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Gilbert Schnitzer(1918-2012)

Gilbert Schnitzer was born in Portland, Oregon on December 15, 1918. He was blessed to lived an extraordinary life until his death in San Francisco on November 18, 2012. He was one of seven children, five brothers and two sisters. His parents were immigrants to the United States and raised each of their children with the important values of family, community, commitment and education. Gilbert was in the "middle of the pack". He had two older brothers Manuel and Morris and two younger brothers, Harold and Leonard. He had two older sisters - Edith and Molly. Together with his siblings Gilbert demonstrated that the lessons their parents taught them were thoroughly embedded in their beings. All five Schnitzer brothers were a significant part of their communities in arts, education, religion, culture and of course the economy. In 1932 (80 years ago) Gilbert met Thelma Steinberg. He pursued her for the next six years and they were married in 1938 - when they were both 19 years old. They remained happily married for 74 years.
Thelma transferred from the University of Washington to the University of Oregon after their marriage and together they graduated from the University of Oregon in 1940. On the 50th anniversary of the University of Oregon School of Business Gilbert was honored as one of the top 50 graduates of the school by his receipt of the medallion of outstanding achievement. After graduation Gilbert then started his remarkable business career in Portland by founding with his brothers and becoming General Manager of Industrial Air Products Co. in 1940. That business went public in 1968 and was sold in 1969 and still operates successfully around the world today. His business career was interrupted by World War II. Gilbert served with the First Infantry Division in combat in Europe. He spent 37 days in a foxhole in the Battle of the Bulge and that experience caused him to treasure life and always delight in it at every moment. Upon his discharge in February 1946 he returned to Oregon where he resumed his distinguished business career and his extraordinary community involvement while always making his family his highest priority. Gilbert together with his brothers took the business started by their father and grew it into multiple businesses, most of which are still thriving today and which employ thousands of people. In addition to Industrial Air Products, Gilbert was a principal of Schnitzer Steel Industries, Inc., Schnitzer Investment Corp. (now called MMGL Corp.), Schnitzer West, Cascade Steel Rolling Mills, Lasco Shipping Co, Pacific Coast Shipping, Liberty Maritime Co, Seattle Cold Storage Co., and many others. Until his retirement Gilbert served on the board of most of these companies as well as the Board of Liquid Air, Inc. He also served as President of the International Oxygen Manufacturer's Association. While having a full time business career, Gilbert also honored his parents' teaching through his extensive community involvement. He served his religion by being on the Boards of Congregation Beth Israel and the Oregon Jewish Welfare Federation. He also served his community through board memberships on the Oregon Symphony, the Portland Opera Association and the Portland Art Association, United Good Neighbors and the Business Advisory Commission of the University of Oregon School of Business Administration. After retirement Thelma and Gilbert spent a considerable amount of time in Rancho Mirage, California where they had first purchased a home in 1974. Gilbert also served the desert community with distinction as President of the Palm Springs Friends of the Los Angeles Philharmonic and through his board memberships at The McCallum Theatre and the Palm Springs Art Museum as well as serving as Treasurer and Board Member of Tamarisk Country Club in Rancho Mirage. In 1997 Thelma and Gilbert gave permanent substance to their life long committment to community support. Together with their family they started the Schnitzer/Novack Foundation. Since its founding the Foundation has permanently endowed positions in medical education, medical research and health care, and in higher education in ethics and philosophy. It also has endowed health care facilities in both Oregon and California and has supported numerous institutions in education, the arts and in health care in Oregon and California. In spite of his hectic schedule and commitments, family remained the most important part of Gilbert's life. He was completely devoted to Thelma, his wife of 74 years. They rarely were apart. He is survived by his wife and their two children Gary Schnitzer (Sandra Wilder) and Deborah Novack (Kenneth); four grandchildren Andrea Schnitzer; Gregory Schnitzer; Melanie Piziali; and, Kevin Novack and six great grandchildren. He is also survived by his sister, Molly Levin. A service remembering Gilbert's life will be held at Temple Beth Israel, 1972 SW Flanders Street, Portland on November 21 at noon. In lieu of flowers the family suggests contributions to either the Schnitzer/Novack Breast Center at Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage, California or the California Pacific Medical Center Foundation in San Francisco.

Published in San Francisco Chronicle on Nov. 20, 2012
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