Rebecca Gale Mathis Somers died in Valencia, Calif. on Dec. 13. She was 55.
Born to Filizi B. Fessl, a German war bride, and Frank M. Mathis of Houlka, Miss., a distinguished veteran of World War II who participated in the D-Day Invasion and who also fought in Viet Nam, Rebecca Gale Mathis was born on Dec. 18, 1956 in Chateauroux, France and given the middle name Gale to spur her on to become a stormy force of nature for the good.
Rebecca Mathis was educated in Europe and across the United States during the Cold War, putting herself through college to earn a bachelor of arts degree with distinction from the University of California at Berkeley.
Her early career in energy facilitated extensive travel through the unspoiled landscapes of the western United States, aligning Rebecca’s pulse and imagination with the American spirit and exposing her to the beauty and natural splendor of the country’s heartland. A patriot and advocate for civil liberty, and one who never failed to stand up for human rights and protect the innocent as well as the environment, Rebecca found the medium of film to be a powerful motivator to advance meaningful causes. She organized film festivals in the San Francisco Bay area, attracting adults and students, expanding horizons and opening minds at every opportunity.
An avid environmentalist, identifying herself as an “undeveloper,” she helped pioneer new concepts in renewable energy and conserve lands and open space in California, Massachusetts and Maine.
Rebecca Mathis met her husband, Ron Somers, in 1978 in Columbus, Miss., and they traveled and worked as a team across the United States and Asia, living in India for 12 years from 1992 to 2004, supporting India’s liberalization and its arrival as a global economic power. They also enjoyed spending time at their home in Vineyard Haven.
She was active in historic preservation, animal rescue and especially in women’s education, championing these causes right to the end.
She chose to fight advanced-stage breast cancer while overlooking the Pacific, energized by its light, organizing her last personal film tribute, featuring screenwriter Robert Bolt and directors David Lean and Akira Kurosawa, highlighting his 1951 iconic film Ikiru: To Live. She died in her mother’s arms with family and close friends at her side.
Known by all for her caring soul and generous heart, and for her special wit and kindness, she was a loyal friend, a loving wife, an adoring daughter and niece, a devoted sister and an aunt and godmother who shared praise with grace and loving guidance. She touched many lives and will be missed by all.
She is survived by her husband, Ron; her beloved mother, Filizi; her uncle, Robin Mathis; brothers Frank Jr., Gregory and Scott; sisters Virginia (DeDe), Elaine, and Barbara Jo; nephews Adam, Lucas and Tyler; nieces Carmen, Vanessa, Jenni, Katie, Meghan and Lacey; godson Richard Holton; four grandnephews, Kaelan, Mathis, Maddox, Marley and Theo; a grandniece, Mariah, and numerous cousins and dear friends.
Donations in the memory of Rebecca Gale Mathis Somers can be sent to Responsible Pet Care of Oxford Hills, which is building a new wing for its animal care facility, at P.O. Box 82, Norway, ME 04268.
Memorials celebrating Rebecca’s life will be held in 2013 in California in early spring before the sagebrush blooms, and in Maine during fall foliage. Rebecca’s ashes will be conferred to the Pacific, to the Ganges, to her sanctuary at North Pond, and at the Mathis Family Farm in Houlka, Miss.