Thursday, March 1, 2012 | return to: lifecycles, deaths



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Bruce Kelny Denebeim

Beloved husband and cherished father, passed away on February 22, 2012, three days after his 85th birthday. He had been recently diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. His final days were spent comfortably with his family in his new apartment, with a view of the Bay and the sailboats that he so enjoyed. Despite being somewhat forgetful these last couple of years, Bruce remained cheerful and upbeat, continuing to show the wisdom, wit, charm and intellect that characterized his life. His frequent observation, “I’m still able to sit up and take nourishment, and here’s to another day!” always made people smile and feel comfortable to be around him.

Bruce was born February 19, 1927 in Kansas City, Mo., the second son of Meyer L. and Evelyn Lerner Denebeim. He grew up with his older brother, James Everett Denebeim (deceased 2004), and younger brother, Robert Samuel Denebeim (deceased 2005), who continued to be his closest companions and business partners throughout a successful career as a lawyer, banker, lobbyist and entrepreneur.

After graduation from Bryant Elementary School and Southwest High School in Kansas City, Bruce attended the University of Missouri where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Business and Public Administration, with a major in Economics and a minor in Political Science. In 1951, he graduated with a Doctor of Jurisprudence from the University of Missouri Law School and was admitted to both the Missouri (1951) and California (1956) Bar.

As a member of Zeta Beta Tau fraternity at Missouri, he met his bride-to-be, Beverley Anne Bellamy, at a sorority picnic in the spring of 1950. They were married February 7, 1954 in Kansas City. Having spent a summer at Stanford Law School, Bruce experienced the beauty of the Bay Area. At the behest of brother Jim, who wanted to start his own law practice, Bev and Bruce moved to San Francisco with their first-born, Anne Kelny, and began Denebeim and Denebeim, Law Partners at 583 Market St. The practice was short-lived when, only a year later, a friend convinced Bruce and Jim to start an insurance premium finance business. With the addition of their third brother, Bob, they created the Commonwealth Thrift Company in 1957. Bruce worked as General Counsel and was responsible for legislation, acting as a legislative advocate exclusively for the company. The modest business grew and eventually evolved into a long and distinguished career for Bruce in the San Francisco banking community.

By 1963, Bruce and his brothers purchased First National Bank of Vista, and in 1968, thanks to a loan from City National Bank, purchased Golden Gate National Bank from local banker Jake Shemano to form Liberty National Bank. Bruce assumed responsibility for the bank’s Loan Adjustment Department, Trust Department, Bank Security and served on the Executive Committee. The successful growth of Liberty National Bank led to its purchase by the Standard Chartered Bank in 1974. Bruce continued as a Director and Senior Executive Vice President, acting as General Counsel in the newly christened Charter Bank of London. By 1980, Standard Chartered purchased Union Bank, merging it with Charter Bank of London. Bruce retired as Senior Vice President and Counsel, Northern California from Union Bank in 1982. However, retirement didn’t last long when brother Jim asked him to help form a new bank in 1983. The Pacific Bank was born and Bruce spent the next ten years as its in-house counsel and participated in establishing an Insurance Premium Finance Department for the Bank. In a remarkable twist, the Pacific Bank was sold in 2000 to City National Bank, which had first financed the Denebeim brothers many years before.

Bruce retired from Pacific Bank in 1993 and returned to practicing law with an interest in financial and related legal matters, representing a number of California premium finance organizations. He remained an active member of the California Bar Association until 2006.

Throughout his life, Bruce pursued a variety of interests and hobbies. Chief among these was his deep passion for sailing and yachting, which he enjoyed for most of his life. As the owner of “Cygnet,” an Islander 36, he was a dedicated member of the St. Francis Yacht Club where he and Beverley enjoyed an active social life. The Club was a source of many friendships and good times over the years for Bev and Bruce as they served on numerous committees, such as the Tinsley Toilers and the Cruise Committee. Bruce was also Curator and a member of the Board of Directors.

Bruce was an accomplished marksman, gun enthusiast, passionate photographer and amateur military historian with a particular interest in the Napoleonic era. He was an avid reader and opera buff, loved to ski and travel, collected coins, hats, walking canes, oil paintings of sailing ships and rare books on naval history. He loved good rum, fine wine, pipes and an occasional cigar; he spent weekends washing his cars, shining shoes, walking dogs, riding bicycles and schlepping children. He was a man of intellectual substance while always exuding class and good taste. He reveled in being appropriately and nattily attired; he would often brag about the fact he never owned or ever wore a pair of blue jeans! Many people will remember that Bruce always wore a rosebud in his suit lapel.

