Yolanda Solari is remembered as strong and effective
For more than half a century, Yolanda Solari dedicated much of her life to fighting for the rights of state workers, state retirees and California citizens in general.
She passed away Oct. 30 at the age of 90.
She held several elected offices within CSEA, which currently has about 140,000 members in four affiliates, including California State Retirees.
She was first elected president of CSEA in 1990 – the third woman to hold the position, and the first to serve three two-year terms.
She presided over the organization during times of great internal change, pension fund raids and other attacks on public benefits.
“She knew many legislators on a first-name basis and they knew who she was,” recalls current CSEA President Marilyn Ferrasci Hamilton. “She was a tenacious advocate when pursuing legislation. Sometimes I think some legislators didn't want to see her coming their way because they knew she would hold their feet to the fire … Yolanda was what many of us aspire to be – a successful leader. Her decisions were rarely made to enhance her popularity or because someone told her the way to go. She had a mind of her own. This, above all, is what I respected in Yolanda.”
Solari is credited for helping establish several state employee benefits, including daycare centers within state buildings.
A Stockton resident, Solari had worked as an EEG/EKG technician at Stockton State Hospital for many years before retiring in 1999. She was instrumental in helping to keep the hospital open for several years after initial attempts were made to shut it down, says Dick Mesa, chair of the CSR Political Action Committee.
He recalls that 144 people attended her retirement luncheon, which he helped to plan.
“Several dignitaries attended and spoke on Yo's accomplishments, including State Controller Kathleen Connell, Sen. Pat Johnston, Assemblymember Mike Machado, a representative for Assemblymember Dennis Cardoza and Cathleen Galgiani, representing Gov. Gray Davis,” Mesa says. “We worked together on many political races, not winning them all, but we did extremely well overall. She was a remarkable lady and I am proud to call her a friend. I will miss her. State employees and retirees owe her a great debt.”
Chapter 31 Member Noby Reidell agrees that state employees and retirees should honor Solari’s work.
“Even when we were on opposite sides politically, we were able to work together because it was about the members,” Reidell says.
JJ Jelincic, CalPERS board member and former CSEA president, frequently did not see eye-to-eye with Solari over the years, but says they became friendly in recent years.
“One thing you can say is that she cared about the people she represented,” Jelincic says. “She kept her focus in the right place.”
Solari is survived by two daughters, a sister, a brother, six grandchildren, six great-grandchildren and longtime companion Roger Marxen, former CSR president.
Services were planned in Lodi on Nov. 5. Donations to the Alzheimer’s Association are preferred.