Gene Frank, a passionate Jew who labored with his wife to create a large Jewish ceramic arts business, died of an aneurysm Thursday of last week in his Forestville home. He was 45.
"He was well thought of in the world of Jewish artists," said Leslie Gattman, his wife of 19 years. "He was very kind and always wanted to help other artists. His art never came from his ego."
Frank helped Gattman, a ceramics artist, expand her company Ceramic Judaica by managing the company's finances and generating new ideas. The couple distributed items to more than 200 companies and their work was promoted in a Betty Crocker booklet and a Martha Stewart catalogue.
Frank particularly cherished a yahrzeit candleholder that he conceived. "We got many beautiful letters back on how much it has meant to families," Gattman said.
Frank was born in Berkeley on July 3, 1953, a first-generation American Jew whose parents fled Hitler's Germany. He majored in psychology at U.C. Santa Cruz, and obtained a master's degree from Antioch College.
Frank set up shop as a marriage and family therapist, but switched to working on Ceramic Judaica after he took time off from counseling for health reasons. He continued to run a support group for anxiety disorders after he left his practice.
He assembled a Jewish learning group in Sonoma County. The group met monthly for Shabbat and Torah and Hebrew study.
"He was a very gentle, thoughtful, centered, energetic founder of a whole network of Jewish families in the Forestville area," said Rabbi Peretz Wolf-Prusan of San Francisco's Congregation Emanu-El, a friend of Frank's for more than 20 years. Frank taught crafts for many years at UAHC Camp Swig in Saratoga and Camp Newman in Santa Rosa. He had been developing a Camp Newman project in which campers would create a garden including all the fruits mentioned in the Bible. He had wanted young Arab and Jewish children to build the garden together. Frank was a member of JACOB, Jewish Arts Community of the Bay, and served on the board of the Judah L. Magnes Museum in Berkeley. He was a member of Congregation Ner Shalom in Cotati.
"The essence of his life was being Jewish," Gattman said.
In addition to his wife, he is survived by his father, Walter Frank, and brother, Will Frank, both of Berkeley, and his daughters, Maya and Julian of Forestville.
Services were held Sunday in Santa Rosa's Daniel's Chapel of the Roses, with burial at Santa Rosa Memorial Cemetery. A fund for Frank's children has been set up. For information, call Margo Miller, (707) 824-0614, or send checks to 7483 Kennedy Rd, Sebastopol, CA 95472.