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Obituaries for the week of Oct. 29, 2021

Obituaries are supported by a generous grant from Sinai Memorial Chapel

Howard Marc Block

April 29, 1960–Oct. 10, 2021

Howard Marc Block
Howard Marc Block

Howard Marc Block, peacefully on Sunday Oct. 10, 2021, after a hard-fought battle with brain cancer. Beloved husband of Loren (Pretter) Block. Loving father of Gregory, Melissa, Emily and Erica. Son of Diane and the late Gilbert Block. Brother of Susan (Robert) Fishman and the late Steven Block. Survived by many beloved family and friends.

Howard grew up in Squirrel Hill, graduated from Taylor Allderdice High and went on to earn his undergraduate degree from the University of Michigan. He then went on to earn a Ph.D. in Education Policy and Analysis from Stanford University. Howard spent years as an equity analyst, business owner and consultant in the education space.

He was a devoted Jew, baseball player and Steelers fan. His proudest accomplishments were his wife and children who he loved dearly and who he made the center of his world. Contributions in Howard’s memory may be made to UCSF Brain Tumor Center, UCSF Dept. of Neuro-Oncology c/o Dr. Bush, JFCS Holocaust Center Northern California and the Make-a-Wish Foundation.

Sinai S.F.

Robert Steven Liss Sr.

June 11, 1945–Oct. 17, 2021

Robert Steven Liss Sr.
Robert Steven Liss Sr.

Robert Steven Liss Sr. passed away peacefully in his sleep on the morning of Oct. 17, 2021 at 76.

Born on June 11, 1945 in San Francisco to Ann and Charles Liss, Bob spent his early years with his brother Jeffrey in the Sunset District and attended Lincoln High School. Growing up surrounded by cousins and children of his parents’ friends, he always had a special place in his heart for his extended family. Bob’s mother, Ann, passed away when he was 17, and he was forever grateful to his aunts and uncles who looked out for him and his brother during this time. Bob’s father, Charlie, later married Birdie Applebaum, and over the years Bob forged a special relationship with his stepmother and her family.

Bob attended San Francisco City College and San Francisco State University, where he took business classes. He served in the Army Reserves at Fort Ord as a cook. In 1967, Bob married Joanne Cohen, with whom he had two children, Robert Steven Jr. and Anne. Bob was embraced by Joanne’s family and was especially close with her parents, Joe and Maxine. He spent 18 years working alongside his late father-in-law at the family business, the House of Sobel. Bob and Joanne ended their marriage in 2000, but their very close friendship remained until his passing. Bob married Carole Rosenberg in 2003, and they enjoyed their time together before they divorced in 2013.

Bob was known for his mischievous sense of humor, and he enjoyed weekends in Silverado, trips to Mexico and Palm Springs, spending time at Lake Merced and weekly early movie nights followed by a good restaurant in Marin with a friend or family. Some of Bob’s happiest moments were on the tennis court or at the card table. Bob was an active member of the Marin Tennis Club and also served as the club’s president. In 1976, Bob combined his passion for tennis and good times with friends into a four-day event in Palm Springs called The Desert Tennis Invitational, which he started. Bob enjoyed captaining the Marin Tennis Club Senior Men’s USTA 4.0 team for many years; highlights included winning the California Cup in La Quinta, placing first in Marin and winning Northern California sectionals.

Bob never met a card game he didn’t like or excel at. He played bridge almost every day and was a Diamond Life Master. In addition to bridge, Bob found success at the World Pedro Championship in Lake Tahoe and the United States Open Gin Rummy Championship in Las Vegas.

For Bob, his proudest accomplishments were his children and grandchildren. He was a loving father to Rob and his wife Amy, and his daughter Anne Solomon and her husband Mark, adoring grandfather to Mia and Max, who called him Bob-O.

Bob was preceded in death by his daughter Anne and his brother Jeffrey. He is survived by his son Rob (Amy); son-in-law Mark Solomon; grandchildren Mia and Max; sister-in-law Marie Liss; nephew Todd (Jessica) Liss; great-nephew Levi; as well as countless cousins.

Bob’s family wishes to offer a special thanks to the Reutlinger Community, who cared for Bob in his final years.

A small private memorial service will be held with family.

In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to: California Maritime Academy Foundation, Marine Transportation Program, a registered 501(c)(3) charitable organization FEIN 23-7213404, 200 Maritime Academy Drive, Vallejo, CA 94590-8181.

Sinai S.F.

Mark Allen Lutvak

Feb. 9, 1939–Aug. 6, 2021

Mark Allen Lutvak
Mark Allen Lutvak

Mark was born in Chicago, Illinois on Feb. 9, 1939 to Joe and Jeanette Lutvak, and he passed away on Aug. 6, 2021 in San Jose, California at the age of 82. He is survived by two sons, Jeff and Eric, by his first marriage of 44 years to Gayle Helene Rotofsky Lutvak. During the period after her unfortunate passing, he met and married his second wife, Phylis Davis Lutvak.

