Heidi Boley. Photo: InnovateEd
Heidi Boley. Photo: InnovateEd

A long-time Berkeley Unified School District employee drowned Friday when the canoe she and two friends were riding in overturned on the Russian River near Healdsburg.

The Sonoma County Sheriff’s Department found 69-year-old Heidi Boley in the river under some tree limbs around 1:30 p.m., according to a press release. She was airlifted to shore but could not be revived. She was wearing a life jacket.

Boley and her two friends had set out earlier in the day in an inflatable canoe southwest of Healdsburg, according to the Santa Rosa Press Democrat. The river was moving fast but was not treacherous, according to the paper. Somehow the canoe accidentally overturned. Boley’s two friends managed to swim to shore. They alerted a vineyard worker that their friend was missing and he called authorities.

Charles Burress, spokesman for BUSD, released a statement from the district: “We are deeply saddened at the loss of long-time BUSD employee, Heidi Boley.”

She “began working for the District in 1984. She taught math and science at Berkeley High School, [for 21 years, according to her LinkedIn page] and at the time of her death, she was working part-time for the District in the Berkeley Research, Evaluation & Assessment (BREA) department. She worked in the education field for nearly half a century.”

“What the BREA team remembers most about Heidi is that she truly was a gentle soul and cared about EVERYONE,” according to BREA Director Debbi D’Angelo. “She was a champion for students and sought to ensure that all students could access the curriculum. She was a pioneer for the Common Core Math Standards and continually asked how can we ensure that our Berkeley students are able to better understand and love mathematics as much as she did.”

“She was also a very caring friend, always ensuring that we as a BREA team were taking good care of each other and ourselves,” D’Angelo added. “Ms. Boley will be deeply missed by the BUSD family.”

Boley lived in Richmond, according to authorities. She was a native of Hawaii.

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Frances Dinkelspiel, Berkeleyside and CItyside co-founder, is a journalist and author. Her first book, Towers of Gold: How One Jewish Immigrant Named Isaias Hellman Created California, published in November...