Deaths

Thursday, November 15, 2012 | by

Leon Harold Fisher

Leon H. Fisher passed way peacefully October 16, 2012, at home in Atherton, California, his residence for more than 50 years, in the company of his loving family. Leon was born in Montreal, Canada on July 11, 1918, moved to San Francisco in 1920, and was naturalized as a U.S. citizen in 1925. He attended Lowell High School in San Francisco, where he met his future wife, Phyllis Kahn, and graduated as valedictorian in 1934 at the age of 15. He earned his B.S. and M.S. degrees in chemistry, in 1938 and 1940, and his Ph.D. in physics in 1943, from the University of California, Berkeley. Leon and Phyllis (Kahn) Fisher (1919-2009), his loving wife of 67 years, were married in San Francisco on December 21, 1941 and made their first home in Berkeley, CA.

Gdeaths_leon_fisher_SmallLeon’s professional life included many years as a teacher, touching the lives of numerous physics students at UC Berkeley (1943), the University of New Mexico (1944), and New York University (1946-1961). In addition to being a professor, he served as an academic administrator, at the University of Illinois, Chicago, where he was department head of Informational Engineering, and at California State University, Hayward, where he served as Dean of the School of Sciences. His dedication to teaching was evident in many positions he took post retirement, including California State University, San Jose, and Stanford University, where his course “Physics for Poets” most nearly spanned his scholarly breadth.

Leon was tapped by the Los Alamos (NM) Scientific Laboratory where he worked as a young physicist on the “Manhattan Project” from 1944-46 to help develop the first atomic bomb. In 1985, Phyllis reflected on their personal life during this historic period in her book “Los Alamos Experience.” Leon’s scientific leadership continued with his founding the First Gaseous Electronics Conference in 1948. Returning in 1961 to Northern California, Leon embarked on a career in applied physics, as manager of plasma physics at the Lockheed Missiles and Space Company (1961-1970), with a hiatus to head the plasma physics lab at General Telephone Electric Labs (1962-63). He was a Fellow of the American Physical Society.

Leon and Phyllis spent an especially rich period of their lives in Tokyo; he worked as the senior liaison scientist at the Office of Naval Research (1979-1982) to foster scientific collaboration across Asia. Living in the Roppongi district of Tokyo, they held weekly informal English conversation classes in their home. The extensive travel assignments, along with the conversation classes, led to deep friendships that lasted across continents throughout their lives.

Leon’s retirement was as full and satisfying as his professional life had been. His dedication to education continued through his service as the Teaching Excellence Chair for the Northern California Association of Phi Beta Kappa from 2000-2006. Leon volunteered at the Bechtel International Center at Stanford until 2011, teaching English classes for foreign students, continuing his tradition of “meeting people through language.” In addition to the formal teaching roles, Leon was the consummate teacher by example. His enthusiasm for learning persisted throughout his life, and inspired his family and friends. Leon’s house was always filled with the sound of music, especially opera and Schubert lieder. Books also filled the house, and his favorites included English classics from Shakespeare, Dickens and Trollope, along with stories that chronicled the family life he held in such high value, including Mordecai Richler, Thomas Mann, and Vikram Seth, among many others.

Leon’s devotion to his wife, especially in her last years, his children, and his grandchildren was truly inspirational. He was a highly engaged husband, parent, and grandparent. Leon’s warmth and kindness lives on in the fond memories of his four children, Robert A. Fisher, Lawrence E. Fisher (Valerie), Carol Fisher Slotnick (Lawrence), and David B. Fisher (Diane), his grandchildren Andy Fisher, Lael (Fisher) Woods, Jonathan Fisher, Matthew Fisher, Benjamin Slotnick, Rachel Slotnick, Gabriel Slotnick, and Danielle Fisher, and his great-grandchildren Talia, Aaron and Ryan Woods. He will be deeply missed by all who loved him.

Donations in Leon’s name may be made to the Oshman Jewish Community Seniors Program (.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)), or to Peninsula Volunteers, (http://www.penvol.org/donate).

Sinai Memorial Chapel


Lillian Foreman

Lillian Foreman of San Francisco, passed away in San Rafael California on October 30 at the age of 95. She was born in Hamilton, Ontario on June 1, 1917 to Abraham and Clara Brodsky. She married the late Hyman Foreman on June 28, 1939. They were married for 67 years. They lived in Chicago before moving to San Francisco in 1946.

Lillian worked with her late husband for forty years in their music business “Paramount Music Company” until the business was sold. She also worked as a volunteer at John Adams Adult School teaching literacy and English to limited English speaking adults.

Gdeaths_lillian_foreman.tiff_SmallIn the late 1970s she began working for the Bay Area Council on Soviet Jewry, rescuing Soviet Jews, who became know as Refuseniks, who wished to emigrate to Israel or the United States. She became co-president of the organization with John Rothmann. Disregarding her own safety, she visited the Soviet Union many times, smuggling in clothing that could be sold and converted to money for those who had been forced out of their jobs due to political retribution.

