Cynthia Marano, an Oakland resident who used her skills at bringing together unlikely allies to improve the lives of low-income people and help women establish economic equity, died April 28 due to adenoid cystic carcinoma, a type of cancer. She was 57.

A two-year stint with the Peace Corps in 1967 changed her life.

"She was in the Peace Corps in Ecuador, and it was an important experience in shaping her life work. She began thinking about economic equity," partner Judy Patrick of Oakland said. "She clearly had a life mission."

She also met Tish Summers and Laurie Shields, founders of the National Displaced Homemaker Network, Patrick said.

"She became their mentee," Patrick said. "She really began doing work around women's pay equity. The three of them went on to found the Older Women's League." The League is celebrating its 25th anniversary.

Born May 27, 1947, in Philadelphia, Ms. Marano graduated from George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. She went on to Northwestern University and the University of Maryland.

From 1969 to 1975, she was director of public affairs of the National Federation of Business and Professional Women in Washington, D.C.

In 1976, she became director of the National Workforce Network, and later was named president of Wider Opportunities for Women.

In 1997, she moved to Oakland to be closer to Patrick. The two met several years earlier and were together for 12 years.

For a few years, she led her own company, Marano and Associates, a consulting firm that worked with foundations and nonprofits benefiting low-income people.

In 2002, she was named director for the National Network of Sector Partners, National Economic Development and Law Center in Oakland.

"She had such ability to pull together unlikely partners, to really move an agenda, to really improve the lives of low income women," Patrick said. "It was her life's work."

It also caught the attention of the White House, said Patrick.

"The Bush administration loved her idea," Patrick said. "They saw it as pro-business, yet low-income people really benefit from getting higher-wage jobs. It was a strategy that many states are now implementing — and it started with one little program."

Ms. Marano was board member of the Oakland Methodist Foundation, a founding executive committee member and treasurer of LifeTime, and vice chairwoman on the board of Equal Rights Advocate.

In addition to partner Patrick of Oakland, Ms. Marano is survived by mother Peggy Carty of North Myrtle Beach, S.C., and brother Paul Carty of Dubuque, Iowa.

Services are scheduled for 3 p.m. Friday at Lake Merritt United Methodist Church, 1330 Lakeshore Ave., Oakland.

Contributions can be made to the Women's Foundation of California, Cindy Marano Rapid Response Fund, 340 Pine St., suite 302, San Francisco, 94104.