Nat Frankel, Bnai Brith head, dies

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Nathan “Nat” Frankel truly was the man who went around the world to get next door.

He circumnavigated the globe — twice — as a merchant marine. He and his wife of 61 years, Inge, traveled near and far, even visiting Antarctica.

Yet Frankel never had a permanent address more than five miles or so from the Oakland neighborhood in which he was born and raised, even attending U.C. Berkeley and Berkeley’s Boalt Hall School of Law.

Frankel died after a brief bout with melanoma Sept. 5 at age 88.

“He lived life with gusto,” said daughter Aileen Frankel.

Nat Frankel had his bar mitzvah and confirmation at Oakland’s Temple Sinai, which he attended throughout his life. He attended B’nai B’rith meetings up until the end of his life and even served as president of the Oakland chapter in the 1950s.

Frankel’s real passion, however, was Oakland politics, specifically progressive politics. Frankel was a three-term chairman of the Oakland Redevelopment Agency and championed the Oakland political careers of his friends and loved ones.

In the days before specialization, Frankel had a general practice law firm. As son Barry put it, “If a client needed a will, he’d do a will. If a client got divorced, he’d do a divorce. If he got hit by a bus, he’d do personal injury.”

Frankel saddled his four children with very high expectations, but later in life they realized that was his way of pushing them to succeed.

While Frankel could be a stern paterfamilias, he was also a man with a sense of humor and a big laugh that delighted his family and friends.

Nat Frankel is survived by his wife, Inge, of Piedmont; daughters Aileen of Oakland, Nancy of New York and Anita of Seattle; and son Barry of Redwood City, as well as six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

Donations in Frankel’s memory can be made to aid the work of U.C. San Francisco’s Dr. Mohammed Kashani-Sabet, a cancer researcher. Checks should be made out to “U.C. Regents” with a note on the memo reading “Melanoma research — Kashani” and sent to UCSF, P.O. Box 1706, San Francisco, CA 94143.

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi is the managing editor at Mission Local. He is a former editor-at-large at San Francisco magazine, former columnist at SF Weekly and a former J. staff writer.