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Obituary Condolences

Irwin B. Berch March 31, 1918 - June 11, 2012 Passed away peacefully at age 94 at Belmont Convalescent Hospital in Belmont. He was married to the former Myrna Zeal from 1954 until her death in 1985. He is survived by his son Michael and Michael's life companion Maggie Osterberg, and numerous nieces and nephews and grand-nieces and grand nephews. He was born in Winnipeg, Canada, to Michael (Chaim) and Laura Sender Berch, but the family moved at an early age to Seattle, Washington where he grew up with his elder sister Belle and elder brother Julian, who preceded him in death. He graduated from Garfield High School and the University of Washington, with a degree in chemistry. In 1939 he joined the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which became his lifelong career, with the exception of military service from 1942-45. During World War II he was in the U.S. Army Air Corps, and was sent by the Army to receive postgraduate education in meteorology, including a Master's degree from UCLA. He then co-founded the Army's Weather School at Chanute Field, Illinois, and trained many Air Corps meteorologists, and was preparing for service in the Pacific when the war ended. Returning to the FDA, he became an expert on food safety and public health issues including product recalls, unsafe medications and "quack" medical devices, and consumer education and awareness. In the late 1940's he transferred to the Los Angeles office where he later became Chief Inspector. He met Myrna in 1952 and they were married in 1954. In 1964 he accepted another promotion, to District Director in the Philadelphia office, and resided in Cherry Hill, NJ. He received the FDA Award of Merit in 1968. In 1971 he accepted a last promotion, as Regional Director of the FDA for the West Coast and Hawaii, the highest rank among FDA management outside Washington. He and his family returned to California, and settled in Burlingame. He retired in 1980 and lived in Burlingame until his final illness, participating in many community and charitable activities including the Emeritus Institute of the College of San Mateo. Irwin was a loving husband, father, and uncle and was exceptionally thoughtful, well-spoken, analytical, and loyal to his family and to public service. He will be greatly missed, and remembered as a wise and ethical man - a "mensch". Burial at Hills of Eternity Cemetery in Colma on Friday, June 15, at 1 pm. In lieu of flowers, donations in his memory can be made to the Jewish Community Federation, 121 Steuart Street, SF, CA 94105.


Published in San Francisco Chronicle on June 14, 2012
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