In Memory of Mary Naff

Mary Lafferty Naff, one of the founding members of the Cañada Crescenta Democratic Club, passed away July 8, at age 101. She had been hospitalized briefly some days earlier and was back home, thankfully not alone, when she died. Mary had taken pride in living alone–without a housekeeper!–into her 100s. She said “I only have a pool man, a gardener, and a driver.” It was her dear driver companion, Gina Amaya, who gave us the news on Sunday.

Mary is pictured here at one of the Club meetings last year; she rarely missed a meeting. Her friends Dona Mitoma and Marvin Inouye, seen with her, had commented that when they visited their sons at UC Berkeley they had seen a plaque commending Mary for her generous gifts to the University. She had majored in French there and graduated in 1939.

As long as she can remember, Mary, who was raised in Oakland, wanted to be a teacher. After graduating from Cal, she found that teaching jobs were few as America was still in the depression. Her first job was in San Simeon. She worked in a one-room schoolhouse and taught grades 1 through 5. She was salaried at $145 a month, and the job was attractive because her housing and utilities were included, leaving her only major expense to be food. Mary was offered an additional stipend of $35 a month if she cleaned the school (in other words she became the custodian). On December 7, 1941, as she was cleaning her classroom and listening to the radio, she thought she was listening to a play about a surprise attack at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Surprise! It was not a play.

In 1942 she moved back to Oakland to be closer to family and friends.

After the war, Mary continued teaching in the Bay area. During her summer breaks, she traveled to Hawaii and Guatemala, and spent three months in Paris alone, living in a boarding house. One summer she continued her graduate education studies at Stanford.

In 1951 she met Gordon Naff at the Officer’s Club in Oakland. He had served in the Pacific in WWII and was redeployed into the military and on his way to Korea. Upon returning from Korea, Mr. Naff returned to his printing business in Highland Park. His brother was his partner. They expanded the business to include printing on plastic materials. Later, they developed the business to make plastic containers. Highland Plastics is still going strong after over 70 years.

Mary and Gordon celebrated their 60th anniversary before his passing in 2005. They enjoyed traveling together, including an around-the-world trip.

Mary’s devotion to her alma mater, UC Berkeley, has extended to bequeathing her La Cañada house and its contents to the University. Another favorite cause of Mary’s was Planned Parenthood. She supported them for over 60 years. She said she was happy to help them as she had seen so many unwanted babies during her lifetime.

Mary was always interested in American politics. When her first opportunity to vote arrived, she cast her vote for Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Her allegiance to the Democratic Party had begun.

Always impeccably dressed, Mary was special to the Cañada Crescenta Democratic Club. She always had suggestions for having more social events and could get cross if speakers at the meetings went on too long! She loved her Democratic friends, also lamenting that as she aged she outlived all relatives and friends. We like to think our meetings and friendships gave her solace in the last decade. Mary was a generous contributor from the beginnings of the Club in 2005.

We celebrated her 100th birthday with a wonderful Summer Party last year.

No services are known to have been planned for Mary. Join us at the Summer Party on Sunday and together we will raise a glass in honor of our dear Mary Naff at our Social in April.

Thank you to Marvin & Dona for the work on putting together Mary’s bio.