Dr. Robert Spitzer
1926 - 2015
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Dr. Robert S. Spitzer

Bob Spitzer was born on September 16, 1926 in St. Louis and passed away peacefully in his Palo Alto home on December 17, 2015, surrounded by his loving family. A seeker and artist, he left the world a better place.

Bob's parents, Harry and Anna, moved from Europe to America seeking a better life. Bob grew up with the affection of his elder sister Lucille, while big brother Jerry cultivated Bob's wit and competitive spirit. Bob tried to enlist in the Navy in World War II but was rejected for epilepsy, so he forged his medical record and served in the Merchant Marines as cadet officer in East Asia.

After the war, Bob entered Yale, where he embraced a variety of intellectual pursuits, graduating in philosophy in 1949. Finishing near the top of his class at Harvard Law School in his first year, he decided he was smart enough to become a doctor. After passing the Bar, he focused on psychiatry at Washington University Medical School where he developed a lifelong fascination with the mind and the empirical approach. When the Psychoanalytic Institute rejected him because "he didn't know himself well enough", this ignited an inner search that lasted throughout his life.

While in law school, Bob met Becky, the love of his life, and thus began their 64-year courtship. Early in their romance, Becky took him to Colorado for the "cabin test," where he proved his worth hiking, chopping wood, and joining campfire sing-a-longs at 9,600 feet. They returned almost every year, eventually bringing their children, Mandy, Dan, and David, and their families as well. In the 1950's, Becky inspired Bob when he saw her participate with her sister Jane in civil disobedience protests against segregated lunch counters. He directed this inspiration toward a life of civil rights and social justice work.

Bob moved his family to Palo Alto in 1961, where he joined the Stanford faculty and the Mental Research Institute, a center of pioneering work in behavioral sciences. Bob was exhilarated by his colleagues and in particular, by Virginia Satir. This led to decades of creative partnership. Bob acquired the publishing house, Science & Behavior Books, releasing many seminal books that influenced millions of mental health professionals. When Virginia, Bob, and Becky helped to establish IHLRN (an international association of therapists), Bob felt for the first time that he could impact a broad community.

Meanwhile Bob explored other approaches to community development. With Becky, he established the first free and anonymous pregnancy testing service in California. In the late 1960's, he formed an intentional community on land he bought in the Santa Cruz mountains, which for the past 40 years has been home to dozens of artists and writers in diverse fields. It was the center of the nascent "home birth" movement in Northern California, which Bob supported medically and financially. Neurolinguistic Programming was also created there, along with important works by Gregory Bateson. Combining his legal and psychiatric perspectives, Bob brought a holistic approach to the treatment of incest. He included the extended family among the victims as they also suffered from the crime. He founded Parents United, which became an international organization that both provided broad-based therapy and drove policy change, resulting in the reform of California's relevant laws.

Bob was a patriot who believed America had the obligation to engage responsibly in the world. He was outraged by the Vietnam War and was arrested for blocking the Oakland draft center in 1967, leading to 10 days in jail "which became a teach-in with colleagues ranging from Roy Kepler to Joan Baez". Bob traveled to Nicaragua many times to record America's secret engagement in the Iran-Contra arms deals, often filming with bullets flying around him. His activities included the famed "Baseball for Peace" journeys with San Francisco Giants Manager Dusty Baker and other athletes. Bob's activism included filming Brian Willson sitting on railroad tracks to stop an armaments shipment before he was run over by the speeding train. Bob's footage was broadcast internationally, further influencing the debate on American military policy.

Bob was deeply influenced by trips to India where he learned to meditate and experienced a new reality of how people could live together and with themselves. For the last 25 years of his life, Bob didn't eat meat with the stated purpose of challenging people to shift food priorities to feed the world. He struggled with depression throughout his adulthood, brought on by the death of his father. After trying a variety of conventional pharmacological treatments, he found marijuana to be his most effective medical intervention. Through his 60 years of psychiatric practice, he deeply honored his patients, willing to go to their dark places, while never judging them.

Bob is remembered as a loving husband, father, grandfather, friend, and mentor to many.

In lieu of flowers, Bob would have appreciated a donation to "Veterans for Peace Chapter 11" sent as a check to: 825 Balboa Ave. #306, Capitola, CA 95010.

To Plant Memorial Trees in memory, please visit our Sympathy Store.
Published in San Francisco Chronicle from Jan. 7 to Jan. 10, 2016.
Memories & Condolences
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12 entries
January 2, 2020
Gentleness, respect, kindness, observation, silence, presence and love for Becky and a strong couple's love.
I learned a lot from him.
Not easy to forget both of them!

Aura Sofia Diaz.
January 1, 2020
Best friends
Daniel Spitzer
January 1, 2020
Life partners
Daniel Spitzer
January 1, 2020
Always in my heart, dad.
Daniel Spitzer
December 14, 2016
My ❤ heart goes out to the Becky,Mandy,Dave,Dan.
Spending time with Bob was a privilege for me. We shared stories and he gave me lots of wisdom.
I am forever great full to have had Bob as my dear friend.
Carlos Garcia
July 21, 2016
Thank you Bob for your calm counsel and gift of peace you gave us. Our condolences and love to Becky, Dave and Dan.
Albert Foster
January 24, 2016
I will always remember his kindness, gentle humor & determined optimism!
Miranda Edison
January 21, 2016
It was an honor and a big pleasure to have shared some days of your life and Becky's life.
A person like you is always there in the thinnest vibrations of our energy.
Love you and Becky
Aura Sofia
January 20, 2016
We remember Bob and Becky's presence at the Port Chicago blockade and resistance to arms shipments to Central America
So grateful for the Peace Work.
Ernie Goitein and Claire Feder
Ernie & Claire Goitein & Feder
January 13, 2016
Thanks Bob for your friendship and presence. I will miss you so very much.
Jonathan Stolzenberg
January 10, 2016
Thank you Dad,

You left us with wonderful idea to think about - and act on.

Your son Dan
Daniel Spitzer
January 10, 2016
What a man, what a dad. Love always, your daughter, Mandy
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