Pat DeVito presenting her master’s thesis, “Empowering Older Adults Through Lifelong Learning.” Courtesy: Berkeley Path Wanderers Association

Patricia Lee DeVito, one of the four original co-founders of Berkeley Path Wanderers Association, died on Nov. 20, 2022, of Alzheimer’s disease at the age of 89 in Portland, Oregon.

This story was first published on the Berkeley Path Wanderers Association website

Born in Reno, Nevada, and raised in Stockton, Pat settled in Berkeley in the mid-1950s with her husband, Michael DeVito, whom she met while they were students at UC Berkeley.

“We lived on Indian Rock Avenue just above Mortar Rock, and we frequently used Indian Rock Path to go down to Solano,” Mike recalled. “She would go walking through the hills. That was her favorite form of exercise. She loved to explore the city.”

Paths booster

In fall 1997, Pat learned from her friend Jacque Ensign about a notice posted at the North Berkeley Library by Jacque’s friend Ruth Armstrong (Moskowitz), soliciting community interest in Berkeley’s pathways. The three women met at Jacque’s house in late November, and a few week’s later they were joined by Eleanor Hall Gibson, a mutual friend of Jacque’s and Pat’s.

Pat documented the founding of the Path Wanderers in a 2005 essay, in which she reflects on the start: “Thus began a true collaborative effort among four avid path walkers to raise community awareness of pathway conditions and the need for action after years of neglect, if our hope to restore Berkeley’s paths was to be realized.” 

Ruth chose a name for the group, and all four women developed a mission statement for their fledgling organization, and established four short-term goals: to develop an accurate map of the paths, conduct a paths survey, identify and replace missing signs, and sponsor free monthly walks. They scheduled their first public meeting for May 20, 1998, and “waited anxiously in the meeting room at Live Oak Park to greet any attendees.”

“Any concerns we had about local interest in Berkeley Paths vanished as a standing-room crowd swelled attendance to more than 60 people,” Pat wrote in her historical account. “We undoubtedly breathed a collective sigh of relief (I know I did) as we realized we had unknowingly tapped into an interest in Berkeley that matched our own.”

The rest, as they say, is history. In addition to serving as Berkeley Path Wanderers Association’s co-chair, with Jacque, she also acted as archivist. Pat represented the interests of paths during Berkeley’s 1999–2002 General Plan update, which for the first time noted that the “unique network” provides “pedestrian access in the hill areas between streets, quiet resting places, panoramic viewpoints, and a critical evacuation alternative to the often narrow and winding streets.” An attorney, she also drafted bylaws for the association.

“Pat was fundamental in shaping the early bylaws, including aspects like keeping the dues intentionally low to encourage membership, having term limits for board members to keep the leadership fresh, and a commitment to recruiting new volunteers,” Jacque said. “The result has kept the organization moving, always trying new things, and staying relevant in the community.”

Early feminist and advocate for seniors

Pat graduated from UC Berkeley in 1955 with a bachelor’s degree in English and went on to earn a law degree from Golden Gate University, master’s degree in public administration from Cal State East Bay, and master’s degree in gerontology from San Francisco State University. 

Pat had many careers, Mike said, including working for the City of Berkeley and serving on its Fair Campaign Practices Committee. She was also employed by UC Berkeley Extension, Berkeley Neighborhood Legal Services, Holy Names University, and Swords to Plowshares, a rehabilitation project for veterans of the Vietnam War.

“She used all of her degrees at one time or another,” Mike noted. “She liked working with the organization to make it efficient so it could do its function smoothly.”

Pat and Mike DeVito celebrating Pat’s 65th birthday with a hiking tour of New Zealand. Courtesy: Berkeley Path Wanderers Association

Pat especially enjoyed working with women and older people, Mike said, and was active in the local chapter of OWL (Older Women’s League).

In fact, Pat and Jacque were members of Berkeley’s OWL, where they met Eleanor, who had just moved to Berkeley. “After a memorial service for one of the OWL members, the three of us went for a walk,” Jacque said. “We took Keeler Path and Sterling Path, and I told them about the note that Ruth had posted to start a group to deal with the city’s paths.”

An early feminist, Pat was ardent and vocal in her support of women’s rights. In 1955 and 1956, Pat and Mike enjoyed attending Cal football games, Mike recalled. They would sit on the 50-yard line for the junior varsity game, but when the varsity game began they were forced to move because that’s where the men’s rooting section sat, and women weren’t allowed to sit there. “At Pat’s insistence, we decided to integrate the men’s rooting section,” he said; they were vilified by the crowd and even needed police protection, but eventually the men’s rooting section was no more.

Pat and Mike, a law professor, lived in Berkeley for 54 years and raised two children. They moved to a smaller house (with fewer stairs) in El Cerrito in 2014 and then to Portland a few years ago to be closer to family.

Patricia DeVito is survived by her husband of 68 years, Michael DeVito; sister, Mildred Cataldo; son, Mark DeVito, and daughter, Lisa DeVito; daughter-in-law, Heidi Bartsch; and grandchildren, Wylder and Aidan DeVito.

Berkeley councilmember Sophie Hahn will honor Pat DeVito in a short ceremony before the City Council meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 28. Donations in her memory can be made to Berkeley Path Wanderers Association: “That would be consistent with Pat’s wishes,” Mike said.