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Masha Zakheim

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Masha Zakheim Obituary
Masha Zakheim

19 May 1931

12 February 2014

Masha Zakheim created a remarkable identity for herself. Energetic and expressive, she gave numerous talks and lectures on the art, architecture and history of San Francisco. Synonymous with Coit Tower, and a City Guide docent for many years, she was connected with the City Club, Beach Chalet, Stock Exchange, SF Art Institute and California Historical Society. She had a clear and enthusiastic, knowledgeable way of engaging with and drawing out her audience. 

Through her company Articulate Art: San Francisco of the 1930s, Masha specialized in Mexican muralists and local New Deal art, in addition to championing the work of her father, the outspoken Jewish-Polish Coit Tower artist Bernard Zakheim.  Her authoritative book Coit Tower: Its History and Art – published by Volcano Press – was integral in keeping this iconic landmark on the map. Her book Diego Rivera in San Francisco was published in Spanish in 1998.

Masha was born in San Francisco to artist Bernard Baruch Zakheim and interior decorator Eda Leah Spiegelman, both from Poland, on 19 May 1931 – at 12 noon, as she liked to tell it, on a Tuesday, when the weekly air siren sounded. In 2006 the date was designated Masha Zakheim Day by the mayor of San Francisco.

Along with her then-husband Don Jewett (they were married in 1954), Masha spent several years in England, where her first child was born. In 1956 she got a Masters in English from UC Berkeley. 

With her lively intellect and love of words, Masha inspired scores of students during her 25 years as a tenured English and Humanities instructor at SF City College and a teacher at SF State University. For 20 years after retiring she was still actively involved – the City College Academic Senate recognized her in 2008 for keeping the on-campus Diego Rivera mural "in the public eye, and for her scholarly efforts in capturing the stories of her native city".

Masha embraced the arts personally and professionally, supporting the symphony, opera and theatre and running the student ushering program at City College.

Thoughtful, motivated and always there for people, she was very social and an excellent cook. Her New Year open-house parties, with hundreds of guests, were legendary. 

Masha travelled the world, always with a focus: she visited churches where Bach played and did a walking pilgrimage in Japan, a country she was drawn to. She often hosted Japanese students in her home. 

As one friend said: "Masha was a mentor; she just connected. She had a great passion for life. Masha really lived."

Masha died on 12 February 2014, after prolonged illnesses, with us, her daughters Leah Royall and Bethany Stark, at her side in Los Angeles. She was the sister of Volcano Press publisher Ruth Gottstein, art conservator Nathan Zakheim, and Matthew Zakheim; and grandmother to Yale, Julian, Copeland and Dare.

We are grateful to have had a mother who was so supportive, articulate and upbeat (one of her favorite words).

A memorial will be held in early August. Please contact leahroyall@inoutbox.com for details

Donations to ProtectCoitTower.org preferred

Published in San Francisco Chronicle on Feb. 23, 2014
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