Reid Cerney is being remembered as a Democratic Party activist in the heavily Republican community of Lodi and as a passionate advocate for peace and social justice.
Cerney, 80, died Friday, the day after his 51st wedding anniversary, said his wife, Ann Cerney, a Lodi attorney. A memorial Mass has been tentatively scheduled for October at St. Anne's Catholic Church.
A 44-year Lodi resident, Cerney was known for his protests against American wars, the death penalty and abuses against farm workers.
Born Nov. 18, 1927, in Omaha, Neb., Cerney grew up in Pacific Grove, where he participated in sports.
"He was a real jock in his own time," Ann Cerney said.
He was a U.S. Army veteran, serving in Japan near the end of World War II. They moved to Lodi in early 1964 after living in Latin America for five years. There, Ann Cerney worked at a medical clinic while her husband was a founding faculty member of a Jesuit school in Bogotá, Colombia, and Universidad Católico in Ecuador.
After moving to Lodi, Cerney established a mental health clinic for the Stockton Catholic Diocese and retired in the early 1990s.
However, Cerney was better known as a Democratic Party and social justice activist. His accomplishments included:
• Supporting farm workers walking from Delano and Sacramento seeking equality in the 1960s.
• Protesting the Vietnam, Desert Shield, Desert Storm and Iraq wars. He organized Lodi Citizens for Peace, a group that protests in front of Lodi City Hall each Sunday and will continue until troops return home from Iraq. Cerney participated in the Sunday vigil from 2003 until six or eight weeks ago, when he became too ill to continue, said Art Raab, who had known Cerney since 1965.
• Serving as a delegate during Jerry Brown's presidential bid at the 1992 Democratic Convention.
• Attempting to get Lodi designated as a nuclear-free city several years ago. The issue went to the City Council, but a motion to make Lodi nuclear free was not seconded.
"He's a great loss to the Democratic community in Lodi," said Betsy Fiske, a 1969 Lodi High graduate who knew him through the Greater Lodi Area Democratic Club. "I started working with him in late '60s, when I was in high school protesting the Vietnam War."
Fiske's first impression of Cerney? "Someone who was really passionate about social justice - not just somebody watching from the sidelines, someone who's out there doing things."
He also wrote great letters to the editor in the News-Sentinel, Fiske said.
Richard Blackston, chairman of the San Joaquin County Democratic Central Committee, also lamented Cerney's death.
"Reid stood while others sat," Blackston said in a written statement. "Reid led while others followed. We must honor Reid and all that he has done to make this a better world and pick up the banner that he has carried for so long and continue to work to make this a better and safer world."
Although they lived in a heavily Republican community, Ann Cerney said that her husband deeply loved Lodi. Even though they disagreed with many people in Lodi, those same people were the first to help in a time of need.
"Lodi is very humane, deep down," Ann Cerney said.
In addition to his wife, Cerney is survived by three sons, Ben Cerney, of Danville, Matt Cerney, of Greenville and James Cerney, of Colorado; two daughters, Ellen Cerney, of Vallejo and Catherine Cerney, of Lodi; two brothers, Tom Cerney, of Redding and Frank Cerney, of Salinas; a sister, Mary Len Warternberg, of Pacific Grove; and six grandchildren.