Bar Association of San Francisco pro bono chief Tanya Neiman was remembered Wednesday at Grace Cathedral as someone who “wouldn’t waste a day.” If that’s the case, she would have enjoyed her own memorial service, which offered many entertaining and poignant reflections on a rich life. Neiman died in February at age 56 after an eight-year battle with ovarian cancer.
Longtime friend Pam David said she and Neiman shared two loves: social justice and baseball. But Neiman preferred hardball — “none of that softball like for the rest of us lesbians,” David joked. Tougher still, Neiman preferred playing catcher, so she could be engaged every minute “with her head and her heart.” On the diamond and in life, David said, Neiman made every person around her better.
There was much commentary on Neiman’s signature dress style — men's style suits and bow ties — which Neiman proudly adopted in the 1970s. “She was not well-versed in the art of being ambiguous,” quipped Milton Estes, former chairman of the ACLU of Northern California. Another speaker recalled seeing Neiman on the street one day long ago, before knowing who she was, and feeling empowered to wear pants to her paralegal job.
The biggest laugh was provided by former BASF director Drucilla Ramey, who recalled a time when heavy construction was occuring next door to BASF offices. One morning the diminutive Neiman collared a construction worker and complained about the noise level. In response, Ramey recalled, the construction foreman called on BASF later in the day and announced, “I want to talk to the little mean one.”
After pausing a beat Ramey, who likewise stands about 5 feet, added, “The receptionist didn’t know which one he meant.”
Contributions in Neiman’s memory may be made to The Tanya Neiman Social Justice and Poverty Law Fund, care of The San Francisco Foundation, 225 Bush St., Suite 500, San Francisco, 94104.