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Bruce Kelny Denebeim(1927-2012)

Bruce Kelny Denebeim

Beloved husband and cherished father, passed away on February 22, 2012, three days after his 85th birthday. He had been recently diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. His final days were spent comfortably with his family in his new apartment, with a view of the Bay and the sailboats that he so enjoyed. Despite being somewhat forgetful these last couple of years, Bruce remained cheerful and upbeat, continuing to show the wisdom, wit, charm, and intellect that characterized his life. His frequent observation, "I'm still able to sit up and take nourishment, and here's to another day!" always made people smile and feel comfortable to be around him.

Bruce was born February 19, 1927, in Kansas City, MO, the second son of Meyer L. and Evelyn Lerner Denebeim. He grew up with his older brother, James Everett Denebeim (deceased 2004) and younger brother, Robert Samuel Denebeim, (deceased 2005) who continued to be his closest companions and business partners throughout a successful career as a lawyer, banker, lobbyist and entrepreneur.

After graduation from Bryant Elementary School and Southwest High School in Kansas City, Bruce attended the University of Missouri where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Business and Public Administration, with a major in Economics and a minor in Political Science. In 1951, he graduated with a Doctor of Jurisprudence from the University of Missouri Law School and was admitted to both the Missouri (1951) and California (1956) Bar.

As a member of Zeta Beta Tau fraternity at Missouri, he met his bride-to-be, Beverley Anne Bellamy, at a sorority picnic in the spring of 1950. They were married February 7, 1954 in Kansas City. Having spent a summer at Stanford Law School, Bruce experienced the beauty of the Bay Area. At the behest of brother Jim, who wanted to start his own law practice, Bev and Bruce moved to San Francisco with their first born, Anne Kelny, and began Denebeim and Denebeim, Law Partners at 583 Market Street. The practice was short lived when only a year later, a friend convinced Bruce and Jim to start an insurance premium finance business. With the addition of their third brother, Bob, they created the Commonwealth Thrift Company in 1957. Bruce worked as General Counsel and was responsible for legislation, acting as a legislative advocate exclusively for the company. The modest business grew and eventually evolved into a long and distinguished career for Bruce in the San Francisco banking community.

By 1963 Bruce and his brothers purchased First National Bank of Vista and in 1968, thanks to a loan from City National Bank, purchased Golden Gate National Bank from local banker Jake Shemano, to form Liberty National Bank. Bruce assumed responsibility for the bank's Loan Adjustment Department, Trust Department, Bank Security and served on the Executive Committee. The successful growth of Liberty National Bank led to its purchase by The Standard Chartered Bank, in 1974. Bruce continued as a Director and Senior Executive Vice President, acting as General Counsel in the newly christened Charter Bank of London. By 1980, Standard Chartered purchased Union Bank, merging it with Charter Bank of London. Bruce retired as Senior Vice President and Counsel, Northern California from Union Bank in 1982. However, retirement didn't last long when brother Jim asked him to help form a new bank in 1983. The Pacific Bank was born and Bruce spent the next ten years as its in-house counsel, and participated in establishing an Insurance Premium Finance Department for the Bank. In a remarkable twist, The Pacific Bank was sold in 2000 to City National Bank, which had first financed the Denebeim brothers many years before.

Bruce retired from Pacific Bank in 1993 and returned to practicing law with an interest in financial and related legal matters, representing a number of California premium finance organizations. He remained an active member of the California Bar Association until 2006.

Throughout his life, Bruce pursued a variety of interests and hobbies. Chief among these was his deep passion for sailing and yachting which he enjoyed for most of his life. As the owner of "Cygnet," an Islander 36, he was a dedicated member of the St. Francis Yacht Club where he and Beverley enjoyed an active social life. The Club was a source of many friendships and good times over the years for Bev and Bruce as they served on numerous committees such as the Tinsley Toilers and the Cruise Committee. Bruce was also Curator and a member of the Board of Directors.

Bruce was an accomplished marksman, gun enthusiast, passionate photographer and amateur military historian with a particular interest in the Napoleonic era. He was an avid reader and opera buff, loved to ski and travel, collected coins, hats, walking canes, oil paintings of sailing ships and rare books on naval history. He loved good rum, fine wine, pipes and an occasional cigar; he spent weekends washing his cars, shining shoes, walking dogs, riding bicycles and schlepping children. He was man of intellectual substance while always exuding class and good taste. He reveled in being appropriately and nattily attired; he would often brag about the fact he never owned or ever wore a pair of blue jeans! Many people will remember that Bruce always wore a rosebud in his suit lapel.

Bruce served his community by lending his considerable talents to numerous boards and organizations throughout his adult life. A fifty-year member of Congregation Emanu-El, he served two terms as President of the Board. Dedicated to his Jewish faith, he was a staunch supporter of numerous Jewish organizations and the modern State of Israel. He was a member of the Concordia Argonaut Club, California Bankers Association, California Bar Association, Meningitis Research Foundation and the St. Francis Wood Home Owners Association.

To his family, and all those who knew him, his greatest legacies were his towering strength of character, integrity, compassion, intellect, and complete devotion to his wife and family. Bruce is survived by his adoring wife of 58 years, Beverley, his five children, Anne Kelny Denebeim of San Francisco (George Calys), Rabbi Yonason Levi Denebeim of Palm Springs (Sussie), Kirk Daniel Denebeim of Larkspur (Sabrina), Amy Lerner Denebeim Dean of Kentfield (Christopher Dean) and Keith Webster Denebeim of Mill Valley (Marie), 22 grandchildren, 10 great-grandchildren and his brothers' wives (Libby Denebeim of San Francisco and Helene Denebeim of Belvedere) and their children and grandchildren.

The family would like to sincerely thank the incredible and unforgettable assistance of Lynette, Julia, Litiana, Simone and Hospice by the Bay, who filled Bruce's final months and days with love, compassionate care and devoted attention.

Private burial was held at Home of Peace Cemetery. Friends and Family are invited to a memorial service at 4 pm on Thursday, March 1, 2012, at Congregation Emanu-El, Arguello and Lake Streets, in San Francisco. A celebration of Bruce's life will take place immediately following services at the St. Francis Yacht Club, On-the-Marina, San Francisco.

His family suggests that those who wish to honor Bruce's memory consider contributions to Congregation Emanu-El, Hospice By The Bay or their favorite charity. May his memory be a blessing. "Baruch Hashem."

Funeral Home

Sinai Memorial Chapel - San Francisco
1501 Divisadero Street San Francisco, CA 94115
(415) 921-3636
Published in San Francisco Chronicle on Feb. 26, 2012
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