ACT recognizes these individuals who made Alameda a better place. Hometown Heroes are nominated on a case-by-case basis.
George Baxter Humphreys
George Baxter Humphreys was born in Santa Barbara. He grew up on a dairy farm in Paso Robles and a cattle ranch near Buellton. He earned B.S. and M.S. degrees in engineering from U.C. Berkeley. He also graduated from the Oak Ridge School of Reactor Technology, where he gained expertise in Nuclear Engineering.
After two years in the Army Signal Corps, he joined Kaiser Engineers in Oakland where he worked for 38 years as an engineer and manager. Projects included nuclear power and test reactors, water desalination, landfills and waste-to-energy plants. He also worked on nuclear waste repository projects and a number of hazardous waste superfund sites. While working full time, he attended law school at night, earned a J.D. from U.S.F. and was admitted to the State Bar.
Following retirement, George decided to apply his experience to the cleanup of hazardous wastes at the former Alameda Air Station. He joined the restoration Advisory Board (RAB) in 2001. The RAB meets to review the status of on-going cleanup of contaminated sites at Alameda Point. George served three years as Community Co-Chair and four years as deputy Co-Chair of the RAB. The RAB has been instrumental in bringing community concerns to the attention of regulars, which has resulted in achieving an enhanced degree of cleanup at the base.
George has lived in Alameda since 1981. His other volunteer activities include five years as a Director and two years as Treasurer of Girls Inc. of the Island City. He also has served on the Board of Directors and as V.P. of Alameda Navy League Council. He served as Chair of the City’s Housing and Building Code Hearing and Appeals Bored. George was a co-founder and served three years as President of the Chuck Corica Seniors Golf Club. In 2012, George was active in the successful efforts to save the Mif Albright par-3 golf course from residual development and worked to pass Measure D to protect Alameda parks.
He has been painting watercolors for the past fifteen years. Primarily he depicts California’s rolling hills, oak trees and rivers. In 2012, George showed twenty-seven of his paintings in a solo exhibit at the Alameda Free Library. He also has participated in Alameda Alliance for the Arts shows at the Alameda Museum.
Dr. Arthur Lipow, 81, of Alameda, passed away peacefully on Jan. 6, 2016, with his wife Gretchen by his side. Dr. Lipow grew up in Southern California and attended high school in Pasadena. He received his B.A. in sociology from UCLA in 1955. He then studied under Professor Seymour Martin Lipset at UC Berkeley, where he received a Ph.D. in political sociology in 1969.
Dr. Lipow was a rigorous intellectual historian and academic. He was highly influenced by his friend Hal Draper, who wrote a classic pamphlet of democratic socialism, The Two Souls of Socialism, which inspired Arthur to write his Ph.D dissertation, later published by the University of California Press, as Authoritarian Socialism In America: Edward Bellamy and the Nationalist Movement. Bernard Crick, biographer of George Orwell, praised it as a guide to the real meaning of democratic socialism – “the kind of socialism one wants.” While writing his thesis, he also served as a primary caregiver for his three young children, who frequently cajoled him to stop typing and take them to the merry-go-round and pony rides in Berkeley’s Tilden Park.
In the 1970s, Dr. Lipow moved to England, where he was a member of the Labour Party and an active participant in European Nuclear Disarmament (END). He was a founder of “Charter 88,” the British constitutional reform movement which proposes a democratic Bill of Rights for Britain. He was formerly director of the Michael Harrington Center at Birkbeck College and then co-founding executive director of Labour and Society International in London.
The Harrington Centre was funded by City University of New York, and chaired by the late President of CUNY and former Peace Corps Director in Ethiopia, Professor Joseph Murphy. Among its other projects, the Centre initiated a program to assist the development of higher education in Africa, sponsored by UNESCO and the United Nations Development Project (UNDP).
Dr. Lipow organized and participated in an international conference in Ethiopia in 1992, sponsored by UNESCO and UNDP, to further cooperation between institutions of higher learning North and South. He published five books, including Authoritarian Socialism in America: Edward Bellamy and the Nationalist Movement; Political Parties and Democracy; Neither Capitalism nor Socialism: Theories of Bureaucratic Collectivism (co-edited with Ernest Haberkern); The Other City (co-edited with Susanne MacGregor); and Transatlantic Crossings: A Voyage of Discovery.
A life-long rebel and champion of social justice, a crusader for civil rights in the United States and abroad. He was an active supporter of Martin Luther King and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and Cesar Chavez and Larry Itliong of the United Farm Workers. He was arrested protesting the final House Un- American Activities subcommittee in San Francisco May 1960 and when working with trade unionists in Czechoslovakia, where he shared a cell with Christopher Hitchens. Dr. Lipow amassed an extensive home library of more than 10,000 books on a spectrum of subjects, including politics, history, and sociology.
Upon his retirement in 1998, Dr. Lipow returned to California. Together with his wife, Gretchen Lipow, he co-founded the Alameda Public Affairs Forum in 2004 and the Center for Global Peace and Democracy in 2007. He continued to pursue many of his life-long passions, including scholarship, activism, eating ice cream, hanging out in coffee shops, and spending time with family and friends.
