Well-loved San Rafael couple dies in car crash

A San Rafael couple much loved by their fellow members at Congregation Rodef Sholom died July 10 in a car crash in Richmond.

Marty and Marlene Gershik were pronounced dead at the scene after their Toyota Camry hit a curb, swerved across the Richmond Parkway, jumped the center divider and collided with a southbound pickup truck at 7:14 p.m., according to police. The driver of the truck suffered minor injuries.

Autopsy results, including toxicology tests, are pending, according to Richmond Police public information officer Nicole Abetkov, though she said there was no sign that drugs or alcohol played a role in the accident. An investigation is ongoing and may take several weeks.

Marlene and Marty Gershik celebrating their 50th anniversary in Mexico last month

A memorial service was held July 14 at Rodef Sholom, which was followed by interment at Sha’arei Shalom Cemetery in San Rafael. The family sat shiva through July 17.

Grandparents of four, Marty, 72, and Marlene, 68, celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in Mexico less than three weeks before the accident. They were mainstays of Rodef Sholom for nearly 40 years, regularly devoting time and energy to serving the community.

“Both had been involved in many things over the years,” said Moji Javid, the synagogue’s director of community connections. “They were the most giving and loving people you would ever meet. … One coworker told me, ‘The Gershiks were what I wanted to be when I grow up.’ ”

The couple was involved in the synagogue’s chevra kadisha (burial society), visited the sick and delivered meals. In addition, Marty served on Rodef Sholom’s leadership committee, and he and his wife were also major boosters of Camp Tawonga, where one of their sons, Steve, was board president in 2005.

Despite their good deeds, the couple kept a low profile, according to their other son, David.

“I remember my dad saying he’d been approached to be on the board of a Jewish organization,” he recalled. “He told them, ‘I will give you anything not to be on the board. I will volunteer, donate money, whatever you want.’ They were never looking for recognition.”

Both natives of Brooklyn, N.Y., Marty Gershik and Marlene Kopito were children of East European immigrants, steeped in Yiddishkeit. They attended rival high schools, met on a blind date and were married in 1963. They moved to the Bay Area in 1975.

Both sons remembered their parents as devoted to family above all.

“My mother was the general when it came to family,” Steve Gershik said. “We gathered around Jewish holidays, Thanksgiving, birthdays and graduations, and woe unto you if you were to find some flimsy excuse for not attending an event. She had a way of letting you know that family came first. It became the way they instilled Jewish values in us.”

He remembered his father as the quintessential jokester.

“Dad always managed to find a way to connect with people instantly, no matter who they were,” he said. “He was a master of the joke, and sometimes the off-color joke. He knew just the right level of off-color joke to tell the rabbi just before services.”

Married June 22, 1963, the Gershiks gathered up their family and traveled to Ixtapa to renew their marriage vows on their 50th wedding anniversary, just 18 days before the accident.

A clip of the event posted on YouTube shows Marty saying to those gathered: “Whatever you would like to accomplish in life, do it quickly. Don’t put things off too long. Life goes by quickly and waits for no one. Live for today and say all the things you want your loved ones to remember, and hope they love and appreciate you for all the things you’ve done for them. The way we live our lives is our gift to those who come after.”

Dan Pine

Dan Pine is J.'s news editor. He can be reached at dan@jweekly.com.