Ann Bear, devoted volunteer and leader, dies at 71

Ann Bear, a beloved mother, grandmother, sister and philanthropist known for her tireless volunteer work in the Jewish community, died Nov. 17 at her home in Burlingame. She was 71.

Born and raised in New York, Ann met Irwin Bear at a JCC regional conference in 1981. Eight years later, the pair moved to San Francisco, where they became known in equal measure for their festive Shabbat and holiday meals and their devotion to Jewish organizations.

Her children remember her love of community as central to their mother’s life. “She was about attitude, gratitude and fortitude,” said her son, Richard Landgarten, of New York. “She never missed a wedding or a bar mitzvah or any other kind of event. She and Irwin used to say people were either best friends, or future best friends.”

Bear managed to attend her grandson’s bar mitzvah in New York last weekend, despite being seriously ill with cancer. “She showed incredible strength — she was at the service, at the party. She wouldn’t have missed it,” he said.

Ann Bear served as president of the Women’s Alliance of the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation and as a board member of the Ronald C. Wornick Jewish Day School in Foster City. At the time of her death, she was on the boards of AIPAC, the JCF and its North Peninsula Council. The couple were active members of Peninsula Temple Sholom in Burlingame.

After leading the Women’s Alliance (now named Women’s Philanthropy), Bear was a recipient of the Judith Chapman Women’s Award for Leadership in 2009. That same year, Mayor Gavin Newsom named May 21 as “Ann Bear Day” in San Francisco. 

Those who knew her best say she was an inspiration to volunteers and burgeoning philanthropists.

“She lived her life for others right up until the end,” wrote Alon Shalev, executive director of San Francisco Hillel, in a blog post this week. He got to know Bear after Irwin, who had been president of Hillel’s board of directors, passed away in 2010.

“I visited Ann last week and spent almost four hours with her,” he said. “She insisted that we focus on a project that she was helping me with. When I kept asking if she needed to stop to rest, she refused. She felt a sense of urgency and the need to give as much as she could while she still could.”

Her giving nature didn’t stop with people, either. Bear’s love of dogs was well-known; Koffi, a Labrador, was every bit a full member of the family.

A memorial service was held Nov. 19 at Peninsula Temple Sholom and funeral services were Nov. 21 in New York.

Emma Silvers

Emma Silvers is a former J. staff writer.