He is survived by his wife, Gretchen Mackler Lipow. He is also survived by his children Jenny, Stephanie (Tony Walecka) and Nicholas, grandchildren Toby Walecka and Sydney Lipow, and by his stepchildren Jennifer (Todd) Roloff, Phil Mackler, and Aaron Mackler (Stephanie) and their children Peyton and Taylor Roloff and Hazel Mackler. He was preceded in death by his former wife Anne Grodzins Lipow, and his brother Myron Lipow.
David Lewis Needle
Dave Needle was born in New York, but made Alameda his home until his passing in 2016.
Dave arrived in Alameda in 1974, where he met Margo, his soulmate. He started his career at the Alameda Naval Air Station as an engineer, and later went on to work at Tandem and Apple, as well as working as a consultant. But it was as a video game designer and inventor that Dave’s talents really shone. He was instrumental in the formation and success of several hardware platforms, including the Amiga, and two computers he co-created, the Atari Lynx, and the 3DO. As an inventor, he held numerous patents in the video game arena as well as several other industries. He was also a judge for local FIRST Lego League competitions and mentored a FIRST Robotics Competition team, and was a long time member of the RoboGames and BattleBots team Late Night Racing.
Dave selflessly gave himself to the community, drawing on his entrepreneurial spirit to assume leadership roles in various community groups. Dave was a long-time member of the Citizens League for Airport Safety and Serenity (C.L.A.S.S.), a group working to protect the Alameda community from aircraft noise. With C.L.A.S.S. he represented the citizens participants in the settlement agreements between Alameda, Berkeley, and the Port of Oakland and lent his technical expertise to both CLASS and the Oakland Airport Noise Office to resolve issues related to tracking and identifying flights.
Dave also contributed his time and talents to other community organizations. A major accomplishment was his detailed analysis and debate with proponents of the potentially disastrous SunCal housing initiative at Alameda Point, that was later defeated in a landslide at the polls. He also worked to analyze and resolve the AC Transit bus noise in Alameda.
With C.L.A.S.S. the citizen group working with the Oakland airport, he represented the citizen participants in the noise settlement agreements between Alameda, Berkeley, and the Port of Oakland. He wrote computer programs now used by citizens and the airport to track and identify overflights, and he helped analyze and resolve the Fedex nighttime cargo noise at Oakland airport and the AC transit bus noise in Alameda.
Jim grew up in the Chicago suburbs and moved with his parents to Los Angeles in 1952, when he was 14. He graduated from The Los Angeles High School, and went on to Stanford in 1956, majoring in physics. He joined the U. S. Army in 1961 and was assigned to an experimental computer group in Stuttgart, Germany which developed the army’s first operational computerized Command and Control system.
Upon returning to the United States in 1964, Jim joined the Mathematical Systems Department at Kaiser Engineers and enrolled part-time at the University of California, now majoring in mathematics. He received a B. A. in mathematics in 1969.
In 1971, Jim purchased 2242 San Antonio Avenue, then a derelict Victorian rooming house, vacant for three years. Built in 1891 and converted during the 1930s, the home was divided without permits or inspections into six dreary units. Over the next decade, doing much of the work himself, Jim removed illegal wiring and plumbing and restored the house to its origins as an elegant single family home.
In 1972, to share preservation techniques with others, Jim joined the Alameda Victorian Preservation Society (AVPS), becoming President in 1974. During Jim’s presidency in 1976 a Stick style Victorian slated for demolition was acquired for one dollar, with the condition that it be moved. The house was relocated to 418 Santa Clara, renovated with volunteer labor, and it lives on as a fully restored home.
In 1977 Jim acquired a much abused Italianate high basement cottage at 2246 San Antonio Avenue, next to his own home. Built in 1880, the house had been repeatedly remodeled, almost beyond recognition. After renting the house for over a decade, Jim began exploratory demolition. Under layers of stucco and siding, the design of the original house emerged, and Jim developed a restoration plan, using paint shadows and historical information from The Alameda Museum. The restored house remains today.
The next year, 1978, Jim acquired two Joseph A. Leonard Queen Anne Victorians on Clinton Avenue. The interiors of these houses were largely intact, and had never been divided into units. A poor time for Jim to take on another major project, they were allowed to “buy themselves”. Jim bided his time.
Jim continued to work at Kaiser Engineers until 1978, becoming Manager of the Information Systems Department. In 1978, he accepted a position as Chief Information Officer at the Harper Group in San Francisco, the largest U. S. based international air and ocean freight forwarder. This began a two-decade career in the transportation industry, which included stops at American President Companies and Burlington Air Express, where he was a Senior Vice President.
The Burlington Air Express opportunity required relocation to Orange County, so Jim reluctantly left Alameda. In 1998, faced with another possible relocation to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Jim elected to stay in Orange County. Using his mathematics degree, Jim acquired a teaching credential. He taught high school mathematics for ten years, and in 2008 was named Teacher of the Year and finally retired.
Jim returned to Alameda and the two Clinton Avenue Victorians. Over a one-year period, 1837 Clinton was restored to its original appearance, with new foundation, electrical service and plumbing, and new kitchen and bathrooms. The exterior had been encased in stucco, which was stripped off, revealing original details, and the outside was restored. In 2014, a similar process was begun on the “sister house” next door. This process neared completion in 2015.
