Alice Wildermuth O’Sullivan, 79, who combined remarkable San Francisco Bay Area careers as a musician and an attorney, died April 11, 2020, in Medford, Oregon. She lived four years in Brookings.
Here are some of her singular accomplishments:
She gave a solo piano recital at Carnegie Hall and passed the California bar examination within a 12-month period.
She studied piano for seven years with European concert artist Egon Petri, starting as a young teenager.
She became eligible to take the bar exam through Law Office Study; the way lawyers were trained before law schools appeared.
She chaired the California Bar’s Board of Legal Specialization and served as a member of the Board of Directors of the National Board of Trial Advocacy.
She became a regular church organist at the age of five and provided musical leadership in Lutheran churches for over seventy years.
She was a jazz big band pianist who performed for over twenty years with the Elby Coy Orchestra and played several gigs with Louie Bellson.
She led choirs for over fifty years in several Bay Area Lutheran churches, including one that held concerts featuring jazzy interpretations of African-American spirituals.
She could play a piece like Ravel’s “Bolero” with her left-hand playing piano and her right-hand sometimes playing bell and percussive instruments.
She was named a Northern California Super Lawyer twelve times by her peers in the workers’ compensation specialty.
Alice was born in Klamath Falls, OR on January 14, 1941. Her parents, Carl and Ruth Wildermuth, were a finished carpenter/ labor leader and a professional tailor. They were devoted to their talented daughter and arranged for her to study with a major international artist. She learned from them and their shared Christian heritage a passion for social and economic justice, clear benchmarks in many legal issues including resolving workers’ comp cases in ways that were fair to injured workers.
Both parents were skilled artists — her father in furniture making, and her mother in tailoring, making much clothing for her daughter ranging from concert dresses to power lawyer suits. Alice relished in the Swedish- and German-American heritages of her folks, noting how controversial the marriage was in the 1920’s Northwest among two ethnically different types of Lutherans.
She was married for over fifty-one years to Robert “Silky” O’Sullivan, whose earlier careers in politics and media were followed later in life by dual vocations as a high school teacher and pastor. They met when both were church staff in Burlingame,CA — she as organist and he as youth director, but the romance only started when they learned of each other’s passion for justice for farmworkers and other oppressed groups.
Her husband says, “she was a wonderful whirlwind full of music, compassion and love, always celebrating the glory of life and the dignity of all creatures.”
She loved nature, especially as found in Hawaii and the Oregon coast, where for years every fall she picked huckleberries with her mother while her father fished for salmon.
Her love of gardening was a major factor in moving to Oregon during the California drought after living 46 years in Oakland. Imagine how blessed she felt when she and her husband could acquire a property in a wetter clime developed by a master gardener and nurseryman — with its own well!
The O’Sullivans had no children but found much delight in seven German Shepherds over the years. Robert now lives with three on the garden property in Brookings that Alice loved.
Alice is survived by her husband and several relatives, including Anneli Blomberg (Sweden), Daryl Wildermuth and Elnora Wildermuth (both in the state of Washington).
She attended Downey High School (Modesto, CA), Modesto Junior College, San Francisco State and Golden Gate University School of Law.
The daughter of a Carpenters’ union business agent, she was proudly a member of the Office and Professional Employees Union and the American Federation of Musicians. She was supportive of many organizations that favored human and environment justice. She was a frequent guest, occasional host and avid supporter of KALW-FM’s “Your Legal Rights” program heard statewide on public radio stations.
Plans for memorial events will be made once the western states are no longer locked down. If information is desired about such—or of a website being developed, which will feature music and watercolors by Alice, tributes and stories, as well as writings by her husband— kindly contact postmaster@raosullivan. com Responses to this obituary may appear at legacy.com or lastingmemories.com.
Donations in her honor to a favorite charity are suggested. Thinking of her, perhaps plant or paint a tree, fern or flower, tummy rub a dog, love all God’s creation and listen to the music from the spheres of Eternity’s Sunrise.