lit yahrzeit candles

Deaths for the week of April 28, 2017

Judith Lee Samuel (“Lee”)

July 17, 1929–April 19, 2017

Lee Samuel died peacefully at the Jewish Home of San Francisco surrounded by family. Lee Samuel was born to Abraham and Rose Gordon in Salem, Massachusetts, and raised mostly in Chelsea, Massachusetts. Her parents owned a corner store, and as a kid she was allowed to read all the comics she wanted off the shelves of the store as long as she didn’t muss the pages. She loved reading and was always a successful student. She graduated high school at age 16, attending college at UCLA.

Judith Lee Samuel
Judith Lee Samuel

Her friends remember her as energetic, daring and clever. Majoring in English with a minor in Theater and French, she graduated and continued her love of theater by joining the Orchard Gables theater commune in Pasadena, California. There she met her husband, Ted, whom she married in 1951; they were married for 55 years until Ted’s death in 2006. Together they built a wonderful life in the Sunset District of San Francisco, having four daughters: Deborah (1955), Suzann (1956), Karen (1958-1974) and Sharon (1960).

She was a “super Mom”: a fastidious housekeeper, raising her kids, keeping her marriage together and working as a teacher for the S.F. Unified School District. In her career as a teacher, Lee taught Hebrew and English (one of only two public-school Hebrew teachers in the state). She finished her 21 years of teaching at Raoul Wallenberg High School. Students often voted her “the toughest teacher” in the school yearbook. Lee also taught Hebrew at Congregations Ner Tamid, Temple Judea and Beth Sholom and was for some years principal of the Hebrew school at Ner Tamid. In 1976 Lee went to San Francisco law school at night while still working full time. She passed the California Bar as a grandmother at the age of 52.

After retirement in 1990, Lee and Ted did a lot of traveling on their own and with Elderhostel, including a number of visits to daughter Suzie and her family in Israel. She and Ted were very active in the 60+ club at San Francisco State. Lee always was interested in politics (never missed voting in an election), current events, historical novels, reading the New Yorker and watching public television. Her daughters remember her as always knowing all the answers to everything because she was so intelligent.

Lee is survived by daughters Deborah (Austin, Texas), Suzie (Haifa, Israel) and Shari (San Francisco); six grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren. Special gratitude goes out to her youngest daughter Shari for being her attentive caretaker.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations made to Keneset Ha Lev–Community of the Heart, c/o 2695 44th Ave., San Francisco, CA 94116, or