Sandra Marissa Caldeira
(11/9/1947 – 7/29/2023)
Sandra Marissa Caldeira was born in Oakland, California on November 9, 1947. Her parents were Edward Caldeira and Irene Camara Caldeira Elliott. She had one sister, Janice Caldeira Wilkes. Both of her parents were from families who came to the US from the Portuguese Azores via Hawaii.
Known as Marissa as an adult, Marissa began in Catholic school as a child and then moved to public school, graduating in 1965 from Pacific High School in San Leandro.
As many of her male classmates were going into the military after high school during the Vietnam War, Marissa opted to go into the U.S. Marine Corps as well. She served in San Diego and kept her Marine Corps friendships throughout her life.
After the Marine Corps, she worked to earn an AA in Nursing degree from Chabot Community College and then a BA in Nursing from Cal State Hayward (now Cal State East Bay). In the 1990s, she earned a Master’s in Clinical Psychology from John F Kennedy University. She also did some studies at the Institute of Integral Studies.
She began work as a nurse at Highland Hospital, worked as an obstetrics and surgical nurse in Heidelberg, Germany, as a psychiatric nurse at Providence Hospital, the psychiatric unit in the North County Jail in Oakland with the contractor Prison Health Services (where she was charge nurse), and then finished her career at John George Psychiatric Hospital in San Leandro. She retired in approximately 2013 after forty-five years of nursing.
Her spiritual journey began in the Catholic Church as a child and continued as she studied at the Institute for Integral Studies then lived for a year at the Sri Arubindo Ashram in Pindocherry, South India, then moved back to the Bay Area. Here, she joined the Unity Church. Then, in the late 1980s, she began going to Quaker meetings and became a member of the Berkeley Religious Society of Friends Meeting (Quakers), the Meeting at Walnut and Vine in Berkeley. Since then, she has served the Berkeley Friends Meeting as a member of the Ministry and Care Committee, as Recorder, and on numerous “clearness” and other committees.
It was at Berkeley Meeting that she met Genie Stowers, and in 1997, they were married under the care of Berkeley Friends Meeting. They followed that up in 2008 by becoming one of the many lesbian and gay couples in California who married “legally” when they were given a chance to do so. Marissa passed away two weeks shy of their 26th wedding anniversary.
In 1996, they began searching for a child to adopt, and in August 1998, they brought home the joy of their lives, Gabriela Stowers-Caldeira, or “Gabby”. With Gabby, Marissa and her family enjoyed summers at Tuolumne Family Camp, traveled across the country to many national parks, spent time with other adoptive families, joined with family at holidays, and were active parts of Gabriela’s various school communities.
Marissa was a life-long traveler; in addition to living in Germany and India, she travelled to New Zealand, all over Europe, across Canada, Mexico, Guatemala, and cruised to Alaska. She liked to cook, particularly her famous mac and cheese and her family’s Portuguese beef stew. She also loved to read, enjoyed watching films and Golden State/WNBA basketball, loved our dogs (Harlot, Heather, Rosie) and cats (Mandy, Karina, Tangerine), but most of all, spending time with Genie and Gabriela. One of their favorite trips was a road trip to dinosaur-focused sites in Utah, Colorado, and Nevada, Gabby’s interest at the time; we had a hard time getting out of the car at each stop because we were fascinated listening to the early Harry Potter books on tape as we drove.
Upon Marissa’s retirement, she studied Portuguese, the language of her parents’ families. She also took up Tai Chi, joined a BrightLine group, walked with members of the Pinole Senior Center, and got together with her friends and high school classmates.
Marissa’s health had declined over the past seven to eight years as lupus damaged her kidneys and she ended up on hemo- and then peritoneal dialysis. She had a stroke in November and then in May, she had a massive heart attack and remained in the hospital all summer. She passed away on July 29, 2023, at the age of 75, from complications of the heart attack and heart bypass surgery.
Marissa is survived by spouse Genie Stowers, daughter Gabriela “Gabby” Stowers, sister Janice Wilkes (with whom she remained very close), Janice’s partner Larry S., and nephews Harrison and Elliott. Other family surviving her include Joy B., Tammy B., April H., Dorreen S., and their children. She also enjoyed the friendship of her longtime friends Patricia B., Susan B., Sue B., Beth C., Ann I., Kaki L., Corky M., Margaret M., Celine-Marie P., Linda P.(deceased), Nancy S. (deceased), Mercedes S., and Rita W., among others.
There will be a Memorial Meeting for Marissa under the care of the Berkeley Friends Meeting, 2151 Vine Street, Berkeley (check the News and Events page for at http://www.berkeleyfriendsmeeting.org/news for the day and time of the Memorial. We hope many will join us in this celebration of Marissa’s life. If you would like to celebrate Marissa’s life, please send a donation to your favorite charity.