In Memoriam

This page is dedicated to Soroptimist federation officers who have recently passed away. They will be missed for their dedication to Soroptimist and our mission of improving the lives of women and girls.
Takiko Hayaishi

SIA sadly reports the passing of 2003-2004 SIA President Takiko Hayaishi, 98, a member of SI/Kyoto-Miyako (Japan Chuo Region) since 1980. Takiko recounted in her own words how she came to be involved with Soroptimist: “Kayoko Sen, founder governor [in Japan] and founder of SI clubs in Japan, invited me to become the charter president of the 100th club chartered in Japan. The reason I became a member was because I was impressed with the organization and agreed with the philosophy of Soroptimist – to serve for the advancement of the status of women and for the realization for equal rights. Since childhood, I have been concerned about women’s position in society and about equal rights. Therefore, when I was invited to Soroptimist in 1980, I felt honored to be one of the members to work for the implementation of Soroptimist objectives, which were the same as my long-cherished ideals.”

After serving as the charter president of SI/Kyoto-Miyako, Takiko held multiple committee chair assignments in the Japan Region (before it was divided into five regions) and Japan Chuo Region. She served on Japan Chuo Region’s board of directors as a board member (1990-1992), secretary (1992-1994), and governor (1994-1996). She was recognized as a distinguished governor each year of her term.

Takiko was elected a member of the 1996-2000 Soroptimist Foundation’s Board of Directors. During her term, the Foundation increased the number of region awards for the Live Your Dream Awards, and increased focus on other programs, such as the Soroptimist Club Grants (then known as the Making a Difference for Women grants). Takiko was instrumental in assisting the clubs in Japan with workshops on preparing Soroptimist grant applications and understanding the work of the Foundation through SIA’s programs.

Takiko served as an SIA board director during 2000-2002, and was elected as the 2002-2003 SIA President-elect before taking SIA’s highest office in September 2003. The SIA Board re-engaged with long-range strategic planning during Takiko’s four years on the SIA board. During her term as president, SIA established the Renaissance Campaign, which ran through 2011. The success of the Renaissance Campaign in turn led to the successful recent conclusion of the 2012-2021 SIA goal of “Increased Collective Impact” and to the establishment of our 2021-2031 goal to “invest in the dreams of half a million women and girls through access to education.”

Takiko was the first SIA president from Japan, and from SIA’s countries in Asia. Her presidency marked the first time SIA’s members had the opportunity to have three successive SIA presidents from each of the three continents that make up the federation. The three presidents (2001-2002 President Nordelia Gradowski from Brazil, 2002-2003 President Nancy Walker from the United States, and 2003-2004 President Takiko) sponsored the Presidential Alliance for Excellence, promoting Soroptimist club growth while focusing on the work of the federation in a global community.

Takiko continued her active club membership following her presidential term, and was regularly in attendance at meetings until the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

SIA sends its deepest condolences to Takiko’s, daughter Mariko Akizuki, a frequent companion and translator for Takiko at many Soroptimist conferences and conventions, and Mariko’s family, as well as all the Soroptimists who were touched by her inspirational and forward-thinking leadership. 

Janet Simonds

It is with great sadness that we acknowledge the loss of 1978-1980 SIA President Janet Simonds on Friday, July 9, 2021, in Worcester, Massachusetts. Janet joined the Soroptimist club in Worcester in 1955, shortly after beginning her career as certified public account that would span 43 years.  he remained active in her club until it disbanded in 1992. 

Prior to serving as SIA President, Janet served as treasurer, lieutenant governor and governor of the New England (later Northeastern) Region before serving two terms as SIA’s treasurer (1972-1976) and president-elect (1976-1978).

The UN International Year of the Child in 1979, as well as her own interests, led to a focus on youth elements in Soroptimist, including work on the Young Soroptimist, and how changing lifestyles impacted younger women coming into the workforce and into Soroptimist. During an oral history interview with SIA in 2017, Janet exemplified a keen interested in Dream It, Be It: Career Support for Girls, and how it was researched, developed and launched.

Janet’s financial acumen greatly assisted the federation during the turbulent economic times of the 1970s and was of great assistance during her term as president of the Soroptimist Foundation from 1980 to 1982 as it changed its governance in 1981 from a deed of gift to a charitable incorporation.

Janet was active in professional CPA associations, her church and her community beyond Soroptimist, including at various times the YWCA/YMCA, the Central Massachusetts Board of Children’s Protective Services, and Anna Maria College.

SIA extends its deepest condolences to Janet’s family, including nieces Jane Barry Flynn, Virginia Barry McCrae, Martha Barry Caron, and nephew John “Jack” Barry. Remembrances by Soroptimists may be left on her memorial page

Cheri Fleming

It is with profound sadness and loss that we share the news that 2013-2014 SIA President Cheri Fleming, passed away on November 16. Cheri filled every room she entered with love, laughter and her unfailingly kind presence. Her dedication and generosity to our mission will never be forgotten.

