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Obituary Condolences

Roberta (Bobbe) Cortese Passed away on March 21, 2012 surrounded by her family. Her death was sudden but peaceful. Bobbe was born 3/28/1920 in Yuba City, CA and was raised on the family ranch which was lost during the Great Depression, an event that haunted Bobbe her whole life. As a child she often visited her grandmother's home in San Francisco, and she knew city life was for her. Bobbe left the valley to audition for the 1939 world's fair at Treasure Island where she landed a job as a dancer in a show starring Hollywood's Lilah Dean. Ms. Dean took ill, and Bobbe was selected to take over the starring role. She began dating Buddy Maleville, an orchestra leader, and soon they were married. Bobbe became the band's vocalist, and they toured the US playing the top super clubs and ballrooms. Eventually they became the resident band at the famous Hotel Del Monte in Pebble Beach where they mingled with movie stars and celebrities such as Bob Hope, Bing Crosby and artist, Salvador Dali. During WWII they settled on the peninsula and began a family, two daughters, Pamela Karen and Michele Roberta. After 20 years of marriage they divorced in 1960. In the early 1960's Bobbe married Harry Serlis from San Francisco who became the head of the California Wine Institute. They lived at 800 Francisco in the city, a stunning Russian Hill home, where they graciously entertained wine industry luminaries including Ernest & Julio Gallo, Robert Mondavi and Baron Philippe Rothschild. Their close relationship to Robert Mondavi and the Baron Philippe Rothschild was instrumental in putting together the Opus 1 wine partnership. They also visited the Baron and his wife at their chateau in France. In the late 1970's they bought entertainer Al Jolson's estate in Palm Springs where they again enjoyed entertaining a wonderful circle of friends including actors, Mary Martin and Rod Taylor, and Prince Andrej of Yugoslavia. Bobbe was the quintessential hostess, always creating a gracious and beautiful home with her great taste and decorating skills. She was also an accomplished artist and enjoyed spending many hours painting in her studio in Palm Springs. And, she travelled Europe and Asia extensively. Harry died in 1984 after 21 years of marriage. Bobbe sold their Palm Springs home and moved to Nob Hill in San Francisco. She married Tony Cortese in 1985, and they had a wonderful love affair for 25 years. They enjoyed a very full social life, entertaining their many friends and ardently supporting the SF Opera as well as other charitable organizations. In 2005 they left the Bay Area and moved to Rancho Mirage where they lived happily until Tony's death in 2010. Bobbe moved to Belvedere to be with her daughter, Michele. Bobbe made a lasting impression on everyone she met. She was beautiful, glamorous, elegant, kind and gracious to her very last day. She was a great lady who lived life to the fullest; there will never be another like her. Bobbe will be missed greatly by her family and many friends. She is survived by her two daughters and sons-in-law, Pamela and Sven Holm and Michele and Glenn Larsen, her five grandchildren, Brian Holm, Steven Holm, Christina Plesha, Holly Larsen McGinnis, and Kelly Larsen, and her three great-grandchildren, Hailey, Katie and Shawn Holm. She is also survived by her devoted step-son, Charles Serlis, and his brother, Barry Serlis, and her three step-daughters, Kathy Roos, Christina Cortese and Acela Burkhardt. A memorial service will be held at 2PM, Saturday, May 12th, 2012 at Grace Cathedral, atop Nob Hill, in San Francisco.
Published in San Francisco Chronicle on Apr. 10, 2012
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