Berkeley Historical Society member dies at 70, remembered for leadership, passion for costume design

shellyrideout

Shelley Rideout, a 70-year-old member of the Berkeley Historical Society, died after a collision with a city vehicle at Fulton Street and Channing Way on Jan. 12.

Known for her passion for costume design and history, Rideout was a leading member of both the Berkeley Historical Society, or BHS, and the Costume Society of America, or CSA, as well as the co-author of “Berkeley Bohemia: Artists and Visionaries of the Early 20th Century.”

During Rideout’s term as president of the Western Region of the CSA, she was known as a leader who was “quiet but forceful when necessary,” according to longtime friend Sheryl Birkner, who served with Rideout on the board of the Western Region.

“She’s not the kind of person who wanted to be in charge of everything in that way, but there was a great need,” Birkner said. “Shelley stepped in not truly wanting that role but … took on a great responsibility to make sure that the Western Region continued.”

In addition to being a soft-spoken leader, Rideout was a dedicated friend and community member, once designing and making a wedding gown for a former roommate as well as dressing the bridesmaids.

“She would very quietly do this kind of work,” Birkner said. “She didn’t ask for credit; she just very quietly got things done.”

Rideout spent her college years at Sonoma State University, studying theater arts, participating in the founding of the women’s studies program and helping to teach a course on women in history, according to an obituary written by Birkner. She later earned a master’s degree in museum studies from San Francisco State University with a focus on curatorship of historic costume and textiles.

Rideout served as the chair of the committee organizing Berkeley Historical Society’s current exhibit, entitled “Soundtrack to the 60s: The Berkeley Music Scene,” helping to edit the text included in the exhibit and choose the colors for the walls, according to Ed Herny, Rideout’s co-author, who also helped coordinate the exhibit. Rideout had contributed an outfit she had worn as a teenager during the 1960s to be worn by one of the mannequins featured in the exhibit.

Herny described Rideout as kindhearted and amicable, and he said she could lead and coordinate without seeming “bossy” or “overbearing.”

“(She was) very scholarly on the one hand and very easygoing on the other hand,” Herny said.

During her time at BHS, Rideout worked to benefit the community by preserving memories, costumes, memorabilia and historical items, Birkner said. The research she conducted and presentations she gave displayed her spirit of volunteerism and passion for the community.

“What I remember most about Shelly was her smile,” Birkner said. “It was (about) being there, volunteering and supporting her passion, which was costume study, preservation, history (and) display.”

Contact Matthew Lo at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @matthewlo_dc.

Correction(s):
A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Rideout served as the chair of the committee organizing Berkeley High School’s current exhibit. In fact, the exhibit was for the Berkeley Historical Society.

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