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    Susan Elisabeth Calico, Co-Founder of the San Francisco Bay Times (1950–2023)

    Susan Elisabeth Calico

    Susan Elisabeth Calico, Co-Founder of the San Francisco Bay Times in 1978, died on July 23, 2023, in Berkeley. She was a multi-talented person who contributed to her communities in many ways.

    Calico was born in Seattle, Washington, on June 30, 1950, to Helen Margaret Sell and Richard T. Pohlman. She was the eldest of four. The family lived in Salt Lake City and Bountiful, Utah, and in San Jose and Cupertino, California. She attended Lynbrook High School. Her childhood interests included horseback riding, reading, writing, puzzles, and games. She participated in 4-H and Girl Scouts.

    Calico attended UC Davis in 1968 and transferred to UC Berkeley in 1969. She graduated in 1972 in psychology. She was an editor of the campus newspaper, The Daily Californian.

    Susan Calico playing music with Sharon Medairy and Janet Moore on New Year’s Eve, 2016

    Calico came out as a lesbian in 1975, and changed her name to Susan Elisabeth.

    She worked as a writer and sound producer at KPFA radio station in Berkeley in the 1970s and 1980s. In the mid-1970s, she and three other lesbians at KPFA formed a Women’s Recording crew to record live performances of women artists around the Bay Area. At KPFA she trained new staff in production techniques and was a member of the Society of Broadcast Engineers.

    In 1978, Calico was the Founding Production Manager of the San Francisco Bay Times, the first West Coast newspaper and one of the first in the world to be produced equally by lesbians and gay men. It was the product of a collective that also included Bill Hartman, Roland Schembari, M.J. Lallo, Priscilla Alexander, Brenda Besdansky, Amson Reinhart, and Randy Alfred.

    Calico bought a Berkeley duplex with a fellow KPFA staff member and later bought him out. She did all of the rewiring and remodeling herself, and created a garden in her backyard. She bicycled everywhere, and her first motor vehicle was a Post Office mail carrier’s delivery truck bought at auction, cruising at a top speed of 55 miles per hour.

    Susan Calico playing guitar with Susanna Jacobson, Bonnie Maly, and Kristi Matthews in 2008

    In the 1980s she hosted a radio show on KPFA focusing on lesbian music. In the 1990s she hosted a Berkeley Flats Dykes gathering in her backyard. She was an active member of Women Over Fifty and Friends (WOFF). In the last few years, she organized materials of several deceased friends for the Bay Area Lesbian Archives (BALA), and her own writings and other materials have also gone to BALA.

    Calico enjoyed music. She attended the Women Making Music camp for many years, played guitar and banjo, and wrote music. She was in a singing group called the Tribads, which performed at the Montclair Women’s Cultural Arts Club Third Thursday open mics and other events. She sang with the Town Hall Singers and played guitar with the California State Old Time Fiddlers’ Association. She was also a member of Enchanted Moon, a Wiccan singing circle that meets at the time of the full moon.

    Susan Calico in the KPFA engineering shop in the 1980s. The button reads: “I’m not easy but we can discuss it.”

    She was an accomplished quilter, gifting friends and family with her creations. Ever the consummate technician, she applied extensive study and mastery of color to her quilts, which were truly works of art. She had a quilt exhibited at the East Bay Heritage Quilters show in 2014. She also loved cats, and was inspired to change her last name to Calico in the early 1990s after she created a cat-shaped cover for her sewing machine.

    Calico cared for others when they needed help. She tutored junior high school students in math. She was a member of Myra’s Care Circle for a friend with dementia. She drove from Berkeley to San Jose daily for two years to care for her terminally ill mother, and inherited her mother’s cats, Wolfee, who predeceased her, and Tiger, who was adopted by friends after Calico died.

    Susan Calico showing off her latest quilt at a Women Over Fifty and Friends (WOFF) potluck circa 2017

    She was knowledgeable about radio, audio/visual, computer, and network technology. She worked for organizations including American Presidents Lines (APL) and various departments at UC Berkeley including campus radio station KALX, Educational Technology Services, and the Microlab. She also created and maintained websites.

    She was part of a Zoom community of Spanish learners from around the U.S. and beyond, bringing a spirit of gentleness, curiosity, and compassionate listening. She shared her knowledge and the results of her research, and she liked to learn from others. During Spanish conversation, the group learned about her cats, her love of music, and UC Berkeley’s peregrine falcons.

    Calico fell off her bicycle on July 3 and broke her hip. The resulting surgery, medications, and stress worsened her hyperthyroid condition, leading to cardiac arrest three weeks after the accident.

    She is survived by siblings Alice Attwaters (Derek), Barbara Siverts (Ted), and Ted Pohlman (Karen); nephews Kyle, Daniel (Stephanie), and Garrett; nieces Catherine, Olivia, and Gillian; grandniece Heather; and many friends.

    A memorial service will be held in person and on Zoom at Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists’ Fellowship Hall, 1924 Cedar Street on Saturday, October 14, from 2 to 5 pm. To RSVP for in-person attendance or Zoom link, please call 510-219-1287. Calico often wore Hawaiian shirts because it made people smile. Attendees are encouraged to wear Hawaiian shirts.

    Donations may be made to KALW-FM, the Feral Cat Foundation of Alameda and Contra Costa Counties, Violence Policy Center in Washington, D.C., Planned Parenthood of Northern California, or Women Making Music.

    In Memoriam
    Published on September 21, 2023