BRENTWOOD -- Brentwood lost its first elected female mayor last week and one of its beloved teachers. Catherine Palmer was known as an advocate for well-planned growth and for being a quiet yet effective local leader who took pride in Brentwood and ran it in an orderly manner.
"She was very visible and at every event in town," said far East County historian Kathy Leighton. "She loved Brentwood and it showed."
Palmer passed away at age 79 in Oakley after living in Brentwood for a majority of her life until a recent illness forced her to move. She taught in the Brentwood Union School District for more than 30 years, served two terms on the Brentwood Planning Commission starting in 1979 and was elected as mayor in 1986.
"Her main thing was that she wanted the best for the people of Brentwood," said her oldest daughter, Anne Palmer-Martin. "She believed in being active in the political process."
Fellow former Brentwood mayor Barbara Guise remembers Palmer as a strong advocate for the city's first signal light at Sand Creek Road and Brentwood Boulevard with the addition of the former Lucky's grocery store there. Guise described her as "fair, honest and conservative."
"At that time, it was controversial, but she was right," said Guise of the signal that represented the city's growth at that time.
Past Brentwood planning director Bob Selders said that Palmer was involved with helping to plan growth in "a reasonable and manageable fashion" at that time.
"She was a very sweet lady, and everyone loved her," he said.
Palmer was also active in the Brentwood Women's Club and the Soroptomists. According to Palmer-Martin, she was involved in teaching and volunteering at both Immaculate Heart of Mary in Brentwood and St. Anne of Byron.
Outside of Brentwood, Palmer was involved in the League of California Cities and served as the vice chairwoman of the Contra Costa County Mayor's Conference. Leighton described Palmer as being opinionated and well-read on statewide political issues.
After graduating from Cal State Chico in 1954, Palmer accepted her first teaching job in Brentwood and taught at both Brentwood Elementary School and Edna Hill Middle School. Palmer-Martin said that her mother loved teaching, especially children with learning issues.
"Her favorite thing to teach was reading," she said.
Selders said that his daughter and her friends had Palmer as a second-grade teacher, and they all remained close to her over the years.
"She was a great teacher and a great influence on all of the girls," he said. "She was very caring with all of her students."
Reach Paula King at 925-779-7174 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Name: Catherine Faulkner Palmer
Born: March 21, 1932, in Red Bluff
Died: Feb. 27, 2013, in Oakley
Survived by: Three children: Anne Palmer-Martin, Marihelen Palmer and Paul Palmer; four stepchildren; two grandchildren, Ryan Anderson and Hayden Palmer; and two great-grandchildren, Thomas Hesse and Cadence Anderson.
Services: A memorial Mass will be held at 2 p.m. April 27 at St. Anne, 2800 Camino Diablo Road in Byron
Contributions: To a favorite charity or to the East Contra Costa Historical Society.