Sonoman Cynthia Solomon, revered for her legacy of helping hundreds of Valley residents receive health care, passed away in her home last Thursday, May 29, after losing her battle with cancer. She was 66.
Solomon was born July 12, 1947, in Los Angeles, but spent a majority of her life in Sonoma, where she moved with her former husband and continued to live after their divorce.
Solomon is celebrated as co-founder of the Sonoma Valley Community Health Center, a nonprofit that helps fulfill unmet healthcare needs in the community. Much of her career was focused on helping people, particularly those in the underserved community. She worked as an office administrator for a Sonoma doctor’s office in the 1990s, helping dozens of low-income Hispanic mothers. When the office closed, she was determined to find another way to help these women, and even more at-risk patients.
She and consulting partner Heidi Stovall, a fellow visionary, set out to form the community clinic with a vision that everyone in the community should receive the health care they need, regardless of income.
In 1992, SVCHC opened as a freestanding primary care clinic in a grass roots effort to diminish the disparities in health care for the Valley’s uninsured and underserved. Since then, the health center has grown, closing escrow in late 2013 for a new, bigger site on Sonoma Highway.
Solomon’s eldest son, Nathan Solomon, said what set his mother apart was her tenacity, describing her as a “fierce” woman who would “never take no for an answer.”
Solomon, Nathan Solomon remembered, worked tirelessly with a neurosurgeon and an engineer to find a way to save his brother Alex, Solomon’s second child, who suffered from hydrocephalus, a buildup of fluid inside the skull that leads to brain swelling.
She went on to form the Hydrocephalus Association and is regarded by many in the organization as its “life and soul,” though she hasn’t worked with the group in nearly two decades.
Nathan Solomon said he is still in awe of all of the things his mother accomplished during her life, noting that, in addition to the health center and her work to fight hydrocephalus, Solomon and Stovall designed a managed-care system for Sonoma County in the 1990s, reportedly saving the county millions of dollars. She even testified in front of Congress, Nathan Solomon said.
But what surprised her son most about his mother was how selfless she was, even in her final days. “She was more worried about everyone else than herself,” he recalled. “It was amazing to see as a son. … I knew she cared about people, but I didn’t realize how concerned she was about other people until she was dying, because she cared more about them than herself.”
His mother, Nathan Solomon said, was a firm believer in devoting her life to a cause – or multiple causes. “Her philosophy was, you have to leave the world a better place. If you weren’t working toward that goal, you weren’t doing enough.”
Solomon was a member of a local prayer group, consisting of about 15 women, who met each Wednesday and supported her in her final months.
Close friend and fellow prayer-group member, Mary Ann Sebastiani Cuneo, said Solomon was “the kind of friend that was there for you no matter what,” carrying her compassion for others, exhibited so prominently in her community service, into her personal life. But Cuneo, who was friends with Solomon for close to 40 years, said her biggest passion was her family.
Pina Brocco, a friend of Solomon’s for many years, said she was so special because of her unique compassion for people and her drive to help others.
“She believed in things. She was an advocate for health, even her own health,” Brocco said, noting that Solomon was a strong woman who persevered in the face of recurring cancer.
“She will be missed by all who knew her, and she impacted a lot of lives,” Brocco said.
Darla Kobza is also a member of the prayer group and remembers first meeting Solomon while part of a trip to Mexico. Kobza said she drove Solomon to their Wednesday group meetings and was impressed by her kindness toward others.
“She was an inspiration to me, especially toward the end of her life,” Kobza said, noting how Solomon still attended the weekly prayer group when she could barely walk.
Kobza said she keeps a dragonfly ornament – one of Solomon’s favorite things –in her garden in memory of her dear friend.
Solomon is survived by her three children, Nathan, Alex and Sarah; stepdaughter Michelle Bryant; their families, including two grandchildren, Ben and Miabella; and her sisters, Daphne Matthews and Diane Henderson.
A service to honor Solomon will be held Wednesday, June 18, at 6 p.m.
at Duggan’s Mission Chapel, 525 W. Napa St. in Sonoma.