In local schools, nuance often stumps students. What’s the difference between “height” and “stature”?

My friend Sylvia Glass measured around 5-foot in a doctor’s office, but to me, she stood 10 feet tall. Her commitment to making neighborhood, community, and government work was unshakable. Ditto to empowering people-based institutions and civic transparency. Whether in her own neighborhood, or as president of Allied Neighborhood Association, which umbrellas Santa Barbara’s neighborhood groups, Sylvia was welcoming, focused, and genuinely nonpartisan.

A more enthusiastic, effective advocate would be hard to imagine. Whether for Allied, the Citizens Planning Association, her place of worship, or myriad other groups, Sylvia was an irresistible force. “Preaching truth to power,” today sounds cliché, but that’s what Sylvia did, in public and private, nudging people, companies, institutions, agencies, to get more involved and address problems, not just talk about them. When so much in national government hovers between acrimonious and dysfunctional, Sylvia mastered the vanishing art of disagreeing without being disagreeable. Her focus was always on facts and issues, not individuals who disagreed with her.

She asked every public agency or institution she worked with to have a real person answer the phone, not Voicemail.

She asked every candidate seeking her help to be prepared for the jobs they sought. I remember swinging by her old La Milpita home to find her showing candidates like Rusty Fairly or Dan Secord how to understand public budget reports, to distinguish between restricted and general funds, or between capital and operating funds.

Sylvia and her husband, Walter, came here for “early retirement” over 40 years ago. Across an amazing life, she outlived Walter, a daughter, a bout with cancer, and so much more, but she stayed sharp and engaged right to the end. In her Jewish faith, there’s a strong tradition that those who pass during the High Holy Days die in a blessed state, at peace both with God and with all living things. And so it was for Sylvia Glass, when she recently departed Santa Barbara in Year Two of her second century in this life. Rest in Peace, good friend.


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