DANVILLE -- Several years ago, Beverly Lane was working on one of the many exhibits she coordinates for the Museum of the San Ramon Valley each year -- this time on the centennial anniversary of women winning the vote in California.
As the museum's longtime curator, she helped to collect treasured pictures, cartoons, posters and other relics of the women's suffrage movement that brought to life the stories of local women and men who fought for the vote -- like Lillian Close and Libbie Wood, who formed the Danville Equal Suffrage Club in 1911; and Elmer and Livia Cox, who joined the county's earliest women's suffrage groups in 1869.
"It was an abundance of riches, and it was a fascinating story, too," Lane said. "These women were just extraordinary. It was just pure fun for me."
Lane, 76, could have herself been a woman showcased in the exhibit, blazing new trails in San Ramon Valley politics, even though her photo wasn't anywhere to be found on its walls.
"Her fingerprints are all over this town," said the vice mayor, Mike Doyle, who has served 23 years on the town council. "She's been very instrumental in the history of Danville from day one, and she contributed quite a bit to making this town the wonderful place that it is, which I call Camelot.
"And it's been delightful to work with her."
One of the modern-day pioneers of San Ramon Valley politics, has was been a relentless agent for change. She was one of two women elected to Danville's first town council in 1982. And she played a crucial role in mapping the town's future as a newly incorporated town, for which she steadfastly campaigned.
She served for a decade as one of the founding council members -- and as a three-time mayor -- helping create the first laws and policies.
A faithful guardian and advocate of the area's rich historical, cultural and environmental resources, she also helped spearhead the creation of a museum for San Ramon Valley's residents -- new and old -- to serve as a bulwark against forgetting what she calls "the larger context" of the area's history dating to the Native Americans.
The founding president of the Museum of the San Ramon Valley and former president of the Contra Costa County Historical Society, she is a local historian, published author and columnist -- a constant "hunter and gatherer" of local history and artifacts.
And as a director of the East Bay Regional Park District for the past 20 years, Lane -- an avid bicyclist, tennis player, hiker and outdoors enthusiast -- has led efforts to create the Iron Horse Regional Trail, the Calaveras Ridge Trail and Sycamore Valley Open Space.
In May, she was named by Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, "Senate District 7's Woman of the Year" for her record of public service and community activism in the East Bay. But it's only one of a cavalcade of other honors showered upon her for distinguished environmental, historical and cultural leadership.
"Beverly's ardent advocacy for expanding parks and preserving local history has been key in making the San Ramon Valley such a vibrant community," DeSaulnier said.
But her determination to stand up and be counted came over time, Lane said.
"Being a 1950s girl, it took me awhile to stand up for myself and others," she said. She remembers her early days of running for office at times, when, she said, the occasional older gentleman would ask "if she had her husband's permission to run for office."
It never cowed her -- she refused to let it. And she would always respectfully answer.
"I would just say, 'He supports me doing this, and he's wonderful.' But nowadays, I'm likely to tell them what I think a little more than I did then," she said.
Even before moving to Danville in 1973 with her husband, Jim, to whom she has been married 51 years, and three sons, she was a young mother who always balanced family demands with her passionate desire to give women more of a voice in political life, through work with the League of Women Voters.
"There were a certain number of us in the 1960s that were very aware that we needed the change," she said. "And the skies were held up by both women and men.
"The nice thing about our marriage was that it was a partnership," she said.
When she first ran for office, it was her husband who not only encouraged her but also helped her campaign door-to-door, along with her three teen sons, she recalls.
"It was a family project, so to speak," she said.
If you ask what her secret has been, she simply says she was lucky to have the good health, energy and family support, to pursue her passions. It's actually nothing compared with what a lot of women do nowadays, juggling family life, sometimes with second and third jobs, she maintains.
"How she has time to do everything, I have no idea," marveled Ayn Wieskamp, president of the East Bay Regional Park District board, who has known her 30 years. "She is absolutely dedicated to whatever cause she's working on."
"The amount of stuff she's been involved in has been kind of mind-boggling for me," added Dan Dunn, the museum's director. "I think every area needs someone like a Beverly Lane, who will keep the local history alive for people."
Contact Joyce Tsai at 925-847-2123. Follow her at Twitter.com/joycetsainews.
Claim to fame: One of Danville's founding council members and three-time mayor, founding president of the Museum of the San Ramon Valley, longtime director of the East Bay Regional Park District, helped lead establishment of the Iron Horse Regional Trail.
Quote: "There were a certain number of us in the 1960s that were very aware that we needed the change -- and the skies were held up by both women and men."
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