Bruce served his community by lending his considerable talents to numerous boards and organizations throughout his adult life. A fifty-year member of Congregation Emanu-El, he served two terms as President of the Board. Dedicated to his Jewish faith, he was a staunch supporter of numerous Jewish organizations and the modern State of Israel. He was a member of the Concordia-Argonaut Club, California Bankers Association, California Bar Association, Meningitis Research Foundation and the St. Francis Wood Home Owners Association.

To his family, and all those who knew him, his greatest legacies were his towering strength of character, integrity, compassion, intellect and complete devotion to his wife and family. Bruce is survived by his adoring wife of 58 years, Beverley, his five children, Anne Kelny Denebeim of San Francisco (George Calys), Rabbi Yonason Levi Denebeim of Palm Springs (Sussie), Kirk Daniel Denebeim of Larkspur (Sabrina), Amy Lerner Denebeim Dean of Kentfield (Christopher Dean) and Keith Webster Denebeim of Mill Valley (Marie), 22 grandchildren, 10 great-grandchildren and his brothers’ wives (Libby Denebeim of San Francisco and Helene Denebeim of Belvedere) and their children and grandchildren.

The family would like to sincerely thank the incredible and unforgettable assistance of Lynette, Julia, Litiana, Simone and Hospice by the Bay, who filled Bruce’s final months and days with love, compassionate care and devoted attention.

Private burial was held at Home of Peace Cemetery. A memorial service was held March 1, 2012, at Congregation Emanu-El, Arguello and Lake streets, in San Francisco.

His family suggests that those who wish to honor Bruce’s memory consider contributions to Congregation Emanu-El, Hospice by the Bay or their favorite charity. May his memory be a blessing. “Baruch Hashem.”

Morton Neil Felix

Morton Neil Felix, poet, playwright and clinical psychologist, devoted husband, father and grandfather, died at home in Berkeley on February 20, 2012.

Born in New York City on January 14, 1935, he was educated at Queens College, New York, and the University of Connecticut, from which he received a Ph.D. in psychology. Felix had a lifelong interest in poetry and the arts. He was a founding editor of the Wormwood Review, a poetry magazine begun in1959. He published numerous full-length books of poetry, most recently “The Lilacs of Yearning” (2010). His powerful voice and physical presence highlighted his many readings in the San Francisco Bay Area and in New York.

Morton was also the author of two novels and a number of full-length and one-act plays. The Squaw Valley Writers’ Conference showcased his work, “This Side of Felony,” and San Francisco’s American Conservatory Theatre produced “A Palette of Leaves” in their “Plays in Progress Series,” with eight performances in 1980.

A resident of Berkeley since 1967, Felix’s passions ranged from opera and ballet to horse-racing and politics. A man of tremendous energy, curiosity and compassion, he continued practicing clinical psychology, writing poetry and planning creative projects through his final illness.

He is survived by his wife of 54 years, artist Susan Duhan Felix of Berkeley, daughter Lisa Felix Smartt of Napa, and granddaughter Eliana Derr of Berkeley.

Tax-deductible donations in Morton’s memory can be sent to the Morton Felix Memorial Fund at Chochmat HaLev, 2215 Prince St., Berkeley CA 94705.

Gerda Fischer

Gerda Fischer died on February 10 in San Francisco at age 88. A native of Vienna and a Holocaust survivor, she wrote powerfully of her childhood and wartime experiences in an unpublished memoir, “Gateway to My Mind.” Fischer (aka Vera Darosci) was also a brilliant poet whose works reflect her love of nature, intellectual curiosity and embrace of Judaism.

She will be remembered as a woman of great courage and spirit. Against all odds, she was able to love and be loved, to laugh, and to create works of intense beauty in clay, paint and especially words: “My scribbled notes like droplets sink, to germinate and bloom in future years. I close my eyes, relax my brow, and cover them with prayers” (from the poem “Planting”).

