Harry Dov Weininger, who was a force in community and civic affairs in the East Bay from the 1960s until quite recently, has died at the age of 76. Harry lived a full life, without complaint, despite significant health issues in recent years, including Parkinson’s Disease and congestive heart failure. He enjoyed Berkeley Akademie and San Francisco Symphony performances in his last days, and on his final evening on the town, dined at a Berkeley bayside restaurant – metaphorically, at sunset. He suffered a cardiac arrest that evening, never regained consciousness, and died four days later. Harry ended life just as remarkably as he lived it: he managed to pass away on Memorial Day, surrounded by family and friends.
Harry’s orbit was Berkeley. He became proprietor of The Carpet Center in Berkeley in 1966 and immediately reached out to neighboring business owners, creating an informal merchant association. People would slow their cars to read the philosophical messages on The Carpet Center’s marquee, and the annual Back Door Sale brought in so many customers that the line at the cash register wound through the entire store and onto the street. As The Carpet Center grew and required more space, Harry moved the business to 8th and Parker, becoming a pioneer in the revitalization of West Berkeley. During the 1970s and 1980s he became involved in a number of community and civic organizations, to which he brought wisdom, humor, expertise, and hard work. He was known as a conciliator in fractious times, diligently maintaining good relationships with people of all political stripes.
After a near-miss run for Berkeley City Council in 1975, Harry devoted his prodigious energy to behind-the-scenes efforts. He spent many years on the Board of Directors of the Berkeley Democratic Club. As its President between 1983 and 1986, and as President Pro Tem between 1990 and 1996, he dedicated himself to expanding its voice in the political life of Berkeley. He was President of the Berkeley Chamber of Commerce; active in Rotary Club of Berkeley; a Member of the City of Berkeley Civic Arts Commission and the Planning Commission; and on the Board of Trustees of Planned Parenthood: Shasta-Diablo, which honored his visionary work with The Margaret Sanger Award. He also contributed witty and insightful pieces to The Berkeley Daily Planet and other publications.
Education was highly valued by Harry. His stint in the U.S. Army included graduation from Officer Candidate School in 1958. He received his B.A. from the University of Chicago in 1960, and, realizing a lifelong dream to study law, his J.D. from the University of San Francisco in 1988 (at the age of 54). During the course of his legal studies, he took great pleasure in attending programs abroad at both Trinity College in Dublin and the University of Oxford. He was also strongly supportive of the education of his daughters and granddaughter, and the children of other family members and close friends.
Harry loved Berkeley, and it loved him back. March 16, 1997 was proclaimed “Harry Weininger Day” in Berkeley by then-mayor Shirley Dean, and in 2000 he was honored by the Berkeley Community Fund for his civic and cultural leadership building consensus and understanding in the community.
Harry believed in and supported a number of organizations, and backed up these beliefs with his efforts and donations. Among the many organizations that were especially important to him were the Berkeley Symphony Orchestra, the Berkeley Repertory Theatre, the Aurora Theatre, The Berkeley Public Library Foundation, Jewish Family and Children’