Phyllis Faber, noted Marin environmentalist, dies at 95 – Marin Independent Journal


Phyllis Faber holds her award for “volunteer of the year” during the Spirit of Marin Awards luncheon at St. the Vincent’s School for Boys in San Rafael, Calif., on Friday, Sept. 23, 2016. (Alan Dep/Marin Independent Journal)

Phyllis Faber, a prominent conservationist and the co-founder of the Marin Agricultural Land Trust, died at her home in Mill Valley on Jan. 15. She was 95.

Mrs. Faber co-founded the land trust in 1980 and served as a regional official for the California Coastal Commission. She was a member of the California Native Plant Society and editor of the organization’s journal.

Mrs. Faber’s son, Charlie Faber, 62, of Nevada City, said her impact and vision for Marin County will “go on in perpetuity.”

“She was an amazing woman who lived her life to the fullest,” he said. “She had a drive of going out and changing things she felt passionate about, the natural environment and protecting it.”

Faber received a bachelor’s degree in zoology from Mt. Holyoke College and a master’s degree in microbiology at Yale. She moved to Marin in 1970 and worked as a wetlands biologist.

Friends remembered her as a funny, bright and memorable personality with a penchant for assertive passion.

Nona Dennis of Mill Valley, an environmental activist, said she had known Mrs. Faber since the 1970s. Dennis said she was integral to the burgeoning conservation movement in the state and county.

“Marin County has had many forces of nature and she will certainly be remembered as one of them,” Dennis said.

Sausalito residents Nancy Bell, 75, and Bruce Bell, 69, met Mrs. Faber through the Environmental Forum of Marin, where Mrs. Faber conducted educational bus trips in western Marin.

During those trips they saw a side of Mrs. Faber outside the world of environmental activism –– a dogged learner, a sharp wit and someone with an abiding interest in music and politics.

When Mrs. Faber’s house burned down in 2011, Nancy Bell, a former program director at the Environmental Forum of Marin, would visit her at the Mill Valley Inn. Later, the couple invited Mrs. Faber for classes at the Fromm Institute at the University of San Francisco.

“Our relationship with Phyllis was very unique,” Nancy Bell said. “I just felt so impressed by how much she had accomplished in her life.”

“The world needs people like Phyllis,” Bruce Bell said. “She kept Marin County from becoming like Los Angeles. She did things that affect all of us today and people don’t even realize it. She really helped physically shape what Marin County is today.”

Environmental advocates from across the county shared remembrances of Mrs. Faber.

Dillon Beach resident Bob Berner, the executive director of MALT from 1984 to 2012, referred to Mrs. Faber and Ellen Straus as the “godmothers” of the organization. MALT has protected more than 55,000 acres of agricultural land.

“She was truly a giant in Marin’s remarkable environmental conservation history,” Berner said.

Straus died in 2002.

Lily Verdone, the executive director of MALT, said Mrs. Faber was a “gentle yet fierce advocate and trailblazer for land conservation.”

“Phyllis was a powerhouse with an eye to the future. Without her energy and dedication, Marin’s landscape would be vastly different today,” Verdone said.

Kris Rebillot, senior director of communications at the Buck Institute for Research on Aging in Novato, said Mrs. Faber served on the center’s board of trustees and was indispensable in the effort that led to its founding.

Dr. Eric Verdin, the president and chief executive of the Buck center, said, “As a scientist her interest in our work was unflagging. She developed personal and rewarding relationships with many of our scientists. She will be remembered with great fondness and a recognition that she lived a life well worth celebrating.”

Aside from her son, Mrs. Faber is survived by her daughter Caroline Lewis, two grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. No memorial service has been scheduled.


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