Pauline M. Kassam

Kassam, Pauline M. 06/25/1923 ~ 04/10/2013 SAN DIEGO -- Paula Kassam never sat next to a door in a restaurant. She wanted to embrace the dignity of the middle of the room. And that is the way she lived, always extending that dignity to others, with warmth, friendship and love. She worked as a teacher and lived as a teacher. Highly educated herself, she made it her purpose in life to educate others. That life ended when she died of complications of a stroke on Wednesday night, April 10th, 2013. She was 89 years old. Pauline Millman, the older of two sisters, was born June 25, 1923, to Max and Genya Millman, Russian Jewish immigrants from the Ukraine. When she started school at six-years-old she said that she spoke Yiddish better than English. Paula studied piano for many years and excelled at her studies at public school, graduating from Senn High School in Rogers Park in 1941. She attended the University of Illinois at Champagne Urbana and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts Degree from Northwestern University in Evanston. She worked on a Master's Degree in education at New York University and the University of Southern California. She married Dr. Harvey Strassman, a psychiatrist, in 1944. They lived in New York and relocated to Los Angeles, where their only child, Neil, was born in 1949. She taught at a Jewish religious school and at elementary schools in Van Nuys and West Los Angeles In 1969, she met and married the love of her life, Abe Kassam, a prominent San Diego businessman. They lived happily in San Diego for 43 years and Paula taught 2nd grade at elementary schools. Decades later, a sister of one of her caregivers recognized that Paula had been her teacher. Paula and Abe went to the movies constantly. In their later years, they would relish watching reruns of "Walker, Texas Ranger" or Jackie Chan action films. Paula was no shrinking violet. Working on the board of a local temple or even at dinner with family, Paula would provoke political and intellectual discussions engaging anyone willing to converse. The legacy of an educator is far-reaching. But it was always in the cards. Her family's last name in Russia was Melamed, and that word means teacher. Paula Kassam was a teacher. Survivors include Paula Kassam's husband, Abe Kassam; a sister, Adeline Dean; a son, Neil Strassman; a grandson, Joseph Strassman; sisters, Daulat Manji and Farida Ashbrook; nephews, Mike Dean, Greg Dean and Bob Dean; nephews, Salim Janmohamed and Shafique Janmohamed; numerous other nephews and cousins and all the countless people who loved her. Services will be graveside at 11 a.m. on Sunday, April 14th, at El Camino Cemetery, 5600 Carroll Canyon Road in San Diego.


Published in U-T San Diego on Apr. 14, 2013