Mark graduated from the University of Michigan in 1962 where he received his Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering (BSEE) and then from Wayne State University in 1969 where he received his MBA.

Mark’s capabilities were broad, and he supported them with enthusiasm, dedication and sense of practicality. His long career in the computer media storage industry began in 1962 when he worked for IBM in South Bend, Indiana, and then for Burroughs Corporation in Detroit, Michigan (1964-1976) in the same capacity and emerging field. In 1976-1981, he relocated with his family to Silicon Valley, where he worked for several noteworthy companies. His first opportunity in Silicon Valley was with Memorex Corporation from 1976-1981. He then continued with his acquired marketing skills to promote and grow the emerging personal computer and storage system markets for Atari, Durango and Qume throughout the balance of the 1980s as he continued to grow the computer media storage industry. This career achievement led Mark to be recognized in Marquis’ “Who’s Who” book for his long-term and consistent executive abilities in 1982 and beyond.

Recognizing the newly emerging medical device technology field, Mark decided in 1991 to enter the consulting business, specializing in marketing efforts to bring together corporations and startups for medical digital electronic devices, most notably for medical visual display systems. He continued his devotion and energies to his marketing consulting business for more than 25 years, serving several long-term clients, including Advan of Fremont. Throughout his long career, he accumulated many associates and friends that he communicated with often, and they responded with kindness and respect as did Mark with them.

Mark’s major interests were ham radio, broadcasting, technology and war movies. Most importantly, he has always valued the continuity of and devotion to his immediate family, his recently passed sister Diane, and the memory of his parents Joe and Jeanette Lutvak. His devotion to his jewish faith was also a strong guiding force and focus of commitment for him. Upon his relocation to San Jose, California in 1976, he immediately became a devoted and active member of Temple Emanu-El through the mid-1990s, and for more than 20 years since that time, he has been a devoted and committed member of Peninsula Sinai Congregation in Foster City, California where he steadfastly attended Saturday morning service with his wife Phylis and participated with his characteristic sense of duty and vigor.

Mark is survived by his current wife Phylis and his two sons, Jeff and Eric. May his life be remembered as a blessing and comfort to his surviving family and friends throughout his long and productive life.

Alan C. Mendelson


Alan C. Mendelson
Alan C. Mendelson

Alan C. Mendelson, a resident of Atherton, California, passed away on Oct. 8, 2021 at the age of 73. The consummate lawyer, director and adviser to hundreds of emerging and public growth companies, primarily in the life sciences industry, Alan also devoted much of his time serving as a board member and supporter of the University of California Berkeley, the Buck Institute for Research on Aging and the National Kidney Foundation.

Born in 1948 in San Francisco, Alan was the eldest son of Samuel Mendelson, Rita Spindel Brown and stepfather Elmer Brown. He grew up in the Sunset District of San Francisco, attending public schools, including Lowell High School. Like his father, four of his cousins, his brother Larry (who predeceased Alan), and sister Debra, Alan attended the University of California Berkeley, where he graduated Phi Beta Kappa and with “great distinction” in December 1969. After active duty service as a reservist in the U.S. Army, Alan graduated cum laude from Harvard Law School in May 1973.

Sensing a shift of economic activity toward Silicon Valley, Alan was among the Cooley partners who pushed to open a Palo Alto office in 1981. Alan spent more than 26 years with Cooley, building the leading life sciences law firm in the Bay Area. In May 2000, he joined the Silicon Valley office of Latham & Watkins LLP, a major global law firm. During the next 20 years, Alan helped make Latham a major national player in the life sciences space. Alan also served as the corporate secretary for many public and private companies, and throughout his career he served on the board of directors of several biotechnology and medical device companies.

From 1990 to 1991, he served as secretary and acting general counsel of Amgen, commuting each week to Thousand Oaks, which he always described as the most exciting, yet stressful, year of his professional life. Alan joined the San Francisco law firm of Cooley, Godward, Castro, Huddleson & Tatum (now Cooley LLP), where he was fortunate to be mentored by several distinguished lawyers, including Edwin E. Huddleson Jr., C. Bradford Jeffries, James C. Gaither and Lee F. Benton.

