Lucy Kortum

1928 – 2022


Sonoma County Conservation Action is deeply saddened by the news of Lucy Kortum’s passing. She was the beloved matriarch of our small but mighty grass-roots organization. She shared so much of her kind heart, strength, knowledge, and vibrant spirit with her community and family.

We will always hold Lucy and Bill’s memories in our hearts and thoughts; be forever grateful for all they gave to our community over so many decades. Always asking ourselves, ‘what would Bill and Lucy do?’. We will continue their entrusted passion for environmental protection, being the voice to advocate for conscious stewardship through collaborations and education.

Lucy’s Life and Legacy


Lucy Kortum was a historian and advocate for architectural preservation who passed away on November 30, 2022 at her home in Petaluma, California. She was born on August 8, 1928 in Coronado, California, where her father was stationed as a Naval aviator. She attended Pomona College after WWII and then moved to San Francisco. In 1953 she married Bill Kortum and in the ensuing years, Bill and Lucy became effective advocates for environmental protection, working on issues such as the battle to save Bodega Head from a nuclear power plant in the early 1960s and the prolonged effort to preserve access to the California coastline and to save it from overdevelopment.



In addition to her tireless work as an environmentalist, Lucy was known for her contributions to architectural preservation, both locally and throughout California. Her work resulted in the addition of ten California Carnegie libraries to the National Register of Historic Places, and still sets the standard by which libraries achieve such designation. Her efforts also led to the addition of the Petaluma Silk Mill to the National Register, saving this significant structure from demolition and allowing it to be repurposed as a hotel.



Lucy and Bill were active in many Democratic Party campaigns and were known for their fun-loving and optimistic personalities. They built a home in rural Petaluma where they enjoyed hosting friends and discussing a range of topics, from travel, food, and books, to state and local politics and environmental issues. Lucy maintained a close connection with Sonoma State University, where she was recognized for her achievements in the field of historic preservation and research. She was so well respected Bill was often informally referred to as “Lucy Kortum’s husband” among her fellow historians.



“Lucy lived a remarkable life of resolve and conviction. She was a pioneer for environmental activism that was real and tangible at the household and neighborhood levels. Bill & Lucy Kortum were the heart & soul of Sonoma County Conservation Action and that spirit and purpose still animates our daily work.” – Michael Allen

“Lucy was an environmental hero. Kind, humble but curious and very rigorous. I learned something every time I was with her. – Janis Watkins

“For SCCA it is like losing our godmother. She really cared about the organization. I personally will miss her role as a guiding light on conservation issues. “What would Lucy do” has been a recurring refrain in my thinking since I first came on the board. In that respect, she lives on.” – Neal Fishman

 “I first met her shortly after starting to work at SCCA. She saw the canvass schedule I was working on and immediately called out missing locations. I had never met someone who could spot what was missing at a glance before. Her advice was insightful, and it often seemed like she knew what someone was thinking before they did. In the years since then she always had a wise anecdote or urgent issue to discuss.” – Blake Hooper

“Lucy was way up on top of my list of really remarkable women that I’ve known. She was quiet. She was fun. She stayed in the background and let Bill take the lead, but she was definitely there all the time, and she was smart as a whip.” – Gaye LeBaron

“Lucy lived a life well lived. As much as Bill was in the limelight, Lucy was in the background making it all go. She had a sharp mind for politics and people, and the two of them made quite the team. She always had something to offer when I’d come by the ranch, whether it be an observation on a campaign we were working on, some fresh coffee or an assortment of homemade food and snacks.

Bill and Lucy would host the canvass every year when we were in Petaluma, sharing stories and always with a full on meal. They were pillars of our community, and our County, and just great examples of how to go about life. Generations will be gratefully indebted to them, and their cohort, for passing on our largely unspoiled national treasure in the Sonoma Coast.
She will be missed by many, myself included.” – Denny Rosatti


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