Pat Cody, who along with her husband Fred, built one of Berkeley’s most beloved institutions, Cody’s Books, died Thursday, Sept. 30 at 87.
Pat, who was born in New London, Connecticut in 1923, was getting her master’s degree in economics at Columbia College when she met her husband, Fred. The pair married in 1946 and lived in England and Mexico City, where they were part of a lively expatriate community.
“They attended social gatherings at the home of Frieda Kahlo and Diego Rivera, and met luminaries like Pablo Neruda, who declared that Pat’s lemon meringue pie was the best he ever had!” her son, Anthony Cody, wrote in a tribute on The Daily Planet.
The couple moved to Berkeley in 1956 and opened Cody’s Books in a small storefront on the north side of campus. They later moved it to a gleaming modern store on Telegraph and Haste on the south side of campus. Cody’s, along with Kepler’s Books in Menlo Park, was one of the first bookstores to carry a large selection of affordable paperbacks. Most stores at the time only held expensive hardcover books. Cody’s became immensely popular with students and grew into an informal cultural center that brought together authors, activists, cutting-edge speakers and readers.
When the National Guard clubbed and tear-gassed UC Berkeley students protesting the Vietnam War in 1968, Cody’s served as a first aid station for the injured.
Pat served as the business manager of Cody’s while Fred bought the books and met with publishing representatives. In the early years, Pat helped keep the store afloat by writing economic analyses on the side.
In 1977, Pat and Fred sold Cody’s to Andy Ross. Pat eventually wrote a memoir of their experiences, Cody’s Books: The Life and Times of a Berkeley Bookstore.
Cody’s Books was just one of a number of influential institutions Pat with which was involved. In the mid-1960s, she co-founded Women for Peace, which raised awareness of the Vietnam War by holding rallies and peaceful demonstrations in front of Berkeley city and campus offices.
In 1964, as the Free Speech Movement attracted thousands of young people from across the country, Pat helped start the Berkeley Free Clinic to attend to their health needs. Pat became the clinic’s treasurer and was intimately involved in making it a viable institution.
“If you visited Berkeley in the late 1960s, you would be greeted at every corner by a young person holding a little locked box that said Berkeley Free Clinic on it,” wrote Anthony Cody. “Donations of change were divided between the collector and the Clinic, and the change wound up on our dining room table every Sunday night, where we kids would help count it and roll it up.”
Pat started DES Action in 1971 after she learned that the daughters of women who took the anti-miscarriage drug during pregnancy developed cancer and reproductive problems. Pat had taken the drug while pregnant with her first daughter, Martha. DES Action, which grew to have 30 chapters around the country, educated women, politicians, and doctors about DES’s lingering effects. Pat served as program director for the group and edited its newsletter.
After her husband, Fred, died in 1983, she also started the Grief Support Project. She also started Grandmothers Against the War.
“Pat met every challenge in her life with a similar response gather others around you who face similar challenges, and work together to make change,” said Anthony Cody. “She built community and never worried about who got the credit.”
Pat is survived by her children, Martha, Anthony, Nora and Celia, numerous grandchildren and great grandchildren and four of her siblings.
There will be a public memorial service Saturday, Oct. 30, at 2 p.m. at the First Congregational Church of Berkeley, 2345 Channing Way.
Anthony Cody’s tribute to his mother can be found on the Daily Planet.