After Jim’s return to Alameda in 2008, he reconnected with the preservation movement. He was elected to the boards of both the Alameda Architectural Preservation Society and The Alameda Museum. He volunteers as a docent at the Meyers House and Garden, and has helped coordinate restoration activities at this site. He was docent coordinator for the Alameda Legacy Home Tour in 2014, and is the ALHT Chairperson in 2015. Jim also volunteered as a mathematics tutor at the Alternatives in Action High School, continuing his love for mathematics teaching.
James Wallace Sweeney
Jim Sweeney was born in Pullman, Washington. He attended elementary school in Chicago, and after graduating from Pullman High School he obtained a B.A. degree from Washington State University and a J.D. degree from the University of Idaho. He received an ROTC commission in the Army Military Police Corps upon graduation from WSU and then served two years active duty, including assignments of providing security for atomic bomb testing at Camp Desert Rock, Nevada, and military police service in South Korea during reconstruction there following the Korean War.
He practiced law in Polson, Montana for two years and then entered the Judge Advocate General Corps of the Navy. As a Judge Advocate (JAG) he acted as prosecutor and defense counsel in court- martial trials, counsel in administrative boards, investigated claims, and provided command advice as staff JAG at Naval Installations, Naval Districts, and while serving on the Battleship New Jersey (BB-62)in the Vietnam War in 1968-69.
Following his retirement from the Navy he performed service as a volunteer for various City of Alameda activities, including: the Base Reuse Advisory Group Housing Committee , the Economic Development Strategic Plan Committee, the Webster Streetscape Committee, and as a member of the Restoration Advisory Board (RAB) at Alameda Point monitoring the cleanup of hazardous wastes at the former Alameda Naval Air Station and its’ Fisc (supply center) Annex from 1998-present..
Jim’s wife, Jean Sweeney, through her inspiration, courage, determination , tenacious research and hard work from 1998-2009 not only enabled the City to obtain such a treasure as the 40 acre Beltline Railroad property for a small fraction of its’ value, but also achieved the rezoning to Open Space of the 22 acre rail yard portion by voters for her Initiative. The railroad yard is now being developed as the Jean Sweeney Open Space Park. He assisted her in these endeavors and in her obtaining Historical Landmark status for the Veterans Memorial Building.
Jim has lived in Alameda since 1972. He is a member of Kiwanis, has served as a member of the Board of Directors of the Alameda Navy League, as commander of American Legion Post 647, as a member of the Alameda Citizens Task Force, and Bike Walk Alameda. He enjoys hiking, jogging and biking, and reading history and non-fiction.
Ewart “Red” Wetherill
Red was born and grew up in the Yorkshire town of Wetherby, England. After attending Knaseborough Grammar School, he served a brief tour of duty in the Royal Navy, before emigrating to Canada, where he earned a B. Arch. degree at the University of British Columbia in 1954.
He joined the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada and worked for three years as an architect in Edmonton, Alberta. He was then awarded a Langley Fellowship by the American Institute of Architects to attend the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he earned his M. Arch. degree and met his beloved wife, Virginia (Jinny). They married in 1958.
At MIT, Red became captivated by the field of architectural acoustics. He taught as a faculty member at Clemson University until 1960, when he began what would become a 25-year association with the consulting firm of Bolt, Beranek and Newman (BBN) in Cambridge, Mass., Los Angeles and San Francisco.
He left BBN in 1976 to join the faculty of the University of British Columbia, where he taught for three years, before returning to the BBN office in Los Angles.
He came back to the Bay Area in 1985, working with several acoustical consulting firms until opening his own practice in 2003. In recognition of his extraordinarily broad and diverse expertise in architectural acoustics and his outstanding contributions to the field, Red was elected a Fellow of the Acoustical Society of America in 1986. He fulfilled his zest for teaching by continuing to lecture at several universities, including UC Berkeley and the University of Southern California.
He was universally acknowledged by his colleagues as a deep and original thinker, publishing numerous technical papers and continuing to consult and write until the end of his life.
Red and Jinny moved to Alameda in 1985, where he vigorously engaged in community affairs, most notably as the President of the Citizens League for Airport Safety and Serenity, as a member of the Alameda Citizens Task Force Steering Committee, as an Alameda Land Use Commissioner, and as a member of both the Mastick Senior Center Advisory Board and the Rhythmix Cultural Works Community Advisory Board.
Red left us in November, 2015 and is survived by Jinny, his wife of 57 years, his grandchildren, Nikki and Raice, his brother Jim, and four great-grandchildren. His beloved daughter, Diane passed away in July, 2015.
Red’s dry wit and sense of humor were legendary among all who knew him, as were his modesty, warm generosity, and intellectual curiosity. He will be greatly missed.
Editor’s note: for our part here at the Alameda Sun, we’ll miss Red’s unique perspective on Alameda issues that he presented through his frequent submissions in the form of letters to the editor. He would often provide a studious, intelligent and well-considered viewpoint that others may not have conceived.