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Surnames: Wilder, Earl, Edmund, Curtis, Skopecek
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Tuesday 25 October 1988 Santa Cruz Sentinel, Page One
County's 'Sixth Supervisor,' Alice Earl Wilder, Dies at 99
[Photo Caption: Alice E. Wilder, known as the woman in the red hat, in 1979 photo]
By John Robinson (Sentinel staff writer)
Alice Earl Wilder, the undauntable grand dame of local politics, died early Monday at
her home in Ben Lomond after an extended illness. She was 99.
The list of her awards and accolades is almost unending. In 1979, the Los Angeles Times
called her one of the most prestigious California women of the 20th century.
She is best known as the "Sixth Supervisor," an unofficial title bestowed
upon her by political pundits for her uninterrupted attendance at the Santa Cruz County
Board of Supervisors meetings.
For more than 50 years, Mrs. Wilder kept a keen eye on the workings of the supervisors,
attending virtually every board meeting. She never hesitated to criticize board members
and to speak out for her beloved Ben Lomond, or for what she believed in.
"I have never been paid for what I do and I never intend to be," she was
quoted as saying in a 1981 article in the UC-Berkeley alumni magazine. "You see, I
don't have to run for election, don't have to worry about a recall. I do anything
I damn well please."
She was know as the woman in the red hat, as she usually wore a wide-brimmed red hat
and red clothing that set her apart from the audience [at board meetings].
Her presence was so strongly felt that in the late 1960s, the board installed a brass
plaque in front of her customary front-row seat, reserving that chair for her alone.
As if that were not enough, artist Paul Lee painted her portrait in 1979. It still
hangs over the board chambers, looking down on the supervisors.
On her 95th birthday, Supervisor Robley Levy proclaimed that Sept. 23 [w]as "Alice
Earl Wilder Day."
From a proclamation, Levy read, "Alice Earl Wilder's life has been blessed by
an extraordinary comittment to her home town of Ben Lomond....Alice Earl Wilder has
attended significantly more meetings of the board of supervisors than any other
supervisors, clerk of the board or any other member of the community."
Wilder also received a similar proclamation from President Reagan, lauding her years of
public service and her work for the Republican Party.
She had been a member of the county's Republican Central Committee for 46 years
until she retired at age 95.
It was only her failing health which kept Wilder from attending board meetings over the
past few years.
Mrs. Wilder first came to Santa Cruz County in the summer of 1896, when her family
began spending summers in the San Lorenzo Valley. They bought a house in Ben Lomond in
In various interviews, she spoke fondly of her youthful days in the valley, recounting
memories of fishing in Fall Creek and of admiring the beauty of the mountains.
She was born Alice Earl in Oakland, to Guy Chaffee and Ella Jane (Ford) Earl, who were
the children of California pioneers.
Her father was a prominent lawyer and political force in Northern
California. He was instrumental in the development of power facilities and Lake Almanor
was named for Alice and her sisters, Martha and Elinor.
She graduated from UC Berkeley in 1912 with a degree in social economics. She was also
a classmate of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Earl Warren, and a young engineer, Beverly Burt
Wilder, whom she married in 1913.
Her husband had also spent his childhood summers in Ben Lomond and together they had
In 1934, both here husband and her father died and she moved to Ben Lomond permanently
to raise her children, one of which was still an infant. She was sustained by income from
a family estate, but following the earlier guidance of her father, who had always stressed
public service, she soon became involved in local politics.
In 1935 she became a member of the Ben Lomond School Board and a representative to the
Boulder Creek High School Board.
The service started a record unparalleled in Santa Cruz County.
She served terms on the Ben Lomond Recreation District, the county Office of Education
Board, the City-County Library Board, the county Welfare Advisory Commission, the
Republican Central Committee, the state Republican Central Committee, the United Way, and
numerous other organizations.
She was also instrumental in the formation of the first county Health Department and in
the creation of the county Planning Commission.
"She was an extraordinary woman," said Carl Conelly, who served with Wilder
on many political committees.
"Thirty-five years ago I was chairman of the Republican Central Committee and she
was the secretary. We had an outstanding Republican legislature in those days. We worked
diligently and went to Sacramento a lot. We became great chums in those days....
"She had a great belief in integrity. She called a spade a spade and took issue
with many leading politicians (over the years). She believed in what was right. Her
passing is a sad occasion."
Wilder was recognized many times for her contributions to the community.
In 1981, she was named "Woman of the Year" by the San Lorenzo Valley Chamber
of Commerce. The Santa Cruz Chamber of Commerce named her "Woman of the Year" in
1966, as did the Business and Professional Club of Santa Cruz County in 1968.
In 1981 the county Historical Museum honored her with a retrospective exhibit of her
life and times. The same year, she also served as grand marshal of the Miss California
Pageant, riding atop a flower-bedecked convertible through town.
Services for Mrs. Wilder are pending.
She is survived by two sons, B.B. Wilder of Ben Lomond and Guy Earl Wilder of San Jose;
two daughters, Eleanor Wilder Edmund of Berkeley and Marion Wilder Curtis of Happy Camp;
11 grandchildren, and 16 great-grandchildren.
Her daughter, Anne Skopecek died in 1985.
Norman's Family Chapel is in charge of the arrangements.
Robert Lemmon Jr
Santa Cruz County