Adrian Scharlach, AJCongress leader, 80

Adrian Scharlach, former president of the Northern California chapter of American Jewish Congress, was a champion of immigrants, the poor and elderly. But make no mistake; he was not a stereotypical macher.

"He was not a big political mover or fund-raiser," said his son, Andy Scharlach of Alamo. Yet "he did as much to help the needy as some philanthropists — a dollar at a time."

Scharlach died of cancer Sunday, Aug. 9, surrounded by family at his San Francisco home. He was 80.

During his life, Scharlach started many of San Francisco's low-income residential hotels, tried to improve living conditions in area nursing homes, helped start a program to aid Latino entrepreneurs and always had pocket change for the homeless, his son said.

"He was someone who on a daily basis did something to improve people's lives."

A native San Franciscan, he started in business at age 17, when his father died. The elder Scharlach had been a traveling clothing salesman, and his son followed his lead.

Scharlach eventually opened several men's clothing stores in San Francisco. He expanded the business by acquiring struggling stores throughout the state and transforming them into moneymakers. He also revived a failing mobile home manufacturer, Holiday Mobile Homes of Santa Rosa.

Scharlach later invested in hotel properties, some of which he turned into residential units for low-income individuals.

"He would hire people who were coming out of prison, and took a chance on people that no one else would. He felt it was the right thing to do."

As president of the East Bay Hotel Association, he helped launch a campaign to revive Oakland's dilapidated downtown in the 1960s, Andy Scharlach said. That effort has continued to the present.

At AJCongress during the early 1980s, Scharlach encouraged businesspersons to mentor East Bay Latinos who wanted to start small businesses. He also devised a program to improve the living conditions in local nursing homes.

The how-to manual compiled from his nursing home program is still a reference for regulators today, Andy Scharlach said.

He was a lifelong member of San Francisco's Congregation Emanu-El and served as vice president at the city's Concordia-Argonaut Club.

Scharlach graduated from Lowell High School in San Francisco and U.C. Berkeley, where he was a member of Kappa Nu fraternity. A decorated veteran of World War II, the former Army infantry captain received a bronze star for helping subordinates escape from a petroleum depot fire.

He was preceded in death by his wife, Jacquie Scharlach. Though he was very sick, Scharlach attended a yahrzeit service for his wife just a week before his own passing.

He is survived by another son, Edmund Scharlach of Los Angeles; two stepchildren, Stephen and Cynthia Cohen; three grandchildren; three step-grandchildren; a brother and sister-in-law, Arthur and Bernice Scharlach; and a companion, Lydia Haefelin.

Memorial services were held. Donations can be sent to the American Cancer Society, 235 Montgomery St., No. 320, S.F., CA 94104.

Lori Eppstein

Lori Eppstein is a former staff writer.