Alan’s life changed dramatically in April 1980 when, as a first-year partner, Ed Huddleson selected him to incorporate a small startup biotechnology company. Alan often joked that he landed the assignment because he was the only young partner who did not go out to lunch that day. More than 40 years later, that startup, Amgen, is considered one of the most successful biopharmaceutical companies in the world. Soon after, Alan began representing leading radiology ultrasound company Acuson, beginning a professional journey where he would assist emerging companies through venture capital financings, private placements and public offerings. His practice spanned many industries, including PetSmart in the retail space and Mellanox Technologies, Ltd., an Israeli-based semiconductor company, though the life sciences remained his professional passion.

In December 2014, Alan became the first individual without a science background to receive the Life Sciences Leadership Award at the California Life Sciences Pantheon Awards, which recognize leaders who make exceptional contributions across the pharmaceutical, biotech and allied industries. Specifically, he was recognized for his “pioneering leadership in helping numerous emerging biotech companies get their start and unwavering encouragement of their efforts to bring drugs and medical devices to market, and for promoting the Northern California life science cluster.”

He was also proud to have been recognized as one of America’s 100 Most Influential Lawyers in the 1994, 1997, 2000 and 2006 editions of the National Law Journal.

In addition to his professional success, Alan was fiercely devoted to charitable causes. From 1991 through 1994, he served as the president of the board of directors of the National Kidney Foundation of Northern California, and in March 2021 Alan was elected to the NKF’s national board of directors. In September 2020, Alan was appointed to the board of trustees of the Buck Institute for Research on Aging. He continued to serve on the NKF and Buck boards until his passing.

In addition, UC Berkeley always had a special place in Alan’s heart. Through connections from his cousin, Ed Weiner, Alan visited the Cal men’s basketball locker room after the team’s last regular season game in 1959, the year Cal would go on to win the NCAA basketball championship under coach Pete Newell. Eleven-year-old Alan wanted to go to Cal from then on. Though he attended Cal during tumultuous times (People’s Park, the Vietnam War), Alan loved his time there, where he was a political science major and president of his fraternity, Pi Lambda Phi. Years later, Alan served on the board of directors of the Cal Alumni Association. He served as president of CAA from 2009 to 2011 and as an alumni member of the Regents of the University of California from 2011 to 2013. Since 2008, he served as a member of the board of trustees of the UC Berkeley Foundation and as a member of the honorary Berkeley Fellows. For many years, he participated on the board of advisers for the UC Berkeley College of Chemistry and the board of the UC Berkeley Library. In September 2015, Alan and his beloved wife Agnès were honored as “Builders of Berkeley,” and Alan was recognized in Cal publications a number of times for his enthusiastic support of Cal athletics.

Notwithstanding all of his professional and philanthropic achievements, Alan never forgot his humble beginnings in San Francisco. His desk always featured a photo of his maternal grandfather Joseph Spindel, a Polish immigrant, posed proudly in front of the family tailor shop on Balboa Street in San Francisco.

Alan is survived by his wife Agnès, his two wonderful sons Jonathan (Julia) and David (Laura), his four beloved grandchildren Ella, Ethan, Laina and Trevor, all of whom brought him great joy, and his sister Debra Mendelson. Alan was also a proud member of the Bohemian Club, where he made many lifetime friendships. An ardent Bay Area sports fan, Alan regularly attended games with Agnès, Jonathan, David and the grandchildren. He counted himself among the San Francisco 49ers “faithful” all the way back to the Kezar Stadium days, and Alan embraced the San Jose Sharks beginning with the team’s inaugural season at the Cow Palace. Fittingly, his final moments were spent cheering the San Francisco Giants during Game 1 of the 2021 NLDS playoffs at Oracle Park.

A memorial service was held on Sunday, Oct. 24, 2021 at Congregation Sherith Israel in San Francisco. In lieu of flowers, please consider a contribution to Alan’s preferred charities. Visit alan.mendelsons.org for details.

Dr. Edmund H. Portnoy

Oct. 15, 1948–Oct. 17, 2021

Dr. Edmund H. Portnoy
Dr. Edmund H. Portnoy

Always one to do things his own way, Dr. Edmund H. Portnoy died early on the morning of Oct. 17 after holding on to celebrate his 73rd birthday two days prior. There was no chance of Ed missing out on the opportunity to cash in on one more celebration. While the glioblastoma that took him ravished his brain, it never stood a chance against his perfect heart. To have known Ed was to have felt his effusive compassion, unwavering love and everlasting spirit.

Ed was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., on Oct. 15, 1948, and his family settled in San Francisco when he was 11. His father was Dr. Joseph Portnoy, cantor of Congregation Emanu-El in San Francisco for 26 years, and his mother was Ruth Kwall Portnoy, an educator. Ed graduated from Lowell High School, where he pitched for the baseball team. He went on to earn his bachelor’s degree from the University of Oregon along with his master’s and doctorate in Education from Ohio State University.

