Elinor Josephine Tilford Charleston, who turned 101 on May 1, died on Nov. 27 in Roseville after a short hospitalization.
She was a longtime resident of Westlake in Daly City, moving there in 1954 and residing in the same house for the rest of her life.
Elinor was born in Ely, Nevada in 1916. Her parents were members of two pioneer families. Her mother, Sarah Josephine Overson, was the daughter and granddaughter of Mormon Handcart Pioneers who crossed the continent on foot and in great distress in 1846.
Her father, John Dixon Tilford, was the son and grandson of mining families who settled in White Pine County, Eastern Nevada, in an area, near Baker, that’s now a part of the Great Basin National Park.
As a child, Elinor moved with her family to Vallejo in 1920. They then moved to Alameda in 1922 before settling in San Francisco in 1923.
She was a graduate of Girls High School, class of 1934, and then attended San Francisco State Teachers College and Munson Secretarial College, graduating in 1937.
In 1937, she married William W. Charleston, a steam engineer working at Stanford Lane Hospital. At the time their Son David was born, Bill took a job as Chief Engineer for KPO/KGO radio for many years then becoming Chief of the Physical Plant of San Francisco State College in the early 1950’s. In order to be closer to Bill’s new job at San Francisco State they moved to Westlake in Daly City in 1954. He retired from SF State in 1974.
She was involved in her sons’ schools, the Alvarado School PTA, and was involved in the Boy Scouts as a den mother of their Cub Scout Pack. She was always an advocate for children and for education.
Besides family camping trips and excursions across the west, she and her husband traveled the world on tours and cruises and, for many years, participated in Square Dancing.
After Bill’s death in 1985, Elinor joined the Doelger Senior Center in Westlake and was a hard working and dependable volunteer, devoting many hours to working in the center’s hospitality room and running its small library. She had been a member of Doelger Senior Center for over 36 years.
In 2012 Elinor was named Daly City’s Unsung Hero Volunteer of the Year. She also served on various advisory boards in Daly City.
She was always ready with a colorful story about her family’s roots and the life and times of growing up in eastern Nevada and San Francisco during the 1920s, 30s and 40s and the early days of Westlake.
In 2016, a large bountiful outdoor party of loving family and friends was held in Colfax to mark her 100th birthday.
She was active in the Daly City/Colma historical societies.
She also belonged to the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers and supported Great Basin National Park’s dark skies program to acquire a telescope for the park. She also helped the park’s refurbishment and restoration of her family’s home and mining site now within the park and was honored as “Centennial Ranger” by Nevada’s Governor Sandoval and Park Service Employees in a ceremony marking its completion.
To remember Elinor is to remember her kindness and the friendliness shown to all who met her and knew her. She loved her family, her history and loved the opportunity to make other people’s lives better and more comfortable.
She is survived by her son, David (Joanna) of Cotati and John (Renee’) of Colfax, four grandchildren, seven great grandchildren, and three great great grandchildren.
At her request, no services are to be held. Remembrances can be sent to the Doelger Senior Center, Forgotten Felines of Sonoma County or Great Basin Observatory.