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Paul Crane Dorfman

1939 - 2018 Obituary Condolences
Paul Crane Dorfman Obituary
Paul Crane Dorfman

1939 - 2018

Paul was born on March 16, 1939 in Chicago, Illinois to Isaiah Sol and Lillian Mae Dorfman. He died peacefully on November 9, 2018 in San Francisco, with his beloved Valerie by his side. A devoted family man, extraordinarily kind friend, dedicated and respected banker, generous patron and supporter of the arts, active member of the community, lifelong scholar, and citizen of the world, Paul will be deeply missed. The eldest of three brothers, Paul was born and raised in Chicago and Glencoe, Illinois. His family was close. During World War II his mother, her sister, and their children shared an apartment while their fathers were away. Paul's care for and commitment to his family may have been forged during this period, and it stayed with him always.
An excellent student and champion debater, Paul attended Princeton University, where he met the first love of his life, Janet Vogel, who was studying at Smith. They were married in 1961 after Paul graduated with a degree in Economics. Paul and Janet moved to New Haven, Connecticut, where they lived while Paul followed in his father's footsteps and studied law. Their first child, Judith, was born in 1962. He earned his JD from Yale University in 1964. The family returned to the Chicago area and Paul began his legal career with Mayer, Brown and Platt, where he worked for five years. They welcomed Jeffrey and Eric to the family. In 1969 Paul made his first foray into banking, with Continental Illinois Venture Corporation, as vice president. Two years later he joined JMB Realty Corporation, a real estate investment firm. Paul was recruited by Bank of America in 1973 and moved his family west to Orinda, California, where he and Janet welcomed their fourth child, Benjamin. When Paul embarked on his 30-year career with B of A, he joined as a vice president in the wholesale bank and moved into increasingly responsible positions, including positions as head of credit administration for the Europe Middle East & Africa division in London and for the Asia division in Tokyo. Paul was a gifted diplomat, strategist, and communicator. His grace and calm under pressure enabled him to make decisions of enormous import. The family returned to San Francisco in 1985. Paul became a fixture at 555 California, as executive vice president, senior worldwide credit officer, vice chairman of the credit policy committee, and chairman of the country risk and credit policy committees. Paul was also the national chair of Robert Morris Associates, a credit risk industry organization. He loved his work, finding it both interesting and rewarding. He was interwoven in the fabric of his family and community, providing counsel and support to all. Paul and Janet happily moved into the role of Grandma and Papa as their children started families of their own. They also cared for their family near and far, organizing reunions and gatherings.
After Janet died in 2000, Paul took solace in his close family and in his work. He found true love again when a concert at Grace Cathedral sparked his connection with Valerie. They were married in 2002. Paul retired that year and dedicated more time to volunteering his considerable talents and expertise. He believed in serving others. This principle was reflected in his involvement as executive vice president of the San Francisco Opera Association; president of the Japan Society; board member for Jewish Family and Children's Services, American Jewish Committee, and Pacific Council on International Policy; and Trustee for the World Affairs Council. Music was one of Paul's greatest joys, opera in particular, and he found great satisfaction in his work with the San Francisco Opera, whether helping to select the new director to steward the organization into the 21st century, navigating through strategic challenges, or raising money to support the art form. Paul was a man of deep spirituality. He and Valerie are members of Congregation Emanu-el and Grace Cathedral in San Francisco and Congregation Sinai in Chicago, his childhood temple. Paul was known to say that God doesn't care whose name is on the building when remarking on their blended Episcopalian and Jewish faiths. Paul and Valerie continued the tradition of providing warmth, love, and welcome to their immediate and extended family. They delighted in their tightknit circle of friends and loved to connect one to another. At the many gatherings around their round table, Paul was known for his prayers of grace and stimulating "questions for the table." Theirs was a wide tent, open to all. Paul's skills as Papa were legendary. He bounced babies, tickled tummies, narrated stories, and sang silly songs, often in an impeccable suit and whimsical tie. His game of hard questions captivated his grandchildren, who adored him. Paul charmed pets, endlessly patient as he twitched cat wands. His care and concern for the people and the world around him never waned. He had a thirst for knowledge and a desire to better himself, always with a stack of books nearby. He never uttered an unkind word, treating everyone with kindness and respect. Paul was an exemplar to us all. We will miss his gentle touch, quick wit, sense of play, joyful warbling, steady guidance, inquisitive mind, Socratic method, and unflagging friendship.
He is survived by his wife, Valerie Crane Dorfman; his brother, John (Katharine) Dorfman; his brothers in law, Robert (Sharyn) Vogel, Daniel (Sherry) Crane, and Roland (Amanda) Crane; his children, Judith (Andy) Mendelsohn and Jeffrey (Melody), Eric (Elizabeth), and Benjamin Dorfman; his grandchildren, Lori, Richard, and Michael Mendelsohn, and Jenna, Briana, Taton, Makayla, Samuel, and Isaac Dorfman; six great-grandchildren, and eight nieces and nephews. Paul was preceded in death by his brother, Thomas (Mary Carolyn) Dorfman, and his late wife, Janet Vogel Dorfman.
A service and reception will be held at Grace Cathedral at 1100 California Street in San Francisco on November 30, 2018 at 10 am. Attendees are encouraged to wear color because Paul loved color. The family encourages those who would like to make a donation in lieu of flowers to do so to the San Francisco Opera, Jewish Family and Children Services, or Grace Cathedral. The family is grateful for their loving village of friends and to Mele, Amie, Elena, and Krista for the exceptional care they gave Paul.

Published in San Francisco Chronicle on Nov. 18, 2018
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