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Vivian Chaya Hannawalt, a longtime BART in-house attorney and one of the few women to graduate from Stanford Law School in the 1950s, died Monday after battling cancer. She was 72. “She was one of the few women who passed the bar” in 1956, said Hannawalt’s son, James. The State Farm in-house attorney recalled that these early accomplishments generated a newspaper story. “She was always proud that she was able to do that.” Hannawalt was born Vivian Chaya in Utica, N.Y., the daughter of Polish immigrants. She was a stellar student and graduated from the University of Chicago in 1949 at the age of 18. A year later, she met and married Willis Hannawalt, who became a partner at what was then known as Pillsbury, Madison & Sutro. The couple celebrated their 53rd wedding anniversary in September. Vivian Hannawalt went on to earn a masters degree in public administration in 1954 and graduated from Stanford Law School in 1955. She spent several years raising her children but also took on pro bono work during that time. Some of those cases dealt with school busing and desegregation, said her son, adding that her work helped inspire him to go to law school. Hannawalt worked as an in-house attorney for BART for 11 years, retiring in 1991. Co-workers say Hannawalt was respected for delving into complex issues, including federal contracts and legal work that paved the way for BART extensions to Pittsburg, Dublin and Colma. Department head clients raved about how Hannawalt anticipated their needs and got work done fast, said Shirley Nakao a BART attorney. “She would be the only one to get flowers from clients,” Nakao said. While some in-house attorneys might get flustered when BART officials questioned why the legal department changed its stance on an issue, Hannawalt was cool-headed and firm. “She would smile and say, ‘That was then. This is now,’” Nakao recalled. “Sometimes you have to tell clients news they don’t want to hear,” said Andrea “Andie” Ravas, another in-house lawyer. “She commanded respect.” Hannawalt was an avid opera lover who had a dry, playful wit. When she was struck by an awkward passage of legalese in a document, she had it stitched in needlepoint and hung in her office, said John Vickland, associate general counsel at BART. Hannawalt doted on her six grandchildren, was an avid library volunteer, and self-published a few books about her family, said another BART attorney, J. Ramiro Salazar. Hannawalt is survived by her husband; her brother Dudley Frank Chaya; children Nina Hannawalt, James Hannawalt and Rachel Milbrodt; and six grandchildren. Services will be Monday at Duggan’s Serra Mortuary, 500 Westlake Ave., in Daly City. The family has requested that donations be sent to Friends of the San Francisco Public Library, 100 Larkin St., San Francisco CA 94102.

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