A remarkable philanthropist and volunteer, Cheri Fleming was an advocate for change. She joined Soroptimist in 1999 and contributed her extraordinary character, commitment to women and girls, and leadership to help guide the organization for over two decades. During her tenure as president, the Board approved the new name for the Live Your Dream: Education and Training Awards for Women, as well as the development of a new program for girls: Dream It, Be It: Career Support for Girls. Cheri worked tirelessly to grow the reach of these programs during her time on the board and beyond.

Cheri and her husband, Don, were the owners of Valencia Acura, a dealership they purchased in Santa Clarita, California in 1997. In addition to her dedication to Soroptimist, she served as an active member of numerous boards, including chair-elect for the Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital, where she spent 15 years as a foundation board director and two terms as chairwoman, board chairwoman for the Child and Family Center, and director since 2003 for the local American Cancer Society Unit Council.

In memoriam of her lifetime of contributions, the Fleming family created the Cheri Fleming Legacy Fund which will directly aid the Soroptimist mission to help women and girls around the world live their dreams. 

Ruth Klotz

SIA sadly reports the passing of 1974-1976 federation president Ruth Klotz, 98, on November 14, 2020. A member of SI/Des Moines, IA (North Central Region), Ruth was first recruited to be a member of the Des Moines Venture club when she was hired as a secretary by the president of the American Institute of Business in Des Moines. It was there that she came into contact with colleague, Elsie Fenton, a charter member of the Des Moines club who would go on to serve as federation president herself from 1952-1954. She joined the club in 1959.

Ruth served as the 1964-1966 North Central Region Governor, followed by service as the federation secretary, vice president, and president-elect.

As president, Ruth celebrated many accomplishments:

  • Served during International Women's Year in 1975, and the beginning of the UN's Decade for Women (1975-1985).
  • Charted the theme of "Women Helping Women," which helped lay the foundations of additional women-focused work by Soroptimist clubs for decades to come.
  • First Soroptimist officer to travel to Japan for their conference, during which the Japanese clubs requested to become an SIA region in 1976.
  • Served when the McCall Pattern Company approached Soroptimist about extending the reach of the new federation program—now known as the Live Your Dream Awards (then called the Training Award Program). The partnership with McCall enabled the federation to give an additional 125 awards in 1976-1979.

Ruth was a director of The Soroptimist Foundation from 1978 until 1988, serving as the Foundation president from 1981-1984 and 1986-1988. During her tenure on the foundation board, the foundation's endowment reached the $2 million mark, and plans for a campaign to raise the endowment assets to $5 million were launched in 1988. These efforts helped secure the future of Soroptimist's mission into the 21st century.

A graduate of Drake University Law School, Ruth established her own practice and later worked in a law firm and in the banking and trust field. Her career culminated in her appointment to Iowa's 5th Circuit as a probate referee; she retired as an associate judge at the age of 90. Her legal expertise became an invaluable asset to Soroptimist committees focused on governance and management.

Ruth actively continued her Soroptimist membership well into her 90s. She has inspired multiple generations of women and Soroptimists during her long and distinguished professional and voluntary careers. As a result, she was inducted into the Iowa Women's Hall of Fame in 2019.

Ruth is survived by her daughter, Holly Klotz, son-in-law David Simpson, and two grandchildren. Information regarding services can be found here.

Pictured left, Tex with best friend Joyce Byrne (1990-1992 SIA President).
Photo credit: Cathy Standiford
F.V. “Tex” Cornwell

We are sad to report that F.V. “Tex” Cornwell, 1989-1990 President of the Soroptimist Foundation passed away on October 12. Tex joined Soroptimist in 1976 and was a member of several Soroptimist clubs over the course of her years of Soroptimist membership, primarily as a member of SI of La Mesa, CA. During her term as the President of the Soroptimist Foundation, she initiated the 5 in 5 Campaign to raise $5 million in five years. The campaign ran from 1988 - 1993 and increased the assets of the Foundation to secure the financial future of the organization. At the Foundation, she also served as Secretary/Treasurer 1988-1989 and as a Director 1986 – 1990. She also served as Desert Coast Region Treasurer from 1980-1982.

Tex served in the US Marines, received her MBA and worked as a tax preparer and financial advisor. In addition to her dedication to Soroptimist, she was a longtime advocate of the rights of senior people to live with dignity in their own homes through her involvement with ElderHelp. For four decades, a region, federation or Soroptimist International meeting was not complete with Tex and her best friend, Joyce Byrne (1990-1992 SIA President). Our heartfelt condolences are with all who loved Tex. Tex’s services will be held Thursday November 12, 1:30 pm at Miramar National Cemetery. The address is 5795 Nobel Drive, San Diego, CA 92122.


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