Thursday, March 20, 2014 | return to: lifecycles, deaths



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Marion Schwartz Blechman (Schwartzberg)

9_Gdeaths_marian_schwartzWas born in Poland on Dec. 2, 1908. She and her parents, Bella and Mendel Schwartzberg, and her sisters, Sylvia and Teresa, lived in a small village near the Russian border. The untimely death of her father left her mother unable to support all of the children. In 1921, at the age of 13, Marian and her cousin Fayga left their families in Poland to make a journey to the United States to live with relatives in San Francisco.

She quickly learned the English language, attended public school, became a U.S. citizen and worked as a sales clerk in several San Francisco downtown department stores. In 1931 she married Manny Schwartz (a handsome Jewish boy from New York City). He was the love of her life. They were happily married for 42 years.

Later in the 1930s she brought her mother and two sisters from Poland to live in San Francisco. Marian and Manny had three children and she was a stay-at-home mom until the mid-’50s and then returned to work. She became a top salesperson, winning an award for the “Outstanding Sales Person in San Francisco.”

Marian lost her beloved Manny in 1972. Several years later she married for a second time to David Blechman. They traveled far and wide and had many enjoyable years together — they were married for 20 years. Marian has always lived in the Bay Area, as do her children and many friends and relatives.

Marian had a winning personality and kind mannerism. She was an energetic, positive person and is loved very much by everyone who knew her. She is the matriarch of our family. Marian was so happy to have lived at the Jewish Home during the last 10 years of her life. The Jewish Home provided compassionate and excellent care — her family is so grateful.

She is survived by her children Simon (Carolyn), Gail (Jack) and Maureen; her grandchildren Matthew (Patricia), Lauren, Jennifer and Erika; and great-grandchildren Olivia and Ella.

To honor her memory, if you so desire, please make your donation to the Jewish Home of San Francisco, 302 Silver Ave., S.F., CA 94112.

Sinai Memorial Chapel (415) 921-3636


Wallace V. Epstein, M.D.

Dec. 10, 1926–Feb. 19, 2014

After a short illness, Wallace (Wally) Epstein, M.D., professor emeritus of the University of California School of Medicine, passed away in his home.

9_Gdeaths_wallace_epsteinHis interest in science began at DeWitt Clinton High School in the Bronx, New York. Wally was an avid lover of classical music. In high school he played trombone with the student orchestra of the Juilliard School of Music, and after his retirement he enjoyed studying the cello. Wally attended the City College of New York until he was drafted into the Army in 1944.

He attended Columbia University’s School of Medicine for Physicians and Surgeons, where he trained in the field of rheumatology. Wally was recruited to the faculty of the University of California School of Medicine by Dr. Ephraim Engleman in 1957. Wally’s areas of expertise included rheumatoid factor, eye manifestations of rheumatic disease, and treatment of severe systemic lupus erythematosus. He served on the admissions committee at UCSF and played a pivotal role in changing the face of the UCSF medical school class by advocating effectively for admission of women and students of color.

From 1974 to 1989, Wally and Dr. Hal Holman of the Stanford School of Medicine co-directed the Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholars Program. The UCSF/Stanford program investigated socioeconomic aspects of health care.

Wally was an accomplished woodworker, creating unique hardwood music stands, tables and boxes. He was a beloved mentor and teacher with a quick wit and sense of humor. He co-directed the UCSF annual board review course in rheumatology for the last 20 years.

He is survived by his wife, Sherrie, who was his high school sweetheart, two daughters, Eve (Ross Jaffe) and Carolyn Epstein, a son, Gordon Epstein, M.D. (Marsha), three granddaughters, Jenny and Brooke Jaffe and Hayley Epstein, and two grandsons, Daniel and Zachary Epstein.

