Survivor, Bikkur Cholim head Stanley Wachter dies at age 75

Stanley Wachter, president of Bikkur Cholim, a San Francisco organization that supports ill Jews in need, died Jan. 14 at age 75.

He died in San Francisco after battling a heart condition, according to daughter Luba Reeves.

Wachter, who survived the Warsaw Ghetto and a Russian gulag, also helped establish a Holocaust memorial at Eternal Home Cemetery in Colma. There, he and other Holocaust survivors were able to list the names of relatives who had perished.

"He was just a born leader," Reeves said of her father. "If there were 10 people in a room, he would be the leader. He had that kind of charisma."

The youngest of three brothers born to a religious family in Warsaw, Poland, Wachter was interned along with his family in the Warsaw Ghetto in 1942. One night, in an attempt to secure assistance for his family, the young Wachter sneaked out of the ghetto and headed toward the Russian border. He was captured by the Russians, accused of spying and sent to a gulag.

Of 4,000 men imprisoned there, only about 40 survived. Wachter married his wife, Lidia, toward the end of the war and the pair returned to Warsaw. Wachter found his family's home in ruins; all his family members had perished in the war.

In 1964, Wachter, his wife and two children settled in San Francisco. "We came to the U.S. with a hundred-dollar bill in our pocket," Reeves said.

In the city, Wachter founded two businesses: a clothing store called Luba Designs and a running-gear outlet called On the Run. He belonged to San Francisco's Orthodox Congregation Adath Israel.

In his spare time, he worked long hours raising money for Bikkur Cholim. Under his 20-year tutelage, the organization undertook such activities as helping Israeli hospitals purchase ambulances for needy children. Members also visited patients in local hospitals, arranged outings and parties for retired people and donated Passover goods to immigrants from the former Soviet Union.

"He was a good man, no doubt about this," said Neal Mitchell, vice president of Bikkur Cholim. "We miss him a lot."

More than 200 people attended a memorial service for Wachter at Sinai Memorial Chapel. He is buried in Eternal Home Cemetery near the Holocaust memorial where names of his family members appear.

Wachter is survived by his wife Lidia Wachter, son Mark Wachter, daughter Luba Reeves and granddaughter Leah Reeves.

The family asks that contributions be sent to Bikkur Cholim, 33 San Jacinto Way, San Francisco, CA 94127.

Leslie Katz
Leslie Katz

Leslie Katz is the former culture editor at CNET and a former J. staff writer. Follow her on Twitter @lesatnews.