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Home | In Remembrance

Remembering Western Center Community Members & Their Contributions to Fighting Poverty

Western Center remembers those whose service, intellect, and compassion made a difference in the lives of Californians experiencing poverty. Through their pursuit of justice and equity, their legacy endures.


Shirley Gibson was a “smart, dedicated attorney who would wear Wonder Woman Converse high-tops to the office where she fought against displacement and for fair and affordable housing for low-income tenants throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.” In 2019, Western Center awarded Shirley with the Mary Burdick Advocacy Award for her extraordinary contributions to social justice and housing stability for tenants and homeowners with low incomes. Shirley passed away peacefully after an 11 year fight with cancer on November 4, 2021.

Read more about Shirley here.


Casey McKeever was the long-time head of Western Center’s Sacramento office and public benefits legislative advocacy team, and an overall wonderful human being. Casey never failed to go the extra mile to do what was right — he was a passionate advocate, and a conscientious administrative law judge for California’s Department of Social Services. Casey passed away in February of 2021 at the age of 69.

“Casey was one of first people who helped me when I started lobbying. We became a team and worked together for many years. I literally would not be the advocate I am if not for him.” -Mike Herald, Western Center’s Director of Policy Advocacy

Read more about Casey here.


Rose Ochi was among those lost from complications of COVID-19. Rose served as co-counsel on our landmark 1970s case, Serrano vs. Priest, forcing California toward more equitable education funding. Rose passed away in December 2020 at the age of 81.

Read more about Rose here.


William “Bill” Powers, passed away in November of 2020. Bill was dedicated to the fight for affordable housing, and was a Western Center lobbyist who worked in the California Capitol to advance the issue.

Read more about Bill here.


Robert Tomás Olmos grew up working in the fields of the San Joaquin Valley, and was among the first Latinos integrated into public universities during the 1960s. Tomás was a lifelong advocate and champion for the disenfranchised, including in his work at Western Center. Tomás passed away on October 31, 2020 at age 74.

Read more about Tomás here.