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Obituaries for the week of Aug. 20, 2021

Obituaries are supported by a generous grant from Sinai Memorial Chapel

Aviva Schotland

March 25, 1982–July 4, 2021

Aviva Schotland passed away on July 4, 2021, at the age of 39 years due to a previously unknown medical complication. She was a loving fiancée, sister, daughter, granddaughter, aunt and, as of April 2021, mother to beautiful baby Levi, fulfilling her lifelong dream of having children. We were blessed to have Aviva in our lives and feel a gaping hole now that she is gone.

Aviva Schotland
Aviva Schotland

Aviva was a thinker, a dreamer and a creator. She was a fierce friend with friendships spanning multiple decades and various parts of her life. She was the center of her loving family, always willing to spend time with her beloved nephews and niece, play a family game or make a home-cooked dinner. She loved the outdoors, hiking and yoga. She loved to travel, especially if it meant spending time in Hawaii or Vermont.

She was a passionate and talented graphic artist and had a bachelor’s degree in Art History from UC Santa Barbara and another degree in Graphic Design from FIDM San Francisco. She built a successful career designing beautiful creations, with a focus on packaging, at many companies including the North Face, Sephora and most recently at Biossance.

We are honoring her memory by establishing the Aviva Schotland Memorial Fund at the Los Angeles Jewish Community Foundation, where the family will direct donations toward causes that were meaningful to Aviva. A GoFundMe page also has been created to help provide support for her son, Levi.

Herbert Curt Heller

April 26, 1929–Aug. 7, 2021

On Aug. 7, 2021, Herbert Curt Heller, loving husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather, died at the age of 92 in Novato, California.

Herbert Curt Heller
Herbert Curt Heller

Herbert was born on April 26, 1929 in Teplice-Šanov, a small village in Czechoslovakia near the German border. When he was 5, his family moved to Prague. On July 16, 1942, when he was just 13 years old, the Gestapo from Nazi Germany came for him and his family. They were deported to Terezín (Theresienstadt), an old military fortress 38 miles north of Prague that the Nazis had turned into a ghetto and concentration camp. Herbert and his family were in Terezín for 22 months. On May 18, 1944, a month after Herbert turned 15, he and his family were transported in cattle cars to the Auschwitz concentration camp in southern Poland. There, Herbert was tattooed with the prisoner number A2109.

One freezing morning in January 1945, Herbert was forced to go on the Death March from Auschwitz. The prisoners marched in the snow during the day and slept on hay in farm houses at night. On the fourth day, Herbert found a rucksack with civilian clothing inside. The next morning, he hid in the hay and stayed behind to put on the clothing. Herbert snuck away to a train station and headed back to Prague, where he hid out with a Catholic family until the end of the war. Herbert was eventually reunited with his mother. His father and older brother were never seen again.

Herbert’s great-aunt Augusta Jellinek sponsored Herbert and his mother to come stay with her in the United States. They boarded the MS Gripsholm, arrived at Ellis Island on Dec. 2, 1946, and then took a cross-country train ride to join Augusta in San Francisco. During the day, Herbert worked at the FW Woolworth Company, and at night he went to Commerce High School on Van Ness Avenue to learn English and civics. He then got a job at Macy’s and worked his way up to become a buyer, which he did for 10 years. Herbert joined the United States Army Reserves and became a Sergeant First Class in the 91st Infantry Division. On June 16, 1952 he became a United States citizen.

On a work trip to New York in 1955, Herbert met Annette Grace Zion, and they married on Oct. 11, 1956. Herbert left Macy’s and they moved to San Rafael and opened Heller’s for Children in September 1958 on Fourth Street, which they owned for 53 years. It was during this time that Herbert became a beloved staple of Marin County. Everyone who met him immediately adored him; he was wholesome, funny, loyal and incredibly kind. When asked which of his 10 grandchildren was his favorite, he would reply, “The one I’m with at the moment.” Whether Herbert was running his baby store, eating breakfast at Isak’s Coffee Shop, or taking a walk down Fourth Street, people would come up to him just to say hello.

