| May 2013
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Gerry Meister championed healthcare and pension rights throughout her long career as a San Francisco teacher and labor activist. Photo courtesy Denise LaPointe
Ceremonies were held in April to celebrate the life of Gerry Meister, a longtime Noe Valley resident and longtime leader in the often extraordinary efforts of San Francisco teachers to win, secure, and expand their rights.
Gerry, an active member of Friends of Noe Valley, Noe Valley Democratic Club, and other neighborhood groups, lived with her journalist husband Dick Meister on 28th Street for a half-century. She died at 77 on March 4 after a brief struggle with cancer.
Gerry was most recently, and for nine years, chair of the 900-member retired division of the local teachers union, the United Educators of San Francisco (UESF), and co-chair of the Protect Our Benefits Committee (POB), which advocates for retired teachers and retired public employees generally.
As a highly committed teachers union activist and organizer, Gerry was particularly effective in advocating for the local Health Service System (HSS) and insisting that it provide workers the health care they required. It was a very difficult task, to which she devoted most of her time after retiring in 2001 from the social studies post she had held with distinction at Washington High School for nearly 40 years. She had taught more than 7,000 students and had generously mentored scores of new teachers.
Gerry played a major role in passing the ballot initiative that defined the HSS as a separate and thus more effective agency in 2004, and went on to become a valuable adviser to each HSS director and to the many retirees who sought her help.
She also was active in many political campaigns, such as the Proposition H campaign in 2002, which increased funding for San Francisco schools and libraries and for music and arts programs, and the Proposition 30 drive that same year, which increased state funding for education.
Gerry campaigned equally hard against measures she saw as harmful, including a San Francisco proposition that would have greatly curtailed city employee pensions. One of her strongest efforts was working to defeat last year’s California Proposition 32, which would have stifled the political voices of workers and their unions throughout the state.
Gerry Meister, who modestly described her work as “doing what needs to be done,” was an exceptionally popular and influential teacher and leader. Her death has drawn dozens of messages from students, her fellow teachers, and others, praising and thanking her for her life’s work and for leaving behind an important legacy. They describe her as concerned about others, always giving but never taking, highly competent and knowledgeable, loyal, tenacious, dynamic, brilliant, and truly inspirational.
Gerry’s work, conducted with integrity, grace, warmth, and compassion, made her a force for truth and justice throughout her lifetime and an inspirational guide for those who follow. We are fortunate she lived among us.
Memorial contributions may be sent to Protect Our Benefits Committee, P.O. Box 320057, San Francisco, CA 94132, or to the Gerry Meister Scholarship Fund, UESF Retired Division, 170 Topeka Ave., San Francisco, CA 94124.
—Family and friends of Gerry Meister