Murry J. Waldman
Murry J. Waldman, the rock of wisdom, stability and grace at his San Francisco law firm and for his large and adoring family, died early Wednesday morning, Jan. 15, at the age of 91.
A pillar of the Bay Area legal community for 40 years, Murry was known as a lawyer's lawyer and a mensch's mensch, a conciliator who understood that finding common ground through decency and respect was the only way to achieve lasting results in law and life. The law firm he co-founded and led with Jesse Feldman and Allen E. Kline -- Feldman, Waldman & Kline -- occupied several floors of the Russ Building on Montgomery Street for decades, the go-to place for ambitious young lawyers and corporate clients in search of the highest-caliber legal skills and impeccable integrity.
"Murry was larger than life," says James M. Finberg, a partner with the law firm Altshuler Berzon in San Francisco and one of Murry's protégés at Feldman, Waldman & Kline. "Murry was the firm's spiritual center. He always had an eclectic mix of very smart, nice, talented people and clients. I remember working with Murry to put together a deal of beer distributorships for then Oakland Raider Jim Plunkett. Winning Murry's praise and confidence meant something, and was a worthy achievement."
Murry was lucky enough to have two callings -- and two extraordinary wives. In addition to his wise counsel for his hundreds of legal clients and colleagues over the years, Murry fathered, mentored, nurtured and loved, beyond measure, an immediate family of 26 people in three generations.
Born in 1928 in Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania, Murry grew up in a close-knit orthodox Jewish family. His father ran a small grocery store, and his mother was one of 13 brothers and sisters. Both of his parents emigrated from what is now Slovakia. Murry told stories about sneaking out to play ball on Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath, as soon as his grandfather took his afternoon nap.
With the help of his uncles, Murry went off to Columbia University for college -- just two hours from Wilkes Barre, but worlds away. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa and went to the University of Pennsylvania Law School, where he finished first in his class. He took a job with the law firm of Rosenman, Colin, Freund, Lewis & Cohen, where he was mentored by the legendary Max Freund.
His family career began with his marriage to the late Jean Wollenberg Waldman of San Francisco, the daughter of the late U.S. District Judge Albert C. Wollenberg. Murry and Jean met in New York, where they had their first daughter, the late Amy H. Waldman. The family soon moved to San Francisco, and Jean was fond of saying, "Some men marry for money. Murry married me for San Francisco."
As the law firm grew, so did Murry's household, with the arrival of another daughter, Jan C. Waldman-Brown and a son, Peter J. Waldman. Murry played tennis every Saturday morning at the Burke's School tennis club in Sea Cliff, co-founded Urban High School, served on the board of Commonweal in Bolinas, took leadership positions in the San Francisco Bar Association and Civil Grand Jury and went to every one of his kids' school plays, fundraising fairs and athletic events he could make. Dinners with Murry and his father-in-law, Judge Wollenberg, as well as his brother-in-law, Municipal Court Judge Albert C. Wollenberg Jr., were often filled with loving and passionate political discussions, with Murry and Jean, both Democrats, taking very different positions than the judges, both Republicans.
In 1986, Murry lost Jean to lung cancer, and the family was shaken for a few years. But Murry had the extraordinary sense and good luck to meet and marry Marilyn Yolles Waldman, who'd been widowed as well. They combined family forces, and Murry became another father to Marilyn's two daughters and two sons. That began a new life for the Waldman and Yolles families, with all 26 members gathering regularly for holidays at Stinson Beach, presided over by a beaming Murry and Mare, a pair of doting grandparents in an ever-expanding universe of kids, grandkids and friends.
Murry retired at age 70, and he and Marilyn traveled the world, often with their hiking group of close friends and always somehow ending up for a week or two in Paris, just the two of them enjoying the city and one another. Murry played tennis avidly in his retirement, read voraciously and he and Marilyn reveled in their grandchildren's every move, filled with joy and errands.
Murry is survived by his wife Marilyn; his son-in-law Felix Vilaplana; his daughter Jan (Jeffrey Brown); his son Peter (Charene Zalis); his stepdaughter Cindy Snow (Steve Snow); his stepsons Peter Yolles (Jill Einstein) and Jonathan Yolles (Stacey Silver); and 13 grandchildren.
Contributions are encouraged to the Congregation Emanu-El Tzedek Council, the ACLU of Northern California and the West Marin Environmental Action Committee.
Funeral services will be held at Congregation Emanu-El, 2 Lake St., San Francisco, CA, on Friday, Jan. 17, at 11 am.
Published by San Francisco Chronicle from Jan. 16 to Jan. 19, 2020.