Wesley Eugene Hester Sr.: March 12, 1924-April 26, 2014
Wesley Eugene Hester — who managed the former Berkeley Hester Day Care and served on the Berkeley Police Review Commission and the Berkeley City Council among his many public roles — passed away peacefully in San Leandro, California, at the age of 90.
Wesley was born March 12, 1924, in Oakland and graduated from the former Oakland University High School. In 1942 Wesley enlisted in the Army Air Corps during WWII and was stationed at Camp Beale, Calif. He served from 1943 to 1946 as an electric arc welder and glider mechanic in California and India. Wes was an accomplished 50 cal. sharp shooter and was awarded the WWII Victory Medal, the Asiatic Pacific Campaign Medal, the American Campaign Medal and the Good Conduct Medal before being honorably discharged as a Corporal. Wesley married Eula Mae Mann at the West Berkeley Good Shepherd Episcopal Church on June 10, 1946.
Wesley graduated from San Francisco City College in 1948 with his A.A; UC Berkeley in 1953 with his A.B., and Lincoln University Law School in 1970 where he was the sole African American earning his J.D.
He was an avid Cal Bears basketball fan and recreational tennis player, and cherished his Cal memorabilia. He was appointed as the first President of the Berkeley Playground Directors Association and part-time Probation Counselor at Juvenile Hall at the Los Medanos facility in Contra Costa County. He served as a little league baseball coach, playground director and youth mentor at South Berkeley’s Grove Rec, and West Berkeley’s James Kenney Park for many years.
Wes and his wife of 44 years, Eula Mae Hester, managed the former Berkeley Hester Day Care Center for nearly 30 from the family home, providing outstanding care for well over 25 children, all while raising seven children of their own.
When he wasn’t supporting the family business, Wes developed quite a reputation as an outspoken, advocate and independent thinker, and champion of Berkeley’s underserved community.
He served the Berkeley and Oakland communities during the controversial political atmosphere by immersing himself in a variety of civic activities and public offices, including administrative assistant to former Democratic Assemblyman John Miller from 1970 to 1973; paralegal assistant in the law offices of his good friends Carl Metoyer and Judge Wilmont Sweeney from 1968 to 1975; Board of Directors member of the now defunct Berkeley Co-Op Credit Union from 1972 to 1975, and as a Commissioner on our country’s first Berkeley Police Review Commission from 1973 to 1975.
Wes was appointed by former Oakland Mayor Lionel Wilson to the Alameda County Grand Jury from 1975 thru 1976. He served as a Commissioner on the controversial and hotly debated Berkeley Rent Control and Stabilization Board in 1987. He served as a proud member of the Berkeley City Council from 1982 to 1984, and chaired the Council Budget Committee in 1983.
While running as a Berkeley City Council candidate, Wesley was the only radical slate BCA candidate ever to have been endorsed by the Berkeley Police Association.
During his tenure as a councilmember, he helped establish Berkeley’s city wide recycling program, one of the first in the country. He also helped establish Berkeley’s symbolic Nuclear Free Zone and provided residents with a major say in the controversial Golden Bear development near University and Milvia streets. He spent five years as a clerk in the Oakland Unified School District, prior to retiring in 2003
During his younger days, Wesley was one of the founding members who helped form the Berkeley San Pablo Tennis Club, a tennis club partly rooted in Berkeley’s San Pablo Park and Oakland Mosswood Park, initially formed to accommodate Bay Area African American tennis enthusiasts, who were segregated from other local tennis clubs. Tennis remained a huge part of Wes’s life, and he remained an active player into his 80s.
Wesley was preceded in death by his wife, Eula in 1989. He is survived by his seven children: Carroll Armstead, Nancy Hester, Kathy Hester, Suzette Meredith, Wesley Hester, Jr., Yvonne Whitefield, and Christopher Hester, 14 grandchildren and five great grand children.
A Celebration of Life gathering will be held at 2:30pm-4:30 pm on Saturday, June 21, 2014 at Northbrae Community Church, 941 The Alameda, Berkeley, CA. Contributions in Wesley ’s memory may be made to the Youth Tennis Advantage, P.O. Box 330458, San Francisco, CA 94133 or A Safe Place, P.O. Box 23006, Oakland, CA 94623-0006.
The Hester family would like to thank the caregivers of Pacifica Senior Living of San Leandro, as well as Vitas Hospice health management organization for their extraordinary care, guidance and support.
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