Oleta Kirk Abrams

Emails and Notes from Friends

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Lee was a loving and dedicated teacher at Hintil Kuu Ca from 1984 to 1999. Hintil is an Early Childhood Center serving Native American children in the Oakland Public Schools.

She cared for the children.  She was like a grandma.  The children respected her because she was gentle, soft-spoken and funny. The children remember her playing the piano and singing with them. She played the piano for them and read to them every day.  She went on camping trips with them and took them swimming.  She was always warm and generous, giving in so many ways, whenever and however possible.

Donations may be made in her name to the Hintil Parent Committee

c/o Hintil Kuu Ca

11850 Campus Drive

Oakland, Ca. 94619

cj fay


Hi Rebecca,


Here's the best I can do without becoming maudlin or too long in saying.  There was so much more I just can't seem to say or remember.


In January of 1976 when I was an investigator newly assigned to the Oakland Police Sexual Assault Unit, I met one of the most beautiful people ever to come into my life. Oleta Abrams was the first Victim/Witness Advocate of the Alameda County District Attorney's office.

Oleta's mission was to minimize additional trauma from the criminal justice system to victims of violent crimes (and others who were on the periphery), and she accomplished that mission far beyond anyone's expectations. As a side benefit, she made our jobs much easier. She relieved us of the burden of making sure everyone was treated correctly, so we could devote ourselves to doing what was needed to put the bad guys away. She helped us work with groups such as Bay Area Women Against Rape, which she had earlier co-founded. If witnesses were reluctant, she would often help in persuading them to cooperate - but only if she felt the person would not suffer because of it. She was our right arm, our mother confessor, and advisor.

Oleta was instrumental in developing protocols and procedures for law enforcement agencies, the D. A.'s office, and especially medical facilities in the investigation of sexual assault crimes. She made all of us more aware of the need for special considerations in dealing with special victims.

After a while, Oleta was more than a colleague of mine. She and her husband Mel became close personal friends. I have special memories of gatherings at their wonderful home in Berkeley: All the men on New Year's Day with moustaches soaked in the best eggnog ever made; the huge Irish wolfhound, the pit bull, and the teacup poodle; the well digging party during the drought of '76 that located a source of water - the sewer pipe.

After I moved from the Bay Area, Oleta and I didn't see each other as we should have. That was truly my loss, and I'll always regret it. But I never will forget her and how much she added to my life.

Bill Danenhower


Dear Becky,


I send my love and compassion for the grief that you and your family are going through.  I am deeply grieving having been a close friend.  I cannot imagine the overwhelm of loss for you.


I am sitting here trying to gather some  thoughts in a cohesive way.  So many memories have been flooding up.  They all have a similar theme to them and it is so difficult to grasp.  There is a strength, heartfelt righteousness and depth of humanness to Oleta's connection to all she held dear to her... a humanness in its nakedness that was ever accepting of all life as being important, unique connected... the planet and all of its beings.  She did not hold herself ever above anyone or hold them above her.  All was on an equal playing field and the rules of living were based in this depth of strength and love of life, honor and respect.  If that wasn't there then there was a mission to change the injustice or lack of what were basic rights and needs of being fully alive.  Her passion for life and her place in it was clear whether in her garden, gathering with her friends and family (which were also her family), fighting for what is just (Women Against Rape, etc.), or being involved in a pow wow or the opera.  She had a deep understanding of aesthetics and beauty crossing gender, race class, cultures.  I remember taking her to the opera "Madame Butterfly" and knew that she would get so involved in the story and the texture of her favorite opera that there would be no way to stop her from cussing out Pinkerton in the 2nd balcony front row of the San Francisco Opera House.  " Fuck you Pinkerton!"  sailed through the opera house as if it was the most natural thing in the world for her to say.  Only a few heads turned, but most people smiled.  I also remember sitting one of the many times in bed with Oleta chatting and she told me " There are people who come to this world to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable."  So beautifully said and lived!  She lived her life with depth and as her heart directed with a depth of soulfullness and humanness and strength in love that, I think, few people can embody let alone mirror in a fashion to those she touched so that they could see, honor and respect those qualities in themselves and others.


I hope this helps you out.  Your mother was an amazing mentor to all those she touched without ever knowing how deeply she affect us.  And if she did know her humbleness was profound for it was her destiny in this life. What a beautiful gift!


Love, Khita Austin


... I do remember in 1959 or 1960 when Libby and I visited she gave us an adorable Dachshund, Gretchen.  I sent her an Xmas Card and reminded her of this and she responded saying after all these years - she remembers...

Bill Lunt (Husband of 1st cousin Libby)


... I have a nice memory of Oleta because about seven years ago - shortly after she retired from teaching - she and Mel came to Seattle.  Mel had been stationed at Seattle's Fort Lawton while in the military.  The four of us (Oleta, Mel, Al, and myself) spent most of the day walking around the former Fort Lawton, now a scenic park overlooking Puget Sound.  Then, we spent a nice evening at my house in North Seattle.  Over dinner and wine, we all had a great conversation and relaxed family bonding.  I remember my siblings Patrick and Tara were there...

Jennifer Dowd Rubinstein (Daughter of 1st cousin Patty Kirk Dowd)


Dear Becky,

... I met Oleta when you were living in Beaver with Herbert and Eleanor. ...  She was so charming and such a delight to be with.  I had decided not to marry Charles, and she said he was the best cousin she had and was very encouraging, and here we are 51 years later still married.  She entertained us with her piano playing and was just a joy to be with.  I'm sorry that over the years we didn't see more of each other but feel very blessed to have had those good memories. ...

