Remembering Gloria King, Civil Rights Philanthropist
Gloria Marie Smith King – dear mother, wife, aunt, friend and colleague – passed away on January 24, 2022, at the age of 92, in Petaluma. She left this world peacefully with the morning sun shining outside her bedroom window, visiting birds and her family by her side.
Gloria saw and appreciated the best in others and what the world had to offer. She was warm and genuine; his curious and observant mind. She would be the first to meet you with a laugh and a big smile: her unique way of communicating her true affection. She had a lasting positivity and zest for life, even though she suffered many losses throughout her life.
Everyone loved Gloria; she was real and accepting of others – a joy to be around. She had a quiet strength and a deep sense of purpose, reflected in her commitment to family and community. And she was a true pioneer – a woman ahead of her time. She loved animals and nature; she liked to dance, sing and talk about ideas. Although she was not religious in her later years, she maintained a strong belief in the power of good and helping others. Always open to a new adventure, Gloria indulged in many activities such as reading, travelling, hiking, skiing, gardening, playing cards, visiting museums, going to the symphony orchestra and the opera. , attend conferences and cultural events.
Gloria was born in Seattle, Washington on May 28, 1929, the year the Great Depression began, to parents Catherine Marie Persinger and Albert S. Smith. The fifth of six children, she was close to her four sisters and her brother. She grew up in Portland, Oregon, graduated from Jefferson High School, attended Portland State University and then Loyola University in Chicago. Gloria has pursued a rich and rewarding career, both professionally and as a volunteer.
It was her commitment to civil rights that drew Gloria to Chicago in 1959 where she volunteered with the Young Christian Workers (YCW), an international youth movement fighting injustice, and met her future husband Gerald King. She developed a close circle of friends in Chicago and remained working for the Foundation for International Cooperation, helping foreign students study at American colleges. She married Jerry in 1966, and when he became Director of Economic Opportunities at CUNA International, they moved to Madison, Wisconsin to start their family and had a daughter, Catherine.
A pioneer, Gloria opted for natural childbirth with her husband present, both very unusual at the time, and which she had eagerly pursued through La Leche League International. Unfortunately, less than three years after their marriage, she was widowed in 1969 when Jer died of lung cancer. Finding herself a single mother and head of household at a time when women could not hold credit cards in their own name, she became a private investor, shrewdly investing in stocks as her main business activity. Returning to Portland in the early 1970s to live near her family, she was also active in community organizations such as Loaves and Fishes, Samaritan Counseling Center, Adopt-a-Student Program, Episcopal Bishop of Oregon Foundation , and held many volunteer roles at her home. her daughter’s schools.
Gloria resumed her professional career in 1983 at the Willamette View Foundation where she worked for 18 years. As Executive Director, she oversaw the Foundation’s growth and shaped its mission to help senior residents maintain their dignity, independence and financial security. Active in the philanthropic field, she has held numerous leadership positions at the Northwest Planned Giving Roundtable, Willamette Valley Development Officers Association, and served on the National Advisory Board of the National Planned Giving Institute, of which she is also a graduate.
After retiring in 2001, Gloria moved to Berkeley to live closer to her daughter and two of her favorite nieces and their families. She loved her North Berkeley condominium and reveled in the blue California sun and skies, kept active and made new friends through yoga, the Contra Costa Hills hiking club, Berkeley Senior Center, Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association, attended conferences in Cal and shows in Berkeley. Repertoire theatre. She described her primary role as a volunteer dog walker, lovingly caring for Sophie the dachshund, Bodhisattva the Labrador retriever and also Bootu the cat. She was proud to be one of the first participants in a groundbreaking study, the Women’s Health Initiative, a national study of the health issues of women over 50 that had a lasting impact on the lives and health of women.
Gloria was a lifelong student and avid researcher, well into her final years. After surviving bladder cancer in 2005, she achieved her retirement goal by conducting family research, documenting the Smith and Persinger lineage, and taking her family on memorable genealogy tours in Sweden and Luxembourg. Travel was a joy and a passion for Gloria – a way to develop a deeper understanding and empathy for people from different backgrounds. Favorite trips included visiting his in-laws in Ireland and Germany and trips to the Philippines, Italy, France, Denmark, the Netherlands, Mexico and across the United States, making friends everywhere she went.
In 2020, at the start of the pandemic, Gloria left her garden apartment in the Belmont Village Albany retirement community and moved to West Marin to live with Catherine, Lisa and big dog Bandrui. She was thrilled to become a full-time resident of Tomales, one of her favorite places in the world, and became known in the village for her daily walks, greeting passers-by from the porch and watching the birds from one of his many favorite sunny chairs. Although dementia clouded her memory, she remained active and her sparkle and ability to connect with others remained strong. After a brief illness at the end of 2021, her family opted for palliative and comfort care. Gloria had made her wishes very clear over the years and left a lovely letter to that effect to share with her doctors and caregivers. “I have no fear of death,” she writes. “I have witnessed the death of my brother, my husband and my mother, and I know death and I am not afraid of mine.” She received excellent loving care from her doctors, hospice, and caregivers at Taking the Journey in Petaluma. She was peaceful and painless at the time of death.
To remember Gloria is to feel her warmth, easy laughter, integrity and generosity. She will be missed by her family and friends. She was predeceased by her husband, Gerald Patrick Lincoln Declan King; parents, Albert S. Smith and Catherine Marie Persinger; his siblings – brother Albert and sisters Emily, Marguerite, Helen and Shirley and their spouses; and his sister-in-law, Mary King Casey, and brother-in-law, Edmund King. She is survived by her beloved daughter, Catherine King, her daughter-in-law, Lisa Beritzhoff, and numerous nieces and nephews (great, great-great and soon to be great-great-great). May his memory continue to be a source of inspiration.
The family suggests donations in his memory to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the American Civil Liberties Union or the Hospice of Petaluma.
Isn’t it darkness, after all,
but so much light
wrapping around us—
as soft as feathers—
of White Owl flies in and out of the field