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Goodbye. Thanks for the history.

Observations from the Edge
Robert T. Nanninga
Coast News
July 15, 2005


Here in Southern California we really don't do history. Few take the time to understand what came before them. How a place became a place, and the people who made it so, are deemed inconsequential in a culture dedicated to reckless greed and growth. To most, the past is best left buried in the landfill of progress. Coley was not most people.

Coley was the City of Encinitas' first historian, and a vital member of the community until her passing at regal age of 78 on July 6th, 2005.

A long time resident of Encinitas, passed away in her childhood home after a short illness and a long history of distinguished civic pride and involvement. Long before Encinitas was a city, it was a community. A community that helped a young woman define herself, while launching her on a lifetime of service to a greater good.

As a student, Ms. Coley was active in sports and spirit; lead other students as senior class president and class salutatorian San Dieguito High School 1945. As a professional, was a highly respected pediatric occupation therapist. Busy in retirement she made it her job to document and preserve the Encinitas of her youth, while helping to guide it into the 21st century.

Ida Lou was known for her gentility, her sense of decorum, and her selfless sense of humility. Always genteel, never catty or course, Coley was gracious, gregarious, and generous with her time and efforts on behalf of her chosen community. A renaissance woman, was the type of person we should all strive to be.

I write this tribute to not only because she was a friend and role model, but also because she was the rarest of environmentalists who understood the importance of place and putting down roots. A dedicated member of the Cottonwood Creek Conservancy, was a hands-on activist nurturing cultural pride from the ground up. As a historian, she was intricately aware of how integral Cottonwood Creek was to settling of the area in 1881.

Up until her illness earlier this year, Ida was still helping to plant and foster the native revegetation of the riparian wetlands at Moonlight Beach.

By far her greatest accomplishment, and the one she will always be remembered for was the unfaltering leadership she provided in the successful campaign to keep the Encinitas Public Library downtown where it historically belonged. Bringing history alive, could recite by memory the names of every librarian that tended a library that migrated around the commercial district. She also knew every place the library landed. Such knowledge was priceless in garnering public support for a divisive ballot issue. was triumphant.

Ida's next big civic battle did not end as well. Efforts to keep the Encinitas Post office in downtown, where it had been located since 1882, were no match for a federal agency looking to cut corners. Had it gone to a public vote, Ida would have won that one too. A civic activist, Ida produced results.

I write this tribute to Coley out or respect for everything she stood for and against. I write to honor her contribution to the quality of life every Encinitian enjoys. Because of Coley Encinitas is a better place for her being here. made a difference. I write to say thank you.

I also write in hope that others maybe inspired to follow in her footsteps. Civic activism need not be athletic or political. The Encinitas Historical Society, and the San Dieguito Heritage Museum thrives with energy of volunteers. Working with civic groups such as Downtown Encinitas Mainstreet Society and the Cottonwood Creek Conservancy is a great way to contribute as well. Gracious civility is another contribution that gives back ten-fold.

Personally, I think the best way for the City of Encinitas to recognize Coley is to name the new library in her honor. The Coley Civic Library has a very nice ring to it. After all, if a library is not about history nothing is.

Goodbye. Thanks for the history.

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