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Obituary: Edgar W. Pye '39

Edgar William Pye, a social work pioneer in California, died peacefully May 22, 2012,  at his Oakland residence. Born Dec. 1916 in Faribault, MN, Ed often played with deaf, blind, and developmentally disabled children from state facilities near his family home. Where his community was "inclusive," the outside world later taught him being "different" often lead to isolation. Ed became a life-long advocate of the neglected and disempowered, whether refugees at the beginning of World War II, soldiers and civilians with mental or physical challenges, the poor, aging, or those fighting for equal rights. After Antioch College, Ed entered Columbia University's School of Social Work before deployment to New Guinea and Luzon, Philippines. As Tech Sergeant, he won several service medals. After the war, Ed completed his MSW degree and moved to Los Angeles in 1947 as a Veteran's Administration specialist, counseling returning soldiers. His V.A. assignment led to jobs in private medical groups, the CA Department of Mental Hygiene, and eleven years as Executive Director of the Golden Gate Regional Center. Throughout, Ed modernized social work's history of scattered "relief" into coordinated teams, delivering better solutions to wider, underserved populations. In 1957, Ed and his life-partner, psychiatrist Robert Harris, moved to San Francisco where Ed took a job "no other social worker wanted:" state consultant on "mental retardation." His childhood experiences, clinical social work, people and organizing skills coalesced as support for frustrated families of the developmentally disabled. He was instrumental in drafting comprehensive legislation, mandating practices, institutional placement assistance, and long-term staffing of statewide Regional Centers. Formal retirement in 1977 only "retooled" his service, now toward the aging, poor, and LGBT communities of San Francisco. As a trustee at Grace Cathedral, he founded Senior Services and facilitated more inclusive church activities. The AIDS epidemic and changing social attitudes rallied Ed to active gay rights work, helping to open previously locked doors. Two treasured tributes came in 1993: the California State Senate formally recognized 50 years of Distinguished Service plus San Francisco's Curry Center presented him its first annual distinguished community service award. Ed loved people, entertaining, and family lore. Passionate about music, art, and theater, he reveled in his San Francisco Opera chorus roles and as a silent cardinal in Alfred Hitchcock's movie, "Family Plot." A memorial is scheduled: 2:00 p.m., June 28, in Oakland's St. Paul's Episcopal Church. A reception follows at St. Paul's Towers. Ed is preceded in death by his partner of 58 years, Dr. Robert Harris, and brother, Robert L. Pye. Survivors include his sister, Alexandra Pye, niece, Kathryn Pye, and nephew, Robert Pye. Ed's outreach extends beyond his death through the Pye/Harris Legacy Project, Inc., a 501 (c)(3) non-profit in social justice, the environment, and LGBT awareness projects, aimed, in part, to inspire, involve, and educate young people. The Project welcomes donations in Ed's memory, c/o Robert Pye, 4600 Roseville Road, Suite 220, North Highlands, CA 95660. (http://pyeharrisproject.org for information).