Monday, June 21, 2010


When I was preparing to go to college, my father was concerned about my heading off to UCLA. He wanted me in a smaller school, preferably Catholic. He knew I wouldn’t go for that, so he suggested I consider going to University of California in Berkeley (Cal) and live at home. The commute was easily done, I could drive from my house across the Bay Bridge or take BART (rapid Transit) to Berkeley in about 30 minutes, and I could live at home for nothing. It was a futile attempt and he knew it. That was not attractive to me. I was looking forward to being out on my own and I wanted to go away. My older three siblings had all gone away and now it was my turn. Of course, each of them had attended relatively small Catholic colleges and I was headed to a (gasp) public school with over 30,000 students. Cal was also a huge public school, but if I stayed at home, he could keep a closer eye on me. I knew that too and that was part of the reason I wanted to go away. : )

My aunt Mayrose faced a similar issue 40 years earlier. In the late 1930’s a college education was not accessible for many people, and for a WOMAN, even less so. However, my grandfather encouraged his kids to excel at everything they did. Mayrose was smart and she applied, was accepted and wanted to go to Cal. Various priests apparently spoke to my grandfather about how much more appropriate it would be for Mayrose to attend the local girls Catholic college, but that was not to be. She knew what she wanted and went after it. She went to Berkeley during the depression, and lived at home with her dad, five younger siblings and two aunts who moved in to help care for the family following her mother’s death a year or two earlier. That right there might be enough to make a young woman stray off course, but not Mayrose.

She commuted to Cal every day and her commute was not quite the same thing I would have faced. The Bay Bridge was completed right around the time she would have started college, but people did not have cars the way they do now. You did not just hop on the Bridge and drive over there, and there was certainly no rapid transit. She would walk to the streetcar, ride all the way downtown to the Ferry Building, cross the bay on the Ferry and then take a train up to the campus. The trip had to take a couple of hours each way. She did this until she graduated because that is what she had to do to get what she wanted.

Like many of the women in my family, Mayrose had many different names. In fact, only the San Francisco contingent calls her Mayrose, her given name. Her siblings referred to her as “sis” and everyone in Seattle simply called her “Casey”. Jim, One of my SF cousins was up in Seattle last week and as soon as she heard him say “Hi, Mayrose” she perked up because that meant it was someone from San Francisco. She loved San Francisco and as her daughter Peg told me, she left a big part of herself here when she moved away. In the last few years, she has had difficulty with short-term memory and though she has been in Seattle surrounded by her loving family for about 70 years, it was the early days in San Francisco that she could converse about easiest.

I have not seen Mayrose in a very long time. She was the only one of the Casey siblings to move away from the San Francisco area. She met Uncle Fred during World War II and moved to Seattle where they raised a huge family and had a great and happy life. I have not been able to travel since Maggie was born, and her travels were getting restricted by age. The last time I saw her was nearly five years ago when she came down with a bunch of her kids and grandkids for a family reunion.

Mayrose passed away over the weekend at 90 years of age. She was feisty until the end, and leaves kids, grandkids and great grandkids to mourn her. Though she has not seen many of us in a while, she also leaves her extended family in San Francisco and beyond. I have always admired her spirit and independence. Her granddaughter summed it up well on face book, where she wrote: “In loving memory of Casey Baisch, may everyone be lucky enough to have a kick-ass woman like this in their lives.”

Could not have said it better myself. Women like her made it easier for women like me to follow our dreams 30 years later.


  1. Such a wonderful tribute -- thank you for posting it! It's amazing how much women accomplished when so much was against them --

    I am wondering whether you read the article about special education in The New York Times this weekend. It depressed me so thoroughly and I'd be interested to hear your opinion of it.

  2. Will you commit to writing my obituary, Sally? Okay, I'm kidding but seriously complimenting your story-telling.

    She will make heaven much more interesting, eh?

  3. That is such a wonderful story, Sally. It brings both Mayrose and the lives of previous generations of Bay area people to life. Thank you.

  4. Wonderful story, Sally. Thank you!


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