Susan Devoto, a two-term West Sonoma County School District trustee, who was also a farmer, activist, world traveler and artist, died Friday after a yearlong battle with brain cancer.
A Sebastopol-area resident, she was 63.
Born May 7, 1950 in San Francisco to Sylvia and George Peters, Susan Ruth Peters was the third of six children. Reared in El Cerrito, Devoto attended UC Berkeley and graduated with honors in 1972 with a degree in political science.
She was working in the trust department at Wells Fargo in San Francisco when her brother suggested a group road trip to Mexico. It was on that trip that she met Stan Devoto. The pair married in the Peters' El Cerrito backyard.
"She was very intelligent," Stan Devoto said of his wife of 38 years.
The couple regularly visited Susan Devoto's extended family in Sonoma County and soon after they were married, the couple bought some land in Sebastopol and built their home. They lived there for 10 years before buying a 20-acre ranch nearby.
The couple established Devoto Gardens, growing and selling cut flowers, a variety of apples and eventually pinot noir grapes.
"She wasn't like a 'windshield farmer,' she was very involved," Stan Devoto said.
Devoto supported the Sonoma County Farm Trails and eventually joined the group's board of directors in 1997. That same year, Devoto was co-chairwoman of the Gravenstein Apple Fair.
She volunteered her time — and her flowers — to area schools and events. She supported bond measures that helped build campus facilities and raised funds for teen counseling services at Analy, El Molino and Laguna high schools.
"She was a caring, loving and community-oriented person," longtime friend Ted Walker said. "You don't find people like that. She was always there, helping out."
In 2006, she was elected to the West Sonoma County school board. She resigned the post in January when her health began to fail.
"She loved it," Stan Devoto said. "She loved working out issues — and being in charge."
"She spoke her mind," said her daughter, Christina Heiberg of Portland, Ore. "She wasn't afraid to tell the truth."
A wonderful cook, Devoto loved to host, Heiburg said.
Inspired by a childhood trip to Europe her family took when her father went on a yearlong sabbatical, Devoto was an avid traveler. She spent time in Europe, China, Alaska, Mexico, Hawaii and other locales.
"We would take a week or two out of school" and take off, her daughter Cecily Devoto of Sebastopol said.
"She wanted to travel and she took her family everywhere," Walker said.
In addition to her husband Stan Devoto and daughters Christina Heiberg and Cecily Devoto, she is survived her daughter Jolie Devoto-Wade of Sebastopol; brothers Roger Peters of Healdsburg, Doug Peters of Sebastopol, Jeff Peters of El Cerrito and Robert Peters of Santa Rosa; and sister Margaret Scheele of Santa Rosa.
A celebration of Devoto's life is planned but not yet scheduled.