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February 20, 2007 > A force of nature: Cecilia Kathleen Hurley Weed

A force of nature: Cecilia Kathleen Hurley Weed

November 19, 1912 - February 10, 2007

The only way to describe Cecilia Weed is as a phenomenon akin to natural forces that transcend mortal bonds. Born in Montpelier, Idaho to an Irish Catholic railroad family, she not only defied the conventions of the day, but quickly molded them to her vision. Cecilia established her brilliance in school and qualified as Valedictorian at Montpelier High School. A technicality required a religion class in the heavily Mormon town but Cecilia, an Irish Catholic, had not taken the class. Cecilia became Salutatorian instead.

Distinguished as a Business Administration major at the University of Idaho, the only woman in her class, Cecilia had been accepted at Harvard Law School, but suffered another setback. Cecilia's mother wanted no part of losing her youngest child to such a long distance. Of Cecilia's siblings, two older sisters had died of Scarlet Fever and two of Cecilia's brothers and a cousin were in the armed forces.

Throughout her life, Cecilia was conditioned by her childhood to have a clear sense of who she was - a proud descendent of Irish blood from mother and father and a devout Catholic. As her children tell it, they were informed early on that they were "half Irish and half not." An allied passion Cecilia held throughout her life was the preservation of history; "A joyous energy and force of moving forward, but with an understanding and appreciation of where you have been.

Born before women had the right to vote, Cecilia insisted that no matter what, "you will hear what I have to say." Her legacy for her children and others who knew her was that "If there is a wrong to be righted, it is your responsibility to personally address it." Too young to join the WAC (Women's Army Corps) during World War II, Cecilia worked as a civilian with the Army Air Corps, forerunner of the Air Force. Selected for an elite post in Alaska, she became the secretary to a general and met her future husband, an officer in the same office. Their first meeting was not auspicious; it is reported that the evening after first working with Officer Weed, she told her roommate that if she had to work one more day with Ham (Hampton) Weed, she would quit! The matchmaker between the two turned out to be a small, short haired, Alaskan Husky named Tillie. Cecilia fell in love with the dog and had adopted it but was being transferred and could not bring Tillie with her. The hero of the story, you guessed it, Ham Weed, secured orders for Tillie to be transferred as well! On June 2, 1945 Ham and Cecilia were married.

John, the eldest child was born in 1946 followed by Ann Catherine in 1948. Tragedy struck as two children were stillborn but eight years later, Mary was born in 1955 and Patricia in 1956. Patricia is named after a general, Pat Hurley, who served in Alaska at the same time as Cecilia Hurley, the future Cecilia Weed. Cecilia was so forceful and commanding that she was given the nickname, "General Pat Hurley." Cecilia and Ham were married for 53 years and traveled throughout the world retiring to Mission San Jose. Even in her later years, Cecilia traveled and continued to be active in local affairs. A fierce preservationist, she served on a plethora of boards and commissions including the Historical Architectural Review Board, Washington Township Historical Society, Alameda County Grand Jury and was instrumental in the creation of the Museum of Local History. In 2002, she was named to the Alameda County Women's Hall of Fame and was honored in November 2006 as a recipient of a national Jefferson Award.

On February 10, 2007, Cecilia Weed passed away in her Mission San Jose home across Mission Boulevard from Mission San Jose and surrounded by mementos of her long and vibrant life. Her daughter, Patricia, says that her mother always identified with the character "Scout" in the novel, To Kill a Mockingbird. Scout's sense of wonder, her inquisitive urge to know more, to question, "why?" when things appear to be wrong and a fearless and courageous strength to face the future are Cecilia Kathleen Hurley Weed's legacy to all of us.

A fund to preserve California's cultural heritage has been created in the name of Cecilia Weed. For those who would like to donate, please send contributions to:
Cecilia Hurley Weed Memorial Fund
BergePappasSmith, Chapel of the Angels
40842 Fremont Blvd.
Fremont, CA 94538
(510) 656-1226

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