Pat Kirk (Wife of 1st cousin Charles Kirk)


The following limerick is from a message from Betty Douglass.  Betty and Oleta were the best of friends in the mid 50s but lost touch in the late 50's.  Betty "found" us via newspaper Associated Press obit. picked up in the local paper in Rochester, PA.

Oleta McClintock, nee Kirk
is one chick who really can "work."
When she walks 'round the pool,
All the dudes loose their cool
And she tosses them off with a smirk.

(note that "work" was '50s slang for a sexy walk)


... Lee and I were on the same wave length when our daughters were in Berkeley High School at approximately the same time; and rapes of girls in the school and on the grounds were occurring alarmingly. I was working on a doctorate in Criminology (after a Masters degree in Social Work) and had chosen the issue of rape for my dissertation topic. I think Lee and I met after a Berkeley City Council meeting when the Women's Health Collective let it be known that they were raising the issue at the meeting. Afterward I went to Collective meetings to help and heard about Lee's interest in doing something. No-one else was available to go to her house to talk about it, so I volunteered to be the group's representative. She and I decided to set up a meeting and try to recruit attendees.
At the same time I was preparing my research. I contacted classes at UCB that had numerous women students and offered to make a presentation and teach a class what I knew about rape. There was very little written about rape at the time but I found some material in law journals and anthropology readings. After each class,  I distributed a questionnaire which ended with a request for personal information about their experiences with sexual assault. I announced the meeting that Lee and I had set up and I invited women to meet with me personally to discuss their experience and assured anonymity to them and those who filled out the questionnaire. Some stayed after class to meet me and others called me on the phone. Most of the victims had never discussed their experience with anyone else and they were glad to finally have a sympathetic woman to talk to. These and other victims and concerned women became involved in our group which was soon named BAY Area Women Against Rape (BAWAR).
Within a short period of time we accompished a whole lot. Although we didn't change the world or end rape incidents, we exposed it as a crime, as something people could talk about in the open, and that society was full of dangerous myths about it: like it was the woman's fault for wearing what she was wearing, for going to a bar,  in other words that she had asked for it. We also forced out the doctor at the head of the emergency room who was treating victims as if they were a piece of meat; In addition we  pushed through police sensitivity training sessions on how to relate to rape victims; we distributed street sheets on light poles, in women's bathrooms urging hitch hikers to watch out for the "Yellow Fiat Rapist", as one example. We also made speeches on TV and at meetings. Finally, we empowered women to believe in themselves and that they could do something to change the way things were.
Personally,  your mother and I also had good times together. We rolled dolmas and smoked a turkey for a party as we chatted and held many "happy hours" together. We set up and announced a hot line for women to call and we took turns answering it. We did numerous other things and generally enjoyed eachother's company for many years. Lee and I met in an unhappy moment but turned it into something remarkable. Before we knew it, there were BAWAR spinoffs all over the country and even the world.
With regrets, your friend, 
Julia Schwendinger


Dear Becky,

Thank you for your nice note. I am so sorry that both Lee and Mel have died. They were so generous to take me in the last three years of high school, and to see me through much of my adolescence. I am very grateful to Lee for teaching me how to plan a menu, cook a roast, stud a leg of lamb with garlic, make dolmathes, and at Christmas, to bake an old-fashioned pound cake and make a proper eggnog!



Dear Rebecca,

... I loved it when I would look up on a Saturday and see her coming in the door, often holding some of her gorgeous roses.  She brought such cheer, and I so appreciated her thoughtfulness.  We shared a love of nature.  I'm sad to think I will not see her here again, but I have sweet memories of her generous spirit.  It was a gift

I send my sympathy to you and your family.


Paula Skene



A woman so dedicated to her roses. She knew all the cultivar names and the histories behind the names. She welcomed us first to her garden, to weed; and then to share stores, and oh, the stories; she was a good storyteller. She taught her children well - as they all welcomed us, the traveling strangers who would appear and disappear during the last four years.

Thank you Oleta, for sharing yourself and your love of the earth. May you go where the roses are always blooming, free from the pain you endured for so many years, and where freedom and justice flourish. I am glad to have spent such wonderful time with you, and I miss you.

Roberta Greenspan


We didn't know Oleta for very long, but she became dear to us. She welcomed us with open arms into her home and her heart and her beautiful rose garden each time we came around. She shared some of her stories and we always talked the talk. She found big floppy hats for me to wear in the garden, and always made sure to fix me a kickass cappuccino. I raise my cup to you Oleta, and I wish you a bon voyage. 

Marilyn Tondy



When I was a little girl, I considered Lee to be my second Mommy. For a while we even all lived in the same duplex. I have so many memories of that time in Berkeley. I was about 5 years old and “Little Sasha” was about 3, I think. We wandered freely from our part of the house to theirs. I remember “rice and butter”, singing songs, and so much silliness and laughing. Sasha and I used to steal the avocados from the salad before it would even hit the table. And always Lee was there, being silly and making us feel so important even though we were kids. She was a wonderful listener and amazing story teller. She was my mom’s best friend. When my mom was dying, she was there with us, being strong and so present. She and my mom were models of female strength for me. I know that they are together in spirit and that laughter and joy is ringing through heaven.


All my love,

Rachel (Perkoff) DiPaola