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Posted by Cathy Gowdy on Friday, March 10, 2006 at 09:02:20 :

San Francisco Chronicle
Friday, February 9, 2001
Section A. page 26


San Francisco -- Verneta Hill, a tireless community activist who was the first black woman to lead a chapter of the YMCA, died Tuesday in San Francisco after a lengthy illness at the age of 96.

Ms. Hill also was the first black woman to graduate from George Williams College in Chicago. The school, which merged with Aurora University eight years ago, awarded her its lifetime achievement award last year for her commitment to improving the lives of others.

A native of Little Rock, Ark., Ms. Hill attended school in Chicago and earned a master's degree in community organization and administration from Atlanta University.

She was named the head of the Battle Creek, Mich., chapter of the YMCA in 1941 and was instrumental in integrating YMCA programs around the country.

She moved to San Francisco in 1959 to lead the Booker T. Washington Community Center. She also established the city's Department of Community Service and worked with a long line of San Francisco mayors on social issues for 18 years.

Among Ms. Hill's most noteworthy contributions to San Francisco were her efforts uniting the city's African American, Chinese and Japanese communities, founding Huckleberry House and helping establish the Haight Ashbury Center.

Ms. Hill was a tireless advocate who volunteered at more than 40 agencies and boards, including Planned Parenthood, Sunny Hills Agency, the American Friends Service Committee and the Friends of the Public Library. She was also president of the Bay Area YWCA and the National Council of Negro Women.

Ms. Hill was the oldest member of the San Francisco Unitarian Universalist Church, where she spent five decades serving on various committees. She loved traveling, world cuisine and folk music.

She is survived by her cousin, Gene Arnold, of Mill Valley; nephews Arthur Spears of New York, Charles Spears and John Spears of San Francisco and Malik Spears of Spain.

Services are pending at the San Francisco Unitarian Universalist Church

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