The family would appreciate donations in Wally’s memory to be directed to the Wallace Epstein Endowment, created to train young investigators in rheumatology and autoimmune diseases, or to Pathways Hospice. Checks for the endowment should be made out to UCSF Foundation, with a notation in support of the Wallace Epstein Endowment, Attn: Darrell Young, 220 Montgomery St., 5th floor, San Francisco, CA 94104. The address for Pathways Hospice is 585 N. Mary Ave., Sunnyvale, CA 94085.

Leonard Fixler

Sept. 12, 1922–Feb. 26, 2014

Beloved husband, brother, father and grandfather, survivor of a Holocaust death march and two concentration camps.

9_Gdeaths_leonard_fixlerLeonard Fixler passed away peacefully at home on Feb. 26, 2014 after a brief illness.

Leonard was born in Tachavo, Czechoslovakia, as one of 16 children of a banker and furrier. He recalled a wonderful childhood. Once the hostilities began, he was forced to flee Czechoslovakia as the Hungarians invaded. For the next few years he hid his Jewish identity and worked in Budapest with his older brother Simon, until they were turned in and sent to different labor camps. With the Russians closing in, Leonard was taken by cattle car to different sites to build bunkers. At one train stop, other prisoners were tossed into his car and, by fate, one was his brother, Simon, whom he had not seen for years.

Together, he and Simon survived being enslaved at work camps, and then Mauthausen, and kept each other alive for the five-month forced death march. They had nothing to eat but “grass, snails and air.” More than one time, Leonard broke ranks to forage for food, machine gun bullets chasing him back into line while killing others nearby. It was the dream of his favorite food, “pasta with poppy seeds,” that kept him alive as he was sleeping standing up back-to-back with Simon; for to sit was to be shot.

After the war, Leonard worked for the American Occupation Forces and was relocated to Canada where he met his beloved Helen Nudler, to whom he was married for 63 years. Living in Oakland since 1956, Leonard was a successful small businessman. He owned Leonard’s Clothing in East Oakland, where he counted many Raiders and Athletics as clients. As longtime president of the Men’s Club at Temple Beth Abraham, Leonard was often host to the regular breakfasts, dinners and poker games.

Always one with the best jokes, and the most clear-eyed outlook on human nature, he was a true survivor. Once asked about working in tough neighborhoods, he replied, “In Mauthausen I was afraid, never here.” Both Leonard and Helen were interviewed by the Spielberg Shoah project and visited many schools to speak about their experiences. For these educational efforts, both of them were honored with a resolution by the California State Assembly. He felt it was important that the world must never forget.

After retirement, he and Helen traveled the world on dozens of cruises. He loved meals and gatherings with his large family, telling and retelling stories. A devout yet tolerant man, Leonard often attended services at both Beth Abraham and Beth Jacob.

Leonard is survived by his wife, Helen, daughters Marleen Brodsky and Hedy Huntsman, brother Simon Fixler, sisters Eva Katz and Blanche Lachmanovich, and six grandchildren. Leonard was laid to rest next to his son Alan at Mountain View Cemetery in Oakland.


Batya (Betty Lee) Kalis

Died March 9, 2014 at the San Francisco Jewish Home. Member of Congregation Sha’ar Zahav for over 30 years, she was a community pioneer in authoring gender-neutral liturgy and translations of Torah and in mentoring rabbis, b’nai mitzvahs and service leaders on gender inclusiveness in Judaism.

Born July 7, 1923, she grew up in the Midwest, was orphaned early by the deaths of parents Philip and Esther Kalis and raised by her late sister Dorothy Hodes. She was also predeceased by brothers Royal, Sherman and Jerome. Along with her Jewish leadership, she was active in the early desegregation movement at alma mater University of Kansas, a WAC during World War II, earned her Ph.D. in psychology (UCB), was department head at Langley-Porter, clinical faculty at UCSF, and was a poet, painter and avid bridge player.

In addition to Miriam Trentman-Morelli and many other dear Bay Area friends, she is survived by niece Ina Hodes Winick, nephews Philip and Herbert Hodes and many grand- and great- nieces and nephews.

Sinai Memorial Chapel (415) 921-3636


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