Remembering Some Lives in the East Bay

The late Bernard J. Tyson earns posthumous honors as the East Bay Person of the Year.


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Our choice for East Bay Person of the Year is unusual in that the honoree, Bernard J. Tyson, CEO of Kaiser Permanente, died in his sleep in November. But the Vallejo-born, charismatic, and beloved health care administrator — one of the nation’s most influential African-American leaders — has had such an impact on his community and elsewhere that we made the award posthumously to review his ongoing legacy. 

In addition to significantly growing the business side of Kaiser while exhibiting a penchant for community building and smoothing racial relations, Tyson seemed to be the embodiment of Kaiser thinking, considering himself an ambassador of wellness who promoted preventative health care. Apparently something of a corporate visionary, Tyson brought efficiencies to the company he led, bringing energy and foresight to the role. Yet he seemed to never lose sight of his modest background, championing affordable medical care, safe housing, healthy food, job security, education, and community safety for all.

Patrick Hoge profiles Tyson, characterized as a force of nature and viewed as perpetually upbeat, in “Good Health and Good Works,” page 20. He spent some time talking to Tyson’s family and recounts young Bernard’s high school and college days and devotion to church. He traces Tyson’s fast-rising Kaiser star that began with an internship, explains his controversial but forward-thinking support for automated medical records, and offers insights from observers who saw Tyson’s career culminate with the top Kasier job.

This issue continues the reflection on loss in our annual In Memoriam piece, “Their Lives’ Journeys,” page 25, a compilation of East Bayites whose lives ended in 2019. Mike Rosen-Molina highlights five personalities: revered Alameda pastor Jack Buckley, Berkeley engineer Neil Karpe, newspaper publisher Joe Knowland, beloved Alamedan Benjamin P. Reyes Sr., and Berkeley’s Julia “The Bubble Lady” Vinograd. Additionally, he lists some major accomplishments of 25 other notables whose life paths ended this year.

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