Anne Woodell has passed away on January 25th, 2017.
Anne was truly the "Mother of Oakland Parks and Recreation." She was the founding member of the Foundation, and later served as Secretary of the Board. Anne was also a board member of the Oakland Parks Coalition.
Anne also served on the Parks and Recreation Advisory Commission for 27 years. She had a leadership role with the City's Mother of the Year Award (and was honored with the award in 2009), the Oakland Municipal Band, and many other great causes. She was a proud member of the Ladies of the Lake, attending their 100th anniversary celebration in 2016.
Former Foundation Board President, John Bliss, remarked, "I had the honor to serve with Anne, twice, once during her tenure on the board of the Friends of Oakland Parks and Recreation, and again, when we both served on the board of the Oakland Parks Coalition. I've never met a more fierce and knowledgeable advocate for Oakland's parks and park programs."
Anne was a passionate believer in the need to ensure that all kids learn to swim, and she helped to launch our youth scholarship program to meet this goal.
At the request of Anne’s family, the Foundation established the Anne Woodell Memorial Swim Fund. The Fund's purpose is to be to provide funding for the Oakland Swim Initiative, that every child in Oakland can learn to swim by 5th grade.
About Anne Woodell
By Ken Lupoff, Executive Director of the Foundation
Anne Woodell fell in love with parks and the outdoors as a child growing up in Michigan. “In those days it was safe to stay outdoors all day long during the Summer time”, she said. “We always had access to a large park near our house. I was the only daughter, and had three brothers. We all played sports, including basketball. I always kept up with them!”
Anne grew up, married, and moved to Oakland where she and her husband, William, raised their two sons in the city’s Montclair district. She first became involved with Oakland’s parks, when in 1974, then-Mayor John Reading appointed her to the Parks and Recreation Advisory Commission (PRAC). The Commission’s purpose was (and is) to report and make recommendations to Oakland’s City Council on Parks and Recreation policies. Anne went on to serve on PRAC for twenty-seven years, leading the group as its Chair for twenty of them.
Anne recalled, “at the time of my appointment to PRAC, I had two small sons and they both went to Tiny Tots at Montclair Park. I hadn’t seen a lot of other Oakland parks or California State Parks at that point in my life. There were seven members on the Commission at the time, and I was the only woman member. I was also the only one available to attend daytime park events --- so I got familiar with many of them! As time went on, I got to know all of Oakland’s parks and recreation centers: Dimond, Mosswood, deFremery, Manzanita, Ira Jinkins, and so many others!”
The passage of Proposition 13 was a galvanizing event for Anne and other park and rec activists. Oakland’s Office of Parks and Recreation suffered a $10 million budget cut in the immediate aftermath of 13’s passage. In 1979, while attending a parks conference in Los Angeles, Anne learned about friends groups from all across the country. She returned to Oakland and met with Hap Smith, the Director of Oakland’s Parks and Recreation department. Anne worked with Smith, and other long-time OPR directors like Marcelle Weed, Jay Ver Lee, Shirley Green; and other community members like Kay Grozny, Charles Russell, and Susan Duncan to recruit committed stakeholders for a Board of Directors for a new "Friends of Oakland Parks and Recreation" group (the Foundation's predecessor organization). The process took two years to complete, and in July 1981 the incorporation papers were signed in a ceremony with Mayor Lionel Wilson (pictured below).
But despite her work on launching the Foundation, Anne herself, was not to join the Board until March of 2001. “I was on PRAC for all those years”, she remarked. “So despite my love for the organization, I couldn’t join the Board and still serve as a Park Commissioner. However, I was an ex-officio non-voting board member.”
As the years went by Anne stayed involved with the Foundation; helping to launch the group’s Grants program, awarding funding to programs and rec centers for items that city funding would not cover; supporting the 1990 Measure K, a $60 million bond, which helped to pay for improvements to 175 facilities in the park system including a Foundation project of $750,000 to restore the Woodminster Cascade in Joaquin Miller Park; and working to support our successful effort in the mid-1990s to allocate and project manage a $1.25 million anonymous donation to improve 16 playgrounds and ball fields in the city.
In March 2001, Anne left her position with PRAC, and finally joined the Board of the Foundation, some twenty years after helping to found the group. Over the following years, she served as Board Secretary; helped to start our annual Taste of Spring fundraiser; and chaired many fundraising events, including the 20th Anniversary in September 2001 at the Woodminster Theater. In 2006 Anne was honored with our first Service Award. She was the 2000 Oakland Citizen of the Year, and the 2009 Oakland Mother of the year for her volunteerism.
Anne supported our organization through the end of her life, serving as a member of the Advisory Board, and providing occasional advice to the group’s current Executive Director, Ken Lupoff. Anne described her role this way, “I have been [the Foundation's] biggest cheerleader throughout the years. I have written innumerable membership notes and letters; and urged the Board and staff to take a stand on issues affecting our Parks and Recreation facilities. There have been huge reductions in the level of support that Oakland allocates to its Parks and Recreation Centers. [The Foundation] has always been there supporting the Parks Department and fighting to protect its budget from draconian cuts. And just as they have always supported OPR, I have always supported them. I renew my membership with the Foundation every year without fail. I hope that every concerned citizen in Oakland renews or begins to support the Oakland Parks and Recreation Foundation this year.” [or donate to the fund her friends have created, named in her honor.]