July 28, 1927 - May 16, 2022
Written by her sister, Susan Doolittle '55
On May 16, 2022, Sylvia Colt De Almeida died peacefully at her home in Los Gatos, California with her family supporting her. In the end, she lived a very independent life on her own terms. She credited her education at Friends Seminary and Cornell for her endless curiosity about people,
politics, and life. She greatly admired Dr. Hunter and the Quaker's
message of tolerance and peace.
Sylvia was never one to just think about a problem, she always had an action plan. When water use became a California issue, Sylvia bought a small submersible pump to which she attached a short-length of hose. After her nightly bath, she would place the pump in the tub and pump the water out the bathroom window to water the garden below. When she retired from teaching, she volunteered at an alternative school for teen-age mothers. When that became too much she qualified to become a CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) working with foster children, a position similar to being a law guardian for children in New York State. After WWII, when Britain was starved for farm workers, she volunteered to go overseas and work on a British farm, using the skills she had learned working on Vermont farms as a teenager.
The love of learning she acquired at Friends drew her to teaching at a young age. She taught me (her younger sister) to read when I was 4 or 5 and she was 15. When she became an elementary public school teacher she worked to instill the same love of learning in her students.
When her parents sent her to an uptown school for girls, she left after one year to return to
Friends In talking about that school she said: “I was the only one pro-Roosevelt when he
confronted Dewey. I didn’t belong in that proper environment where we would go on to dances
with white gloves and no one talked of the social problems in our country.”
In contrast, Friends Seminary during the war years sent groups of students to New Jersey on weekends to plant seedlings. With the Interracial Youth Group which Dr. Hunter had helped to organize, they worked for greater racial integration starting with petitions to integrate Major League Baseball. The lessons she learned at Friends formed the basis of the values that steered her life, The importance of doing a job well, acting on your concerns, and practicing tolerance.
Friends Seminary meant a great deal to her and she was glad that through hard work and
frugality she was able to leave the school a substantial gift when she died.