Linda Frances Handjian Schieber, 80, died at home in Berkeley in the early morning hours of New Year’s Day. Her death followed a two-month battle with pancreatic cancer. During her brief illness, she experienced minimal pain.
Linda was born in Merced on June 7, 1942, to Frances and Arthur Handjian. She had two sisters: Susan, two years younger, and Constance, 14 years older, who died in 1988. During Linda’s youth, her family moved from Merced to Rio Vista, and then to West Sacramento as her father, an agricultural manager, took various positions in the Central Valley.
In 1960 she moved to Berkeley where she began work on a major in anthropology earning a bachelor’s degree from the University of California in 1964. Looking forward to a career, she obtained a master’s from Cal’s School of Librarianship in 1965. Her first professional position was as a research librarian at UC Berkeley’s Bancroft Library.
She and William (Will) Schieber were married in February 1966. They left Berkeley for Geneva, Switzerland, in February 1969, where she worked as librarian/archivist for the International Alliance of YMCAs. After nine years abroad, Linda and Will returned to the U.S. in March 1978, residing in New York City. After a short time in various library positions, she became an information officer for the United Nations Development Programme, where she remained until her retirement in 2002.
Prior to her retirement, she became a volunteer member of UNDP’s Office of the Ombudsman, which handles staff-management issues on a worldwide basis. After retirement, she became a paid consultant to the Ombudsman’s office working part-time from her home office by videoconference. As a mediator between employees and management, she earned the respect of both staff members who came to her with problems, as well as with managers, many of whom she knew from working days. Although not a lawyer, she was welcomed into San Francisco’s Mediation Society where she presented her work in international conflict resolution.
At the time of her death, Linda was an active and highly valued member of three boards, (1) The Mediation Society, (2) Central Works, a local theatre company, and (3) as a trustee on Cal Performances, UC Berkeley’s performing arts presenters. She will be missed by these organizations, as well as by her work associates. A Cal Performances note describes Linda as “a kind, hilarious, observant, dedicated and beautiful soul whose life touched and improved so many.”
In addition to serving on several Cal Performances board committees, she was also instrumental in assisting staff in recruiting of young dancers for AileyCamp, a summer program founded by the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. The program is designed to provide local middle-school students with opportunities to develop social and emotional skills through dance. Linda loved working with the kids and helping with tours for the parents and supporting the dance presentation at the end of the camp.
Quite apart from her organizational life, Linda was a voracious reader, reading many books per week, and discussing the ones selected by the three different book groups to which she belonged. She also was an accomplished cook, who collected a large library of cookbooks and food-related periodicals. Interested in gardens and plants, she was a longtime member of the Berkeley Garden Club. She also enjoyed supplying bookstores with maps of the Berkeley pathways for the Berkeley Path Wanderers Association.
It seems that, even with all her other activities, she found time to quickly learn and play Mah Jongg with a group of devotees who became close friends, and who will miss her greatly. During the quarantine phases of the pandemic, she taught her husband to play the Siamese (two-person) variant of the game, which they did nearly every day.
Linda was a devotee of the arts, regularly attending theater, ballet and musical events, here in the Bay Area as well as earlier in New York. She really enjoyed live performances and was dismayed when many of these events were canceled during the pandemic.
One of her passions was to support various organizations that provide animal rescue and adoption services. She would fully support donations in her name to Hopalong Animal Rescue, the Berkeley Humane Society, Muttville, and Paws of War. Donations in her name may also be made to Central Works Theater Company or Cal Performances.
Linda is survived by William (Will) Schieber, her spouse of 55 years, and her sister, Susan Handjian. Other surviving immediate family include a niece, Christine Mitchell, and her husband, Jack, and a nephew, Jim Nance, and his wife, Linda, all of whom live in Lodi, California. Jim Nance has two children, Lacey Nance and Chay Nance who is married with three children.
Linda is also survived by a second family that came about in 1983 when her spouse Will’s father married Florence Holm (deceased), who had two sons John Holm and Donald Holm, both of whom are married with children. To these offspring, she is known as Aunt Linda.
As per her wish, she was cremated without a funeral, and her ashes returned to the family. At this point, a memorial concert is being planned for her close friends and family, the date to be announced at a later point.
There are so many people, friends and colleagues around the world who will miss Linda’s presence. She will also be missed by the family cat, Bix, who stayed beside her to the end.