Phoebe Elizabeth (Bashore) Calma

Date of Birth

November 17th, 1918

Date of Death

April 20th, 2018

Memorial Meeting

Palo Alto Friends Meeting

Minute

Phoebe Elizabeth (Bashore) Calma was born on November 17th, 1918, in Seattle, WA, to Luther Edward Bashore and Doris Peiler Bashore. After suffering a stroke, she declined treatment and passed quietly in the early hours of April 20th, 2018.

Phoebe lost a good deal of her hearing due to an infection at the age of three. She grew up leery of other children, who generally tended to tease her and treat her unkindly. Her hearing was restored when she was twelve. Many who knew the adult Phoebe believe that these early experiences helped her become effective in her profession of counseling and teaching.

Phoebe was seven years old when her father announced they would be moving to Vashon Island, four miles out by ferry from the city of Seattle. She recorded some of her happiest childhood memories in a book she published in 2013, Stoneshore: Life on Vashon Island. This memoir describes the eight years that her family lived on Vashon Island in Puget Sound near Seattle, Washington. As Phoebe summarizes the story in the book’s publicity materials, “A collection of sixteen autobiographical short stories, set in the coastal landscape of the Pacific Northwest during the Depression. . .  Few others lived on the Island, making up a community of misfits, hermits, and Japanese farmers. The children of three families formed a gang, building cars and fires, and playing poker with matchsticks.” In later years, Phoebe’s children remember her telling stories of living in tents, rowing the Puget Sound, climbing trees, and building cars with her older cousin. The self-sufficiency and frugality that Phoebe learned during those early years would later give rise to both humor and gratitude in the family. It was Phoebe who could fix the car, chop the wood, make a fire, and cook a full meal in one pan on a camp stove.  

The family moved back into the city of Seattle when Phoebe was fifteen, and life became hard for her. Both her parents worked long hours, and she had troubles at school. However, after her hearing was restored, she had become a very good student. She quickly rose academically and won scholarships to both the University of Toronto and University of North Carolina. She also wrote two plays, which received national praise.

It was at the University of North Carolina that Phoebe met her future husband, Franco Calma. Franco was also studying there on scholarship, one designed for international students. Franco was born in Milan, Italy, which he fled at the age of twenty-one, due to the rise of Fascism in Italy. Franco and Phoebe married in Durham, NC, on May 27, 1941. While studying in the U.S., he developed a plan to return to Europe as soon as possible – to reunite with his Jewish family members or, if necessary, to help save them from the Holocaust. They had four children: Jacques (born 1942 in Pottsville, PA), Carol (born 1947 in Niagara Falls, NY), Sherry (born 1951 in Los Angeles, CA), and Paula (born 1959 in San Francisco, CA). Franco did eventually reunite with his mother and brought her to America, where Phoebe and Franco aided and cared for her until her death.

Although the newlyweds were university graduates, they suffered a period of social stigma because Franco, born in Italy, was listed as an “enemy alien.” He tried to enlist in the U.S. military, but was rejected. Eventually, however, he was drafted. This began several difficult years for Phoebe, as she relocated her home and newborn son several times, following Franco’s postings at different military bases. After being drafted, Franco trained with the ski patrol in Colorado and Phoebe worked as a psychologist. Later, Franco became a sergeant and an interpreter for Italian prisoners stationed in Oakland.  After Franco was released from the army, the family lived in Niagara Falls and later moved to Los Angeles.

They eventually settled in Palo Alto in 1956. Phoebe worked as a psychometrist and later a psychologist for the San Bruno Park School District; she completed her masters degree at Stanford. She was well respected for her advocacy for families and students, and was loved by students, co-workers, and other colleagues for her dedication and contributions.

Phoebe became a member of Palo Alto Friends Meeting on May 22, 1964. She was a person who lived simply with few possessions. She never splurged on herself. She had a comforting relationship with silence and was a seeker of enlightenment and spiritual fulfillment. Because of these personal qualities, she was drawn to Quakerism.

Palo Alto Friends Meeting remembers Phoebe for her work on the Community Concerns Committee, for her quick wit, humor, original thinking, and for her warm hospitality. She taught at least one member of Palo Alto Friends Meeting the best way to make an excellent Tiramisu. Phoebe brought to Palo Alto Friends a no-nonsense, practical way of looking at life, which was a great gift during times of contention among us. She will be missed.