In Memoriam - Kamala Rao (October 30, 1972 - June 27, 2018)
Kamala Shanthi Rao was a loving partner and mother, caring friend and a passionate and conscientious planner. Born and raised in Alaska, Kamala’s love of the outdoors began early in life. She was an avid climber, back country skier and camper and cyclist. Kamala would continue her love of the outdoors while living in Oregon, Colorado, Washington State and later settling in British Columbia.
As a woman of mixed-race, Kamala seamlessly celebrated both her Indian and North American heritage, wearing a stunning red sari for her wedding, challenging friends to multicultural cooking contests, and celebrating her love affair with the Pacific Northwest’s IPAs.
Kamala completed a Bachelor of Science degree in physics at the University of Oregon (1996) and a Master of Science at University of British Columbia’s School of Community and Regional Planning (2004) with a focus on transportation planning.
Those who were part of Kamala’s cohort at graduate school experienced an intelligent colleague who spoke eloquently about planning issues facing society today. She will also be remembered fondly as one of the best theme party organizers and costumers ever - the reason many of us still have wigs lying around… just in case!
Her passion for transportation planning and the public realm was confirmed in her thesis for SCARP titled, “Alaskan Way: Viaduct Replacement Project.” This foundational work and her experiences with the outdoors instilled a keen sense of environmentalism that would carry forward in her volunteer work as board chair of Sightline Institute - working at the intersection of environmental health and social justice; as well as her work as a board member of the Peoples’ Waterfront Coalition to reclaim Seattle’s highway waterfront as a place for people.
Kamala had a successful career as a transportation planner and project manager working with Opus Hamilton Ltd. following graduate school in 2004 and moving on to work with TransLink in 2007. Kamala’s work included pedestrian, cycling and transit plans for municipalities across British Columbia as well as major projects with TransLink - executing an operational readiness program for the Millennium Line Broadway Extension and working on the redesign of the Broadway SkyTrain Station (currently under construction).
She was smart, sassy, fiercely loyal and adventurous. She cared deeply about the state of the world, and everyone in it. Even in her last days she was arranging meals for her friend, a new mom, who lives clear across the continent.
After losing her battle with cancer, Kamala leaves behind her wonderful husband Bryn Davidson - her partner of over 18 years and her sweet, four-year old son Bei (Bubba) and many family members and friends across North America. We will dearly remember a profound woman who made everyone’s lives a little bit brighter and whose ‘sparkle’ will live on with us forever.