A Women’s March will be held in Susanville on Saturday, Jan. 20. Participants of the march will meet at Roop’s Fort at 1 p.m.
It will be one of many throughout the country to focus on the systems that threaten women’s equality, health and human rights. This year in Susanville, we have an opportunity both joyous and sad. Our march will honor the life of Zellamae Miles who died so tragically on Jan. 2.
Miles is a Susanville icon — granddaughter of Susan Roop, after whom Susanville is named. Miles championed the acceptance and the rights of all people. She spent her life as a moral force and leader in our community. Miles participated in causes both at the local and national levels. Her services as a community activist are many.
Miles was a devoted Lassen County Historical Society member and docent who enjoyed meeting every visitor, and loved to share her lifetime knowledge of our town and community. She served as its president for four years and was on its board of directors at the time of her death. She also served as a board member of the Lassen Land and Trails Trust. She served on committees to support the formation of a library; she helped as a volunteer in our schools. Included in her many contributions to the community were many years as a member of Soroptimist International, as well as a member of P.E.O., a philanthropic educational organization.
Miles was a Campfire Girl leader extraordinaire. As recently as five years ago, some of her Campfire “girls” held a reunion to celebrate the special times they remembered as many as 60 years ago. When her own children were small, she taught Sunday School at the Methodist Church. Later, with her husband, she was a leader in the American Friends Service Organization, an international exchange student program. Some of those students from as far away as Japan, England and Taiwan, have continued ties with their Susanville “Mom”.
At age 88, Miles was selected as Old Timer of the Year for the Lassen County Fair. Miles never accepted or acted the term “old,” greatly preferring the idea, “Super Senior.” Based on her energy, joy of life, determination and involvement in her community, Miles demonstrated indeed all the qualities of a Super Senior and in reality was never old.
Miles so strongly believed in women’s equality. Perhaps more important, she embraced human rights — with regard and love for all regardless of color, ethnicity, religion, education, sexual orientation or gender. Her friendships seem limitless. She never knew a stranger. By the end of a train ride or an airplane flight she would have a new friend. Several years ago, on a road trip to the Black Rock desert, we stopped at Planet X, an artist’s home and ceramic studio near Gerlach. Just as we climbed out of the car, three motorcyclists drove up and parked next to us. One fellow swung his leg over his bike, took off his helmet, glanced over at us and said, “Well, hello Zellamae.” That was not a surprise.
This is the indomitable, petite and very strong woman whom will be celebrated on Saturday’s march. She is an example for us all. Her memory will be honored by continuing to work for the causes of justice, equality and peace that she championed for her entire joyful life. Friends of Miles, who wish to join in this march, will be welcome.