It was an unusually crowded Tuesday at the Alameda County offices in Oakland.
Throngs of Castro Valley elementary schoolers had turned out to show their school spirit and love of country. Groups of 4H enthusiasts and Future Farmers of America crowded together, waiting to be acknowledged as a part of the annual agricultural month.
But for a moment, they were outnumbered by the dozens of employees hugging the back wall of the Alameda County Board of Supervisors' chambers in Oakland, many with tissues clutched in their hands, who had come to remember County Counsel Richard E. Winnie.
At once, they fell silent, in honor of a man District 3 Supervisor Wilma Chan said worked "until his very last breath" in service to the county.
Winnie served as the chief legal adviser to the county from 1998 until his death on Sunday, after a long battle with an undisclosed illness.
"It’s very heart-wrenching," said Board President Nate Miley. "He’s been suffering with an illness for quite a while, but we weren’t anticipating his passing away this weekend."
In a letter to the board, District 1 Supervisor Scott Haggerty, who is in Washington, D.C., shared fond memories of Winney—among them, being trapped together in an elevator in Paris.
"The really difficult thing for me is that he worked until his very last breath," Chan said. "We didn’t have an opportunity to say to him how much we appreciated the service that he’s given to Oakland, this county and this region."
In addition to his work for the county, Winnie also served on the boards of the Oakland Housing Authority Board of Commissions, AC Transit Retirement Board, General Counsel to the California State Association of Counties (CSAC) Finance Corporation and CalTrust and the Board of Directors of the California County Counsels’ Association, the county said in a statement.
Flags were ordered to half-staff in his memory.