SAlong with her husband, Lillian was a world traveler who loved the performing arts. She was an original subscriber to ACT and continued attending their performances until the last year of her life.

She is survived by her three children, Robin Brasso and Ronald Foreman of San Francisco, and Jill O’Connell of Los Angeles. She is also survived by six grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

Funeral services were held November 2, 2012, at Hills of Eternity Memorial Park, Colma. In lieu of flowers, contributions to the charity of your choice is preferred.

Sinai Memorial Chapel


Erna (Ehrlich) Gruschka

March 1, 1934–Nov. 9, 2012

Beloved wife of Guenter Gruschka for almost 52 years; loving mother of Ralph (Myra) Gruschka and Cathy Gruschka (Dave Zielinski); adoring grandmother of Karen, Mark and Amy Gruschka; dear sister-in-law of Margarita and Judy Ehrlich and Peter (Becky) Gruschka; also survived by many loving nieces, nephews, cousins and friends. Cherished sister of the late George and Julius Ehrlich.

Erna was born in Germany, immigrated to Shanghai, Haifa, Montreal and finally to San Francisco, where she met and wed her husband. She worked for Chubb Insurance Company for 27 years as administrative assistant. Erna was a member of Congregation B’nai Emunah for 50 years.

Funeral services were held on Wednesday, November 14, 2012, at Sinai Memorial Chapel, S.F., followed by interment at Eternal Home Cemetery, Colma. In lieu of flowers, donations in Erna’s memory may be made to Congregation B’nai Emunah, American Diabetes Association, or the Humane Society.

Sinai Memorial Chapel


James B. Haugabook

June 3, 1936–Nov. 2, 2012

In San Francisco, after a courageous battle with heart failure and complications following a heart transplant.

James (Jim) Benjamin Haugabook was born in Piney Grove, a tiny country village near the rural town of Montezuma, Georgia. Jim’s mother was Sally Lee and his father was Johnny Tookes. He was raised by his loving, sweet grandmother, Carrie Haugabook. Jim spent his middle and high school years in Jacksonville, Florida. He then joined the U.S. Navy, which took him to the Far East and to San Francisco. Jim fell in love with San Francisco, where he moved after his tour of duty and resided most of his life.

gdeaths_Haugabook.tiff_SmallIn San Francisco, Jim studied psychology at USF and started off working as a painter on the Golden Gate Bridge and then at UCSF. He fought discrimination for months, to become the first African American painter allowed to work on the Golden Gate Bridge. At UCSF, Jim also served as chairman of the Black Caucus, advocating for acceptance of students of color into the medical and dental schools. Jim left UCSF to run his own painting and contracting business, where he managed jobs for the Department of Public Works, Unified School District, various city museums and monuments, including the Martin Luther King Memorial. Jim’s knowledge of paint and material chemistry was extraordinary; he was solicited by renowned architects to employ special treatments essential for their building design.

Jim had a deep and comfortable sense about who he was, and was open to people from all walks of life. Despite directly experiencing discrimination and living through the civil rights movement, he did not harbor anger. However, if there was an injustice, Jim spoke up, often in eloquent writing. He had the rare quality of a “beginner’s mind,” never intimidated to look at things from a new, completely unexplored angle. He pursued and enjoyed learning throughout his lifetime, and even went back to school in recent years and completed a B.Sc. in Human Services. Jim was also an avid chess player, loved music and sports, and enjoyed diverse poetry and literature from Shakespeare to W. E. B. Du Bois and Langston Hughes.

Jim had a passionate sense of his roots, and spent his life loving his family, generously helping others in need and speaking out for justice. Jim was greatly loved by his wife, family and friends for his gentle, thoughtful spirit and great capacity to love. He will be deeply missed by all who loved him.

Jim Haugabook is survived by his wife, Dvorah Feder-Haugabook; his children Diane Thompson, Annette Marie Haugabook, Freddie Haugabook, Phyllis Haugabook, Douglas Haugabook, Jnay Swanson, Regina Haugabook, Havneh Feder-Haugabook, Ayala Feder-Haugabook; cousins Kathryn Tobie, Ella Mae Todd, Norma Smith, George Tookes, Willie Emerson, Tess Curry, Ruth Boyd, Carl Frederick, Deronia Owens; and several nieces, nephews and grandchildren.

Funeral services were held on Monday, November 5, 2012 at Sinai Memorial Chapel, S.F., followed by interment at Eternal Home Cemetery, 1051 El Camino Real, Colma. In lieu of flowers, donations to Congregation Adath Israel or to the Jewish Community High School of the Bay in Jim’s memory would be kindly appreciated.

Sinai Memorial Chapel


Gladys Kosro

10/1/1927–11/9/2012

Beloved wife of Jerry Kosro and adored mother of Dr. Michael (Lynn) Kosro and Jeffrey (Nancy) Kosro. Funeral services were held Tuesday, 11/13/2012, at Home of Peace Cemetery Chapel, Colma.

