Memorial Service Set for Activist Cereseto

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A memorial service for Shirley Cereseto, a longtime peace activist who led Orange County's demonstrations against the Persian Gulf War, is planned for Aug. 25 at the Unitarian Church in Anaheim.

Cereseto, 69, died Tuesday of a heart attack after a prolonged battle with rheumatoid arthritis.

A retired professor of sociology at Cal State Long Beach, Cereseto was recognized in academic circles as an expert in American foreign policy, particularly Central America.

She founded the Orange County Committee on Central America in 1983, a group that opposed U.S. intervention in that region, and participated in dozens of other activist groups.

When the United States increased aid to the rebel groups fighting the Nicaraguan government in the early 1980s, Cereseto organized opposition groups such as Orange County Friends of Nicaraguan Children and Anaheim Supports Nicaragua's Sandinista Government.

Most recently, she founded the Orange County Committee for Peace in the Middle East, which led the county's small anti-war community in protests and urged the safe return of American troops.

Cereseto had been bedridden since February when the arthritis affected her spine. In January, friends had asked her daughter, Kathy Koser, to organize a dinner to honor Cereseto, and hundreds of letters of tribute from around the country have arrived.

Former Irvine Mayor Larry Agran wrote: "Elected leaders draw inspiration from people like you. People who do the daily work of peace and justice. . . . I doubt you will ever fully appreciate how many people you've touched and truly inspired in your life."

Rosalie Abrams, a longtime friend who founded the first Orange County chapter of the National Organization for Women, said, "She was the guiding light. She was able to inspire everyone. As frail as she was, she was a tower of strength . . . to see what was going on and organize all of us to take action."

Cereseto is survived by Koser, a son, Michael Cereseto, and her husband, Jack Cereseto.

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