Hilda Frankenstein, Bulletin volunteer, dies at 83

A pillar of the Modesto Jewish community, Hilda Frankenstein, 83, died last week in San Francisco.

Frankenstein, whose maiden name was Frankenstein as well, was born in Berlin in 1920. She had one younger sister, and her father was a physician. The family was quite affluent.

The family stayed in Germany two years after Hitler rose to power. During that time, Frankenstein had to salute to the Nazi dictator every day at school.

In 1935, the family left Germany, but while it was not their intention, they ended up in Montevideo, Uruguay. "They went from riches to rags," said George Frankenstein, her son, who lives in San Francisco and is a former board member of the Jewish Bulletin of Northern California.

Two years later, they were able to come to Los Angeles, where she graduated from high school. In 1939, Frankenstein met Hans Frankenstein, another immigrant from Danzig. They married in 1940, and soon after, moved to Modesto, where he founded a junk business.

While she worked as a legal secretary for some time, she was most focussed on being a mother of three children. "It was a hand-to-mouth kind of thing," said George, adding that his parents will be most remembered for their being the backbone of the Modesto Jewish community.

"They were very instrumental in the new temple there, though my dad was the stronger one, and was the dynamo in the family."

Frankenstein was a quiet woman but was always supportive of her children, he said.

After her husband died, she moved to San Francisco to be near to her children.

For the past 15 years, she volunteered at the Jewish Bulletin. She also volunteered at the Palace of the Legion of Honor art museum and the San Francisco Symphony.

In an article on some Jewish Bulletin volunteers in 2001, Frankenstein said she volunteered for the company, but admitted she didn't like too much company.

"I was at the Legion of Honor the other day and, boy, was it packed! It wasn't even fun, it was so crowded," she told the Bulletin in 2001. "But I most enjoy the company. If you're alone a lot, you enjoy the company."

At the Bulletin, she helped with the mail, and any other task she was asked to do. "She was an extremely elegant and lovely lady," said Diane Spagnoli, the Bulletin's administrative assistant and classifieds manager.

Frankenstein was predeceased by her husband in 1977 and her daughter Evelyn Durlester in 2000. In addition to her son George of San Francisco, and daughter Judy Hopfer of San Rafael, she is survived by seven grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

Donations can be sent to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, 121 Second St., Second Floor, San Francisco, CA, 94105.

Alix Wall
Alix Wall

Alix Wall is a contributing editor to J. She is also the founder of the Illuminoshi: The Not-So-Secret Society of Bay Area Jewish Food Professionals and is writer/producer of a documentary-in-progress called "The Lonely Child."