Charlotte Ostroff

Peacefully passed away at home with her family by her side. Beloved wife of the late Harry Ostroff; predeceased by her daughter Susan Miles and granddaughter Samantha Green.

Lovingly remembered by her daughter Barbara (Richard) Green, grandchildren Scott Miles, Brad (Sonia) Green and Michael Green.

Private family services were held on February 27, 2012 at the Hills of Eternity Memorial Park, Colma. Donations to Sutter Hospice of San Mateo, preferred.

Sinai Memorial Chapel

Herbert Rosenbaum

November 26, 1920–February 25, 2012

91 years. Born in Hamburg, Germany. At age 16, he came alone to the USA to escape the Holocaust.

Shortly after arriving, he worked very hard in the fields of Salinas. Herb would say it was “slave labor.” He moved to San Francisco and started working at Leland Company. He worked his way up from cutting keys to becoming general manager of a multimillion-dollar wholesale hardware and plumbing supply company.

In September 1944 at the San Francisco JCC Yom Kippur dance, he met the love of his life, Ilse Goldschmidt. They got married May 1, 1945, lived in S.F. and then moved to San Carlos with their son Daniel.

Herbert was a master bridge and chess player. He was involved in forming and was a charter member of the Burlingame/San Mateo chess club. Herb and Ilse were active members of Congregation Beth Jacob. Herb was a past president of the congregation and also served on the board of directors of the Sequoia Hospital Foundation for 9 years. Herb’s love of Israel was unwavering. He conducted lectures and contributed to many charities on her behalf.

At the young ripe age of 51 he retired and with his beloved wife traveled the world spanning many countries and continents.

 Herb was preceded in death by his son, Daniel. He is survived by his loving wife, Ilse, sister-in-law Stefi Rudolph, daughter-in-law Naomi Garelick, niece Sharon Bendz (Walley), Denise Elbert (Arcadi), nephew Gary Rudolph (Ophra), granddaughter Carly Johnson, great-nieces and nephews Aliza, Jeremy, Aaron, Alexander and Isabelle. Can’t forget the great-granddog Maggie Mae.

The family requests donations be made to Pathways Hospice Foundation, (408) 730-1200, or the American Heart Association.

Sinai Memorial Chapel.

Rachel Safar

In Santa Clara, CA, February 19, 2012. Beloved wife of the late Nathan Safar. Loving mother of Avi Safar (Kim), Rami Safar and Beki Safar. Devoted grandmother of David Safar. Dear sister of Moshe Porath and Lipa Porath (Cheli). A native of Romania, age 79 years.

Funeral services and interment have been held at Home of Peace Cemetery, Colma.

Sinai Memorial Chapel.

Erna Wertheim

January 26, 1907–February 25, 2012

Less than 1 month after her joyous 105th birthday family celebration, Erna Wertheim passed away peacefully at the Stratford in San Mateo, her home for the past 19 years.

Born Erna Lehrburger, she grew up in Munich, Germany, where she later married her first love, Herman Wertheim. Along with their six-month-old baby, they immigrated to San Francisco in 1936 to escape the Nazi regime.

An elegant, refined lady, Erna possessed a brilliant mind and was an excellent businesswoman. She and Herman began working in the clothing business, ran their own cleaning store for a few short years, and then went on to real estate, where they ultimately operated Wertheim Realty until their mid-60s, when they retired.

A natural athlete, Erna loved to swim (which she did well into her 90s) and play golf, and in her younger years she loved tennis, too. She was an excellent bridge player and enjoyed playing until shortly before her 100th birthday. Over the years, she was active in Hadassah, Brandeis Women and Temple Emanu-El Sisterhood.

She was a gracious hostess and a wonderful friend to so many. But most of all she was a loving wife to the late Herman, a wonderful mother to her daughter, Lee (Lilo), and son-in-law Frank Battat, an adoring grandmother to Mark Battat, Michael and Susan Battat and Suzanne and Frank Dowling, and a much loved great-grandmother to Hannah Battat and Aidan and Cian Dowling. She will be greatly missed by all who were fortunate enough to have known her. Funeral services were held February 29, 2012, at Home of Peace Cemetery Chapel, Colma. In lieu of flowers, please make donations to the Wertheim Senior Assistance fund at Jewish Family and Children’s Services, 2150 Post St., San Francisco, 94115 or to a charity of your choice.


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