An ode to Nelda Nocita

Napa Valley Register

An ode to Nelda Nocita

| Posted: Sunday, June 19, 2005 12:00 am

Dear editor,

Nelda Nocita, retired professor of economics at Napa Valley College, died recently, and most of those now working there did not know her. It is necessary, as Arthur Miller wrote, that “attention must be paid.” As her friend and office mate George Boyet writes:

Nelda was involved in the life of the mind. Intellectual freedom, academic freedom, the Freedom of Information Act, the Bill of Rights, freedom of speech, press and religion, were all basic and necessary to her as the air we breathe. Every year she organized a celebration of Constitution Day, with all members of the college community reading it aloud. On campus she defended academic freedom with a tolerance for views in conflict, and extended that attitude to the Faculty Senate, the students and classified personnel.

Nelda grew up on a family farm in Nebraska. When she came to Napa in l968, open fields stretched down Imola and Soscol avenues. As a student of rural and urban history, she fought passionately against the South Napa Marketplace, understanding better than most of us how it would destroy countless local businesses. At the community college, she helped raise the intellectual and moral level of the community. As one of the few women teachers in the early days of the college, and the only one raising children alone, she endured overt discrimination which she privately detailed but never publicly litigated — this was before sexual harassment had been given a name. She was a like a Kate Hepburn character, a proud woman in a man’s world.

Nelda’s family asks that donations in her honor be made to the Napa Senior Center or Friends of the Napa City-County Library. A memorial event is being held by her family and friends at the Senior Center at 2 p.m. June 26. Please join those of us who admired her.

Lauren Coodley