Delia Brinton died peacefully and surrounded by family at her home in Santa Barbara on April 13 after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease. She was 72. Delia was a devoted mother, a dedicated humanitarian, and a licensed therapist who spent much of her life trying to improve the lives of others. She is remembered by many for her equanimity, wisdom, kindness, and generosity.
Delia was born in San Francisco. The flat block in the city where she grew up was home to a vibrant community of other children and neighbors with whom she and her family formed life-long friendships. She attended high school at Verde Valley School, a boarding school in Arizona. The curriculum included service learning opportunities on Native American Reservations and in rural communities in Mexico; she would later credit these experiences with cultivating her curiosity, empathy and commitment to social engagement. She attended Bennington College and UC Berkeley before putting her formal education on hold to raise a family. Some years later, she returned to school with vigor, completing a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology at Dominican University the same week her daughter graduated from Berkeley. Three years later, she completed her Master’s degree in Counseling Psychology at the California Institute of Integral Studies, and then continued on to become a Marriage and Family Therapist.
Delia lived most of her adult life in Marin County. She engaged deeply in the lives of her children and her community, taking pleasure in activities like sewing matching dresses for her daughter and best friend, hosting yoga classes for the neighborhood children, and editing the elementary school newsletter. She was committed to introducing her children to other cultures, and planned adventures to Central and South America among many other destinations. In her memoir, she wrote of the “utter contentment” and “intuitive familiarity” of motherhood. She described learning to “tread lightly but firmly” in the lives of grandchildren while committing to never fail to be there for them. She took comfort in being part of a family continuum. She was likewise concerned for the well-being of all children, making youth in need a focus of her therapy practice, her community service, and her philanthropy.
Beginning in the 1980’s, she found a spiritual community in what would become the Spirit Rock Meditation Center, where she was an active member and served on the Board of Directors. Practicing Buddhism, allowed her to maintain a rich spiritual practice of mindfulness and meditation. “From the beginning,” she wrote, “it wasn’t the meditation practice itself that attracted me…I just wanted to do my best to become a kinder, more balanced person, mindful of my environment and the effects of my actions on others.” Delia embodied gentleness and altruism, exemplified in her thoughtful approach to her personal evolution.
An avid photographer, Delia excelled at making portraits, a reflection of her perspicacity and inclination to look and listen with great sensitivity and without undue judgment. She was rarely without a camera. She used this medium to explore her feelings and parse wonders she witnessed. She took exquisite pictures, capturing both the ephemeral and the enduring.
Delia will be remembered for her quiet sense of knowing, her loving-kindness, and her profound generosity. She is survived by her daughter Melissa White (Tobin), son Jasper Eiler (Brook), five grandsons, her sister Katherine Crawford (Gregg), brother William Brinton (Gerry), and cousin who lived with her family Demaris Brinton (Theron). Delia is predeceased by her parents, Mary Jane and William Brinton and her sister, Barbra Dengate Paulson.
In lieu of flowers, donations in Delia’s name can be made to Spirit Rock Meditation Center, UCSF Memory and Aging Center, or Homeward Bound of Marin.