Ed is best known in Arizona communities for his 35 years of devotion to human services and private philanthropy throughout Arizona. As a progressive in the community, his public service positions included: executive for Scottsdale’s Youth and Family Services; training and counseling specialist for CODAMA; director of the Community Treatment Program; member of the board of directors for Scottsdale’s YMCA; and executive assistant to Herb Drinkwater, mayor of Scottsdale.

Furthering his passion for community service, in 1999, Ed joined the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust as director of the grants programs. During his 15-year tenure there, he granted millions in Pulliam Trust funds to hundreds of Arizona nonprofits benefiting the disadvantaged, the environment, animal-protection causes, children, art institutions and many more.

More recently, Ed served as a commissioner for the Human Services Commission, City of Scottsdale, and on the board of directors for the Brighter Way Institute in Phoenix, a nonprofit organization that provides dental care for the homeless, veterans and vulnerable populations. While his contributions to the community were vast, his real superpower was his uncanny ability to connect with all people, regardless of context, and identify how he could serve them.

Ed was best known by his family and friends as a constant source of reason, a masterful trivia buff, a fervent fan of the Oregon Ducks and a longtime devotee of the Grateful Dead rock band; he recently named his Labradoodle “Jerry Garcia.”

Devoted to his large family, Ed leaves behind his beloved wife of 36 years, Joan Portnoy, originally from North Dakota; son Zachary Portnoy of San Francisco; daughters Andrea Wieck of Long Beach, California, Megan Skalina of Phoenix and Marissa Kolanko of Scottsdale; brothers Robert and Jeffrey Portnoy of Marin County, California; and eight grandchildren and numerous nieces and nephews.

In lieu of flowers, please consider donating in Ed’s honor to the Brighter Way Institute. Brighterwaydental.org/donate (tribute donations) or take those funds and attend a Dead & Company show with someone you love.

Joshua Z. Steinhorn

Dec. 23, 1993–Sept. 27, 2021

Joshua Z. Steinhorn
Joshua Z. Steinhorn

Joshua Z. Steinhorn died on Sept. 27, 2021 in Alamo, California. He was 27. He enjoyed playing online games, skiing and hiking in the foothills and in Mt. Diablo State Park. Josh was an entrepreneur and developed a website that earned money from advertising and online games. He attended Monte Vista High School and graduated from Carlbrook School in 2011.

Josh was thoughtful, kind and generous. He always put special attention into any gifts he gave and enjoyed giving presents more than receiving them.

Josh Steinhorn is survived by his mother, Judy Weil (Sanford Weitzner); his father, Robert Steinhorn; brother, Ben Steinhorn; uncles, Michael Steinhorn (Donna), Len Goldberg (Cheryl), Jeff Weil (Launa); and grandfather, Arthur Weil.

Donations in memory of Joshua Steinhorn would be appreciated to namicontracosta.org.

Gabriel Yanowitz

Nov. 4, 1991–Aug. 18, 2021

Gabriel Yanowitz
Gabriel Yanowitz

With deeply broken hearts we announce that Gabriel Yanowitz died tragically on Aug. 18 of an accidental drug overdose at the age of 29 in Vancouver, Washington. He leaves behind his grieving parents Jerry Yanowitz and Suzanne D’Arcy, his brother Jake, grandmother Donna Yanowitz, a loved and loving partner Emilie Sorensen, and young son Dax.

Gabe was born in Oakland and went to Oakland Hebrew Day School, Joaquin Moraga Intermediate School, and Campolindo High School in Moraga. He was a sociable and happy kid. He had a heart of gold, was good-natured and smart, with a sly sense of humor. He was also a risk taker, always racing towards the edge. He was a young man who loved fast cars and faster motorcycles. Gabe briefly attended college but was unsure if that was the right path for him so worked a series of physical and sales jobs thinking one might lead to a career. He was often making suggestions about improving operations and systems wherever he worked.

When crypto currencies emerged, he began reading and learning everything about them. He started buying and trading not just the larger crypto currencies like Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Monero, but many of the smaller ones as well. He was in constant contact with people around the country discussing the newest coins and opportunities. He named his dog Crypto. He had found his passion. Gabe, who could be very persuasive, convinced family members in January to invest in a bitcoin mining venture. Gabe identified where to buy the nine miners and where the best place was to locate them, and soon the venture was very successful. Based on this initial six-month success, Gabe was planning to raise capital for additional miners. There was great volatility and risk but Gabe loved the action and understood it. At the time of his death, he had plans to set up a podcast on understanding crypto called “The Crypto Realist.” He had ideas, a vision, and a family that loved him. Those who loved him are shattered by this inexplicable loss.

Gabe is buried in Gan Shalom Cemetery in the Briones Valley, Contra Costa. Donations can be made to the charity of one’s choice in Gabe’s memory.