Former California Room Oral Historian Carla Ehat dies at age 94

by Laurie Thompson

Carla Ehat & Anne Kent, Christmas, 1974. Anne T. Kent Room Collection.

Long-time California Room supporter and the co- founder of our oral history program, Carla Ehat, passed away peacefully in her sleep at age 94 on Monday, January 14, 2013.

When I was introduced to Carla in 2001, I was immediately struck by Carla’s intelligence, wit, and passion for history.

Carla was a fourth-generation Californian who in 1984 was awarded the Medal of Honor by the Daughters of the American Revolution for her work to document and preserve local history.

Carla Ehat on her ark “Mudlark”, 1951. Anne T. Kent Room Collection.

Born in Oakland in 1918, Carla grew up in Berkeley. In 1940 she moved with her family to San Francisco where she worked with an interior design firm until the war broke out in 1941. When Carla heard that a call was being issued for volunteers to help in the Interceptor Command, she immediately volunteered for duty.

As Carla recounts in her 2005 oral history with Marilyn Geary, the Navy commander initially turned her down:

The commander asked “….’Well, where is your husband?’ and I said, ‘I don’t have a husband.’ He got flaming red. ‘You know the criteria — You! Out! I said ‘Well, I have lived in the Bay Area all my life and I love the Navy and I’m an honest person. I thought you’d take a chance on me….Pretty soon, about a week later, I get a phone call call from the same man. He said….’Commander so-and-so wants to see you’ and I went down there and he said ‘Well, Miss Ehat, we’ve decided to take a chance on you.’ I said, ‘Thank you very much.’

Thus began Carla’s 30-year career with the Navy, a career she was rightly proud of. She was assigned to the U.S. Naval Security Group and was given the highest security clearance. When she retired in 1973 she received the Navy’s Meritorious Service Award.

Carla on the Corte Madera Creek, 1953. Anne T. Kent Room Collection.

Upon retirement, Carla was able to pursue her passion for local history. In 1974 she was recruited by Anne T. Kent, a founder of the Marin County Free Library System, to initiate an oral history program which would document the memories of long-time Marin County residents and pioneers. This project, now named in Carla’s honor, spanned ten years and resulted in the creation of nearly 300 oral history interviews all freely available in the Library’s Anne T. Kent California Room. We have posted some of them to our website.

Carla’s love for Marin County and its history dates back to 1950 when she purchased an ark in Larkspur — a weekend place she named the “Mudlark” where she could get away from the bustle of San Francisco and relax with family and friends and enjoy sailing on the Corte Madera Creek.

Reception for oral history interviewees at the home of Anne T. Kent in Kentfield, c.1980. Carla is in the center with microphone. Anne T. Kent Room Collection.

In 1958 Carla and her sister Lucille became full-time Marin County residents when they purchased a home in Ross. Not surprisingly, Carla was a founding president of the Ross Historical Society and when the Society published its 2008 Ross, California: The People, the Places, the History, the book was dedicated to Carla for her “diligent work to preserve and document the history of the Town of Ross.”

Throughout her life, Carla volunteered for more organizations than I can name, always helping others in their time of need. Charities she was active with included the American Cancer Society, the Lighthouse for the Blind, and the U.S. Coast Guard Rescue Mission.

It was an honor to know Carla and I will forever be inspired by her generosity, strength, and love of life.

Originally published at https://annetkent.kontribune.com.

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Anne T. Kent California Room

Anne T. Kent California Room

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