Sinai Memorial Chapel


Alexander “Shaya” Labunskiy

Alexander “Shaya” Labunskiy was born on November 19, 1925 in Slavuta, Ukraine.

Alexander’s father died when Alexander was 4, and for the year following his father’s death Alexander was walked to the synagogue to read Kaddish for his father. Later, as Jewish life declined in the Ukraine due to Soviet pressures and secularization, Alexander was sometimes told to stand at the entrance of his synagogue to identify Jewish passers-by and ask them to join minyans for synagogue services.

Gdeats_Labunskiy1_SmallAs the family’s financial situation worsened drastically due to the death of Alexander’s father and due to the Ukrainian famine of the 1930s, life became difficult for Alexander and his family and Alexander found solace from hunger in reading books.

At the time, many Jewish schools were forced to close, and Yiddish-speaking Jewish children had a hard time adjusting to Russian-only schools. Alexander adjusted to the new environment easily due to his desire to learn. Since he was very communicative, he also knew almost everyone in Slavuta, his shtetl.

As World War II began, the family fled from the advancing Nazis. Alexander was drafted into the Soviet army at the age of 17 and was injured during the bombing of the Volga River crossing when he was thrown out of a ferry in frigid winter water. He lost consciousness but somehow managed to survive. He participated in the Battle of Stalingrad as an anti-aircraft gunner.

Then in Germany he met a good number of Jewish American soldiers and conversed easily with them in Yiddish. They invited him to leave the USSR and move either to the U.S. or the then-nascent Israel, but he had supported his sisters and his mother and thus could not abandon them. He also could not desert his service duty, and he knew that if he did, the Soviets would make his family suffer.

In 1954, he was ordered to participate in the Totskoye nuclear test in which the government made troops pass through the area of detonation of a nuclear explosion immediately after it had occurred. He survived because he was inside a tank that protected him from radiation.

Alexander married his wife, Zoya Katzman, in 1955 and settled in the city of Saransk, Russia. He then obtained university degrees, first in history and then in patent engineering. He had great do-it-yourself skills as a repairman and was an avid reader.

Alexander is survived by his wife, two children and three grandchildren. In his later years he found great joy in his grandchildren. The family always enjoyed his stories of Jewish life in shtetls and stories of his war days. In 2002, Alexander and his wife moved to Santa Rosa, Calif. After living a happy life in America, he died on Shabbat, October 12, 2012, due to multiple system atrophy and was buried in B’nai Israel Cemetery in Petaluma. The family will always remember him as the great man of the Greatest Generation.


Dorothy Sue Lazarus

In San Francisco at 88. Born in Chicago Nov. 17, 1923 and passed away Nov. 1, 2012. Devoted daughter, sister, aunt and friend. A University of Chicago graduate, she had a long career in advertising and ran the Savers Club at San Francisco Federal Savings & Loan. A graveside service took place in Chicago. Donations in her memory to Sloan Kettering or a charity of your choice.

Claire Brody Levy

Claire died peacefully at her San Francisco home on November 3, one month shy of her 101st birthday.

Beloved wife of the late Maury Brody and late Irving Levy. Loving Mother to the late Bud Brody and Harvey (Kathy) Brody. Devoted Grandmother, Great-Grandmother, and Aunt. Caring friend to all.

Claire was the kindest person you would ever meet. She truly believed that every day was a “Happy Day.”

Join our family celebration of many Happy Days, Friday, November 23, 2 to 4 p.m., 333 Pacheco St., San Francisco.


Syril Rubin, passed away at home, surrounded by her family, after a short illness. Matriarch of a large and loving family, she led a socially and culturally enriched life. A voracious reader, she instilled in her children a love of classical music and modern art.

Along with her late husband, Leonard, she was dedicated to Israel and Jewish life at home and around the world. Among the many institutions which benefited from her dedication and generosity are the Kaplen Jewish Community Center on the Palisades, the Jewish Home and Rehabilitation Center in Rockleigh, and the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey.

She traveled all over the world visiting and helping Jewish communities in need and made countless trips to Israel where she maintained a home for many years. She developed a close relationship with the Israel Tennis Centers, the community of Neve Josef in Haifa, and the Shalom Hartman Institute.

Her love of her family and friends, warm personality, optimistic outlook, and spirit of tzedakah are what will always be remembered. Love of family was a particularly powerful force in her life and she was able to make each of her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren feel special in their own way.

She is survived by her 3 children — Daniel (Eileen), Robert (Toby), Leslie Weinberg (Mark), 12 grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren. She is also survived by her sister, Helene Nelkin, along with many nieces, nephews, cousins and hundreds of friends — locally and abroad.

Funeral services were held at the Kaplen JCC on the Palisades, 411 East Clinton Ave., Tenafly, N.J. on Tuesday, November 12.

Donations may be made to the Kaplen JCC on the Palisades, the Jewish Home at Rockleigh or the JCC of San Francisco.