SAN JOSE -- Long after her tenure as a Santa Clara City Councilwoman ended, Aldyth Parle remained a fixture in the South Bay political scene. At 89, she continued to serve as an elected member of the Santa Clara County Democratic Party, as well as a board member for the Mission City Community Fund.

Parle, who served on the council from 1996-2004, was killed Thursday night in a car accident as she was driving home from a monthly Democratic Party meeting, according to her friends and city officials.

"Aldyth epitomized what public service should be: a deep love for community, a passion for making it better and setting a high ethical standard," Santa Clara Mayor Jamie Matthews said. "And as a result, no one was more effective or beloved than Aldyth.

"It's a tragic loss for Santa Clara."

John McLemore, a close friend of Parle's who served with her on the City Council, said Parle was driving home from a monthly meeting of the Santa Clara County Democratic Party when the accident happened on Coleman Avenue, near Aviation Avenue.

San Jose police said Parle was driving a Buick at 8:39 p.m. Thursday when she rear-ended a Toyota Camry, veered off the road and crashed into a pole. They are exploring the cause of death, including whether a medical emergency preceded the crash.

Following the accident, Parle was rushed to Valley Medical Center, where she died at 9:26 p.m.

"She was an ardent Democrat who loved Democrats, Republicans and Independents equally because of how positive she was and open to everyone's ideas and trying to get things done for everyone," said McLemore, who was at the hospital when Parle died.

In tweets Friday morning, San Jose Councilman Ash Kalra said Parle "will be sorely missed" and state Sen. Jim Beall said her "passing is a blow to our community."

Parle was 71 when she was first elected to the Santa Clara City Council, having lost in four previous attempts to get voted in, McLemore said. Before her time on the council, Parle worked for more than 40 years as a registered nurse, public health nurse and public health manager for Santa Clara County.

Parle was well-known in the South Bay political scene. She was an active supporter of the Bill Wilson Center in San Jose and was a board member of the Mission City Community Fund, McLemore said. Parle was also an active member of the Calvary United Methodist Church in San Jose.

"Aldyth was such an energetic and positive person," McLemore said. "Everyone remembers her as being such a positive person despite so many negative social ills and political conditions in the community that she served."

"She knew everybody because of her energy levels and involvement in so many things," McLemore said.

Parle never married and did not have children, McLemore said. She had a brother who was missing-in-action in the Korean War and she was an "ardent supporter of veterans affairs."

The city is flying its flags at half-staff for the next 10 days to mourn her passing, Santa Clara Mayor Jamie Matthews said.

Contact Mark Gomez at 408-920-5869. Follow him on Twitter @MarkMgomez.