Frances Dias – A remarkable woman, a remarkable life
Frances Dias is a Southern California girl, if you discount her first three years in Wisconsin and high school on the beautiful North Shore of Lake Michigan. Later still, Frances took up higher studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder, graduating in History/Econ in only three years.
Her fervent wish was to help the war effort during WWII and to enlist with the U.S. Marines, but not before returning to Los Angeles to teach school for one year. At age 21 she had decided that she would prefer military life to high school teaching.
After boot camp in North Carolina, the young Marine was transferred to Camp Pendleton in California. Realizing her quick mind and professional skills, she was made the secretary in the Judge Advocate General (JAG) office and later to Headquarters Battalion with the responsibility of discharging the famous Fourth Marine Division which fought its way so courageously through the Pacific Islands – Iwo Jima, Saipan, and Tinian.
Leaving the Corps, Frances took advantage of the GI Bill and enrolled at the University of California at Berkeley, working on a split masters degree in History and Economics.
She fell in love and married a fellow student, an officer in the Air Corps (today’s Air Force) who instructed young recruits both in Texas and Florida.
After finishing her studies, Frances became a teaching assistant to a Berkeley professor and her husband joined Southern Pacific Railroad. After two years, the young couple and their new baby girl moved to Palo Alto. Eventually, having raised three daughters and serving many years as a PTA mother, Frances ran successfully for the Palo Alto City Council, and ultimately was elected mayor for two terms.
As chief executive she oversaw the planning of a new City Hall and wastewater treatment plant, and skillfully managed the student rebellions that swept across one campus after another.
Finding more hours in a day than most of us, Frances Dias worked on the winning campaign of Charles Gubser (Gilroy), candidate for the U.S. House of Representative.
By now a single mother and financially responsible for three college bound daughters, she needed a paying job. Knowing her skills and talents, Gubser put her in charge of his West Coast office.
Impressed by her capabilities, the Congressman later put forth her name for nomination as regional director for the Emergency Preparedness Agency, an arm of the Defense Department. Frances won the prestigious job against an all-male competition. (The only woman regional director in the U.S. at that time.)
Her charge was to coordinate Emergency Preparedness with state and local officials in the West, which included Arizona, Utah, Nevada, California, Hawaii and the U.S. Territory of Guam. It was an enormous area to keep watch over and to manage a staff of 90.
From the headquarters in Santa Rosa, her office worked with state and local officials, coordinating their Emergency Preparedness agencies with that of the Department of Defense. In time the President’s office of Emergency Preparedness and its counterpart at the Pentagon were merged to form FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency.) Frances was moving once again; this time to Washington D.C. where she served in the Education Department of FEMA and later headed the State and Local Planning Division.
At age 60 she retired at the top of the career ladder and returned to Sonoma County. While she was stationed in Santa Rosa years ago, Frances was appointed to the local Planning Commission, a position she resumed by acclamation after leaving Washington.
Happily settling back into her house in the Montecito area, she indulged in her love of gardening, creating an oasis of beauty and tranquility.
Always mindful of her earliest desire to be of assistance to her community, she signed up as a volunteer at Memorial Hospital where she has worked for the last 23 years.
Moving to Oakmont a year and a half ago, she joined the Landscaping Improvement Committee. With nobody volunteering, Frances took on the chairmanship, and is overseeing the redesign of the so-called football field between the Berger and the new Activities Center.
Having spent years with planners both in the national arena and at the local level, Frances has been invited to join one of the most important Oakmont committees, namely the OPDC (Oakmont Property Development Committee.) One task awaiting her is the famous, or if you will, infamous Elnoka project.
And just where does all this energy come from? When everything else is done, this incredible octogenarian finds time to play tennis three times a week, tend to her beautiful garden and give dinner parties.
Frances is a charming, engaging and thoroughly persuasive lady, and we wish her many more happy and fulfilled years with her family, friends and with our community.
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