Sausalito lost an iconic figure in July 2014 with the passing of Bea Seidler. Among her many accomplishments, Bea was a long term docent at the Ice House, and had been the guiding light of the non-profit Sausalito Foundation, which supports the artistic, cultural and historical heritage of Sausalito. She was also instrumental in Sally Stanford’s election to the City Council, and eventually as mayor.
Bea recalled her involvement with both the Foundation and Sally Stanford during a 2005 oral history session with Betsy Stroman. Here’s a lightly edited excerpt from her recollections:
I somehow or other got swept into an organization known as the Sausalito Foundation. The original people had put up the money to buy the open water down there in front of the Valhalla when there was a high-rise apartment building proposed for it and it was about to be sold. Sally Stanford was one of the original founders. They gathered up about $80,000 and were able to make a down payment, and they deeded it to the City and the City eventually put up the rest of the money. Sally I think was the one who got the whole thing going because she was going to lose her view. Literally, they were putting up a high-rise apartment there. The city owned all of the open water to that corner, about 5 acres. And the reason they owned all of that was that the State of California in the 1870s or ’80s sold off all the underwater lots to raise money for the dome for the [State] Capitol.
We were raising money for the Foundation for something in the early 70s. We had this art and antique auction, and we got people all over town to contribute. It was held on a Sunday afternoon, and at that juncture who should I meet for the first time but Sally Stanford. Sally had run for City Council many times and had been elected in 1972 after running 4 or 5 times. She always ran under the name of Marcia Owen. And when she finally ran under the name of Sally Stanford, she was elected in ’72, much (to tell you the truth) to everybody's surprise, but she had a fairly good reputation -- the hail fellow well met down at the Valhalla. People loved it and she was in her heyday down there, being hostess with her parrot. I maybe had met her, but not really. Anyway, Sally was going to rerun for Council and Betty Phillips called and asked me if I would [help] -- because she knew I worked on people's campaigns, if I would do a brochure for Sally, and I said Oh Sure. [Bea, an advertising copywriter at the time} got to thinking about it and I thought “A brochure for Sally Stanford, that’s the silliest thing I've ever heard. Everybody either knows who she is or doesn't, but a brochure, we don't need to say anything about her.” And the election was going to be in early March, so I said to Betty, why don't we, instead of sending out a brochure, which is nonsensical and a waste of our money, let's send a valentine to everybody in town, and we did. Betty's husband was a printer.
And indeed we did get her elected and I still didn't really know her, although I went to the celebration she had at the Valhalla, and we had a great fun party, but I knew a lot of people and it didn't matter that I didn't really know her. But the auction was after that, maybe 6 months, a year after that. I bid on a couple of things: a little oriental rug, some silver spoons. And lo and behold when I went to pay for them, Sally had paid for them. And she said to me, that's just a way of thanking you for what you did. And then I got to know her quite well, because not too long after that she had a heart attack. My neighbor across and I used to go up and take her meals up to her, if you can believe anything this loopy. Then we used to go to her ranch all the time. ... She had this wonderful walnut ranch between Kenwood and Santa Rosa on I think Highway 12.
Gracie Grove and I used to go up on the weekends. We stayed in the little guestroom in the White Victorian. Sally cooked. It was like she was our grandmother or something. She had a very old fashioned way of cooking. It was like she'd never left Baker, Oregon. Oh, that was why she and Gracie became great friends, because they were both from Baker, Oregon. We used to go up there and then hang out at the swimming pool all weekend.
There were always rumors which -- you know -- there are still to this day rumors that the upstairs of the Valhalla had girls up there. I don't believe that. There were always rumors that there were women in the Woman's Club who had been former girls. I don't believe that either. I think that was a bunch of wannabees. It is true that her name was proposed as Marcia Owen in the Woman's Club and she was blackballed as it were. I know someone who was on the Board at that time. ... It never came to the membership. She was simply blackballed in the Board. But Sally always managed to come to every Jinks ...
Anyway, she was quite a character. I didn't know her in her heyday, but when I knew her she was just kind of a – well, there's a picture of her up there with Gracie and me. That's kind of the way I remember her, as just this jolly lady.
Article by Larry Clinton in the Marin Scope August 2014