excellent tennis, ping-pong and bridge player, and a longtime and committed fan of the UC Berkeley women’s basketball team.

A memorial service will be held for Susan at St. Clement’s Episcopal Church in Berkeley on Saturday, June 29 at 11 p.m.

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