Remembering Honorary Fellow Jeanne Ames

Goodbye, Jeanne, with our hearts full of thanks and sadness

On July 8, 2011, with grace, sweetness, bravery and brilliance Jeanne Ames negotiated her final mediation.

Jeanne T. Ames, a professional mediator in child care disputes for many years, died July 8 of multiple illnesses at a rehabilitation hospital in Kentfield. She was 85.

Jeanne was the director of the San Francisco Family Court Services agency until she retired in 1985. She then went into private practice as a mediator in children’s care cases and worked until within a few months of her death.

Jeanne was a founder of Kids’ Turn, a internationally recognized organization providing workshops for parents and children undergoing separation or divorce. She was the force behind mandatory mediation for child custody cases in the state of California and tirelessly dedicated herself to families in crisis. She was honored by the Northern California chapter of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers for her contributions to the field.

Ms. Ames was a fourth-generation San Franciscan. Her ancestors came to California by sea around Cape Horn during the Gold Rush. She was born on Feb. 3, 1926, in San Francisco. Her father was Robert Toner, who was the San Francisco public defender.

Ms. Ames attended local schools, graduated from Stanford University and married San Francisco Judge Fitzgerald Ames. Judge Ames died in 1970, and in 2002, Ms. Ames married Sam Kagel, a nationally famous labor arbitrator and mediator.

The two had been companions for years. “He wanted to elope to Reno, but I talked him out of it,” she said. “Instead, we eloped to Sam’s Grill.” Sam’s is an old-time San Francisco restaurant, and the couple were married in booth No. 4 by retired Judge Isabella Horton Grant. Frank Morelli, a waiter, and Gary Seput, who owned Sam’s at the time, were the witnesses.

It was a bit of a May-December marriage. The bride was 76 and the groom was 93. Kagel died in 2007 at the age of 98.

She was a very elegant, brilliant woman, thoughtful and calm,” said her daughter, Meli Cook. “She had style and always wore high heels. She would wear high heels to the beach if she could.”

In addition to Cook, who lives in Sausalito, Ms. Ames is survived by daughter Katherine Cook of Emeryville; a son, Walter Cook of San Francisco; and two grandchildren.

A celebration of her life will be held August 25, 2011 at 5:00 pm at the First Unitarian Church (Franklin at Geary) in San Francisco.