Stacy Raye on Kee Beach in Hawaii, November 2010.

Stacy Allison Raye, the co-Founding Director with Heather Mitchell of Berkeley’s Monkey Business Camp and Girls on the Go Camp, died on on February 17th after being diagnosed with cancer two years ago. Below, three people who knew her well share their memories of Stacy.

Heather Mitchell, Stacy’s partner, and Nancy O’Connor, Stacy’s mother, write: Stacy Raye was born on December 15th 1960 in Launceston, Tasmania, Australia. At the age of 11 Stacy saw the movie “Auntie Mame” and fashioned her life around Mame’s dictum “Live, Live, Live” until her death on February 17th.

Stacy is survived by her cherished partner of 18 years, Heather Mitchell, her mother, Nancy O’Connor, sister Sally Raye McGrew (Frank), niece Sarah McGrew, chosen family Mary Lynn Morales and Karen Rothblatt, as well as a world of wonderful friends. She modeled for all the meaning of courage in dealing with her journey with cancer over the past two years, since her February 2009 diagnosis.

Heather and Stacy.

Stacy grew up in Sacramento, attending Crocker-Riverside School, St Francis Middle School, and Bishop Monogue High School. She graduated from UC Berkeley, and lived out her life there until her passing.

Stacy worked with children in some capacity all her life, including directing the Jefferson School YMCA Afterschool Kid’s Club, teaching ASL at Via Nova, Piedmont Playschool, The Snuggery, Dragonfly, Walden, Aurora and many others; teaching pre-school at Step-One in Berkeley and founding, with her partner, Monkey Business Camp and Girls on the Go Camp, which offers vacation recreational camps.

Stacy was an intrepid traveler. From the exotic streets of Bangkok to the highlands of Nepal, she found wonder and meaning.

By Denise Leto writes: There was a shine, whether she was in a room with one person, in a crowd, in the city, in nature, at a concert, and it was always, without fail, unmistakably hers. I met Stacy when we were students at UCB and that is what I remember about her most amid the books and the teachers and the campus: the luminescence of a singular spirit for whom life itself was a balm.

Stacy with Marie Yamada-Killilea and Maggie Madden Calvelli.

To children, Stacy was the way leaves are to a tree, or water is to the ocean, or air is to breathing. She was always somehow able to reach in and find a union with them that was already there, and make it bigger, brighter, ever more life-affirming.

Her talent as an educator was a skill but most importantly, it was a gift, one that she joined with the brilliance of her beloved partner, Heather, and manifested so beautifully in the world.

Stacy’s ebullience and intellect were dazzling. She had a sense of humor that was robust and quick; she was a virtuoso of joy, laughter was a dynamic, abundant, catching experience with her. She would talk endlessly about ideas, music, books, politics, relationships, food, anything and everything. Her curiosity and capacity for life and culture extended beyond any borders: she traveled the world, she told me once, “Not just to see more, but better.”

I celebrate also her contemplative side. Years ago, she wrote a poem about a woman with a cello crossing a bridge at twilight with birds around her. The poem spoke to the origin of music, its grace and beauty. During the years of our friendship, during her struggle with cancer, and after her death Stacy has taught me to see not just better, but more. I can see her now: a woman, with music, crossing a bridge, her suffering behind, leaving us, only to give us — in our grief for her loss and our joy for having known her — the everlasting gift of her love.

A memorial service will be held on Saturday, March 19th at St. John’s Church, 2727 College Avenue, Berkeley at 4:30pm, with a potluck to follow, and more stories and sharing from 7-8:30pm. Donations may be made to the Stacy Raye Memorial Fund, c/o Monkey Business Camp, 2880A Sacramento Street, Berkeley, CA 94702. The fund will give annual scholarships to children affected by cancer. In lieu of donations, Stacy’s family asks that you do something meaningful for a child in your life.

Tracey Taylor

Tracey Taylor is co-founder of Berkeleyside and co-founder and editorial director of Cityside, the nonprofit parent to Berkeleyside and The Oaklandside. Before launching Berkeleyside, Tracey wrote for...

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9 Comments

  1. Stacy was truly an inspiration to all the lives she touched. I am glad to have met her as she was truly an amazing human being.

  2. Oh, my- I am so sorry Heather for your loss. Stacy was indeed a kid magnet!  Lindy from Step One

  3. Stacy was much loved and will be much missed. Her spirit for life was infectious and she touched (and changed) many lives around the world. Thank you Stacy for all that you gave your community, friends and family. We are lucky to have had you in our lives.

  4. 2 months before her diagnosis, I met Stacy in a small rural village on Thai-Burma border. She was truly one of a kind, and Heather in tow made for a dynamic duo. We shared a number of wonderful nights with good food, music, and, of course, incredible conversation, and I soon felt as if she had been a dear friend for years. Indeed, her impact on me has been remarkable, and her spirit, energy, drive, and dedication lives on within all of us who were lucky to have her in our lives.

  5. Stacy came into our lives at Step One School and embraced the love and commitment we had for the children we were teaching, with all her heart. She and Heather met and fell in love while working at Step One School which was quite magical. They were such an intricate part of our family of friends and became such wonderful, loving mentors (his extended family) for my son Sam, who they taught, played with and shared their passion for life, and now at 21 spoke about how Stacy was a pillar in his life, and still is.
    When she and Heather created Monkey Business Camp…that love and commitment for honoring children continued and flourished and continues on today.
    We will forever cherish the love and joy and passion she swirled around us all for so many years and hold those many memories in our hearts for eternity. The body she begin her life on this earth in could no longer hold her, she had other places to shine brightly and now she lives within us and everything.
    In the words of Buddha…
    “Your Work is to discover your work and then with all your heart give yourself to it.”
    and that is just what she always did!
    With SO much love and gratefulness for all she was and is..always, gege

  6. So very sorry to hear of Stacy’s untimely passing. Her presence has been a gift to so many children. She leaves behind a legacy of happiness, monkey business and passion. Thank you and godspeed-