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Deaths for the week of Dec. 6-12, 2020

Obituaries are supported by a generous grant from Sinai Memorial Chapel. This page will be updated throughout the week. Submit an obituary here.


Gerald Plotkin

1934-Dec. 2, 2020

Gerald H. Plotkin, aka Jerry Layne, passed away in San Francisco with his cherished partner, Dina, by his side on Dec. 2. Beloved son of the late Maxwell and Dora Plotkin, Gerald was a native San Franciscan and was the proud owner of Layne’s Jewelers. He is survived by the love of his life, his partner of 20 years, Dina Barauskas.

Due to Covid, private services were held at Eternal Home Cemetery. Donations can be made to your favorite charity.


Irving “Irv” Schnayer

Aug. 14, 1927-Dec. 3, 2020

Irv Schnayer, whose life was a shining example of resilience, adaptability and commitment to community, has died at the age of 93.

Born and raised in Chicago, Irv enlisted in the U.S. Navy during World War II. While in military training, he met his wife, Muriel Mundt Schnayer, through his sister Frieda, who was Muriel’s roommate in the Women’s Army Nursing Corps. Prior to Muriel’s death last year, they had celebrated 70 years of marriage.

After the war, Irv graduated from Roosevelt College (now Roosevelt University), then earned a master’s degree in psychology at the University of Illinois. A devastating industrial injury caused by faulty equipment at the job he held during graduate school led to his first professional pivot: He used his recovery time to refocus his career plans toward workplace safety and training.

While working in Southern California in the mid-1950s, Irv had an opportunity to analyze Alameda County’s dismal employee-injury statistics, and he made a daring proposal to county administration: that he could design and implement worker-safety programs that would save them more than half of their annual insurance claim payments, and accomplish it within two years, if they would take a chance on him. On the strength of a two-year contract, Irv and Muriel moved to Oakland, where he exceeded his goal within the first year, and began a 28-year career with the county. His programs eventually served as models for all California counties, and some were later adopted nationally as part of OSHA regulations. He also taught human resource management and supervision classes at Laney College. Following early retirement from both the college and the county, Irv began another very active career managing a series of real estate investments.

A fine craft woodworker, Irv was a charter member of the Arts & Crafts Cooperative, Inc. (ACCI) gallery in Berkeley, where his lathe-turned bowls and other pieces were shown. He also kept bees at his home in Oakland, harvesting delicious eucalyptus and fruit blossom honey that made him especially popular at Rosh Hashanah. Irv was never happier than when hiking in California wilderness or backpacking with family in the Sierra Nevada mountains.

Throughout his life, Irv believed in volunteer service to his community. In addition to multiple voter-registration, voting-rights and blood-donation campaigns, he contributed endless hours transporting donated food from grocery stores and restaurants to a homeless-services kitchen in a downtown Oakland church, joking with Muriel that he was off to “lunch with the nuns.” Cultural nonprofits that benefited from his volunteer work included Woodminster Amphitheater (on whose board he served), the Oakland Museum of California, the Oakland Symphony and the Hot Springs Music Festival (for which he built two conductor podiums signed with his characteristic oak-leaf insignia).

A longtime member of Oakland’s Temple Sinai, Irv served several terms on its board of directors. He and Muriel both were active in Sinai’s campaign to resettle Soviet Jews in the United States, helping to gather household resources and facilitate community connections.

Irv is survived by his daughter, Laura Schnayer Rosenberg (and partner Andrew Muchin); his son, David Schnayer (and daughter-in-law Jennifer Schnayer); and his grandchildren, Colby, Dalen and Avery Schnayer. Donations in his memory may be made to the Sierra Club or to any community blood bank.


Fred Sondheimer

Nov. 29, 2020

Dr. Fred K. Sondheimer passed away peacefully on Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020, at the age of 88, surrounded by his beloved family at home in Berkeley, California, his time shortened by advanced Parkinson’s disease. A Jewish refugee from Germany, Fred became a successful radiologist, and was a loving husband, father and grandfather, baroque music patron, arts enthusiast, world traveler, tennis fan, political junkie and friend to many.

He was born Fritz Klaus Sondheimer in 1932 in Frankfurt, Germany, into a family known as leaders of industry. His father, Nathan Sondheimer, died on a business trip to the United States when Fritz was an infant. Fred’s mother, Dr. Anna Ettlinger, a physician in her native Germany, was able to leave Germany for Holland on the family’s advice in 1934, with Fritz and his older sister Marion. They arrived in New York in 1939, where they eventually were joined by extended family. Fritz Klaus became Fred Kenneth with his naturalization in 1944. Fred graduated from Brandeis University in 1953 and Tufts Medical School in 1957.

In 1959, he married San Francisco native Gwen Davis, with whom he had three children: Michele, Joshua and Marc. After Fred’s residencies in neuroradiology in Europe and Los Angeles, the family settled in Tiburon, where they built a home.

Dr. Sondheimer held academic and clinical positions at Mount Zion hospital in San Francisco, and he was one of the founding members of the Western Neuroradiological Society, serving as its president in 1972. He later entered private practice, Advanced Radiologic Imaging, with several offices in the East Bay.

After losing his home in Berkeley in the 1991 firestorm, he designed and built a stylish, modern home nearby in the Berkeley Hills.

In 1999, he married Linda Northrup. The two traveled near and far, were season ticket holders to the Philharmonia Baroque (on whose board Dr. Sondheimer served), Berkeley Rep Theater and San Francisco Ballet, supporters of Bay Area art museums, and attended more than a few rock concerts, as well. They reveled in being grandparents to Aidan Sondheimer (San Francisco) and Alana Hein (Boulder), and enjoyed hosting and being hosted for dinners with friends and neighbors.

Dr. Sondheimer was preceded in death by brothers Manfred and Eric, sisters Augusta and Marion, and by son-in-law Dave Hein.

Contributions in Dr. Sondheimer’s honor may be made to the Parkinson’s Foundation at parkinson.org/ways-to-give.