As a member of the final generation to recount their experiences during the Holocaust, Herbert volunteered his retirement years traveling to schools across the Bay Area to tell his life story. Herbert shared how he faced horrifying experiences most people could not imagine. As he described his past to classrooms packed with young students, Herbert emphasized that the importance of his story is its relevance to the present — one can still find success and fulfillment even after tremendous loss. Many students considered his speech to be an unforgettable moment in their education. On March 4, 2020, Herbert received the Jefferson Award, an award given to ordinary people who do extraordinary things without the expectation of recognition.

When Herbert arrived in the United States in 1946, he carried only $10 in his pocket. Herbert would always say that his wealth has since multiplied: He was married 63 years and has three daughters, 10 grandchildren and one great-grandchild — but he’s not sure what happened to the $10!

Herbert will always be remembered as someone who cared for his family, his community and his history. His compassion and humor were one of a kind and will be deeply missed.

Herbert is preceded in death by his parents Karel and Melanie Heller, his brother Heinz George Heller and his beloved wife Annette. Herbert is the loving father of his identical twin daughters Diane Heller and Vivian (Emil) Cohen and daughter Linda Levy; loving grandfather of his grandchildren Adam (Tanya), Daniel, Matthew, Monica (Mike), Charles, Sheryl, David, Ryan, Jordan and Brandon; and his great-grandchildren Olivia and Levi.

A private interment was held at Mt. Tamalpais Cemetery. Memorial services will be held at a later date at Congregation Rodef Sholom in San Rafael. Contributions to Herbert’s memory may be made to Jewish Family and Children’s Services Holocaust Center at (415) 449-3717 and Congregation Rodef Sholom at (415) 479-3441.

Stuart W. Seiler

Nov. 28, 1933–Aug. 7, 2021

Stuart, son of the late Birdie and Maurice Seiler, passed away peacefully with his wife Gaye and his two sons by his side on Aug. 7, 2021.

He was a proud fourth-generation San Franciscan and a graduate of Washington High School and the University of California at Berkeley. It was at Cal that he met his wife, partner and absolute love of his life for the past 62 years, Gaye. After Cal, Stu fulfilled his military service in post-WWII Germany. After his service, he married Gaye and began a very successful business career in insurance, and ultimately Stu became president of Goldman Insurance. Stu and Gaye had two sons, Steve and Mark.

Stu had amazing charisma that cannot be adequately described, and everyone he met considered him a good friend. He was kind, generous, thoughtful, charitable, sometimes impatient and incredibly funny. His jokes are now on their third generation! He had an incredible love for all people, and they had an incomparable love for him. Whether the person needed help or guidance, everyone knew that they could always count on Stu to be their confidant, adviser and mentor. All of these qualities and many others made Stu the incredible leader that he was in life, in the community and in business.

He loved traveling the world with Gaye and spending time in Hawaii with both his family and with his brother Donald and sister-in-law Ruthie. However, his first love was spending time at their place in Tahoe, hanging out and boating with his family (especially his grandchildren) and friends.

Stu was extremely dedicated in service to the community. He served on several charitable boards of directors, including Jewish Home for the Aged, Jewish Community Federation, UJCC, Sherith Israel, Rhoda Goldman Plaza, Sinai Memorial Chapel, San Francisco School Volunteers and the NorCal Jewish Sports Hall of Fame.

Stu’s athleticism and competitive nature led him to a love of all sports. Whether it was playing basketball or tennis, skiing, coaching his kid’s teams, watching his grandchildren’s sports or even taking a steam bath, Stu excelled in all of them. He played basketball at Washington High School and was All-City. He loved and was a season ticket holder for the Niners, Giants, Warriors and especially the Cal Bears!

Stu is survived by his wife Gaye, his sons Mark and Steve and his daughter-in-law Ellen. He was a proud grandfather of Anthony, Daniel and Natalie. Because of his warmth, wisdom and humility, Stu was considered a surrogate father by many. Stu was preceded in death by his brother Donald, sister-in-law Ruth, sister-in-law Janet and brother-in-law Norman. He also is survived by several nieces and nephews and grandnieces and grandnephews.

San Francisco and the world are a better place because of Stu. He touched the hearts of everyone and we will miss him dearly.

Due to Covid, services are limited to immediate family, though the family may hold a memorial at a later date. The family would appreciate and encourage everyone to please share their thoughts and memories about Stu by sending them to [email protected], as the family would like to make a memory book in his honor.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the San Francisco Campus for Jewish Living (the Jewish Home) at sfcjl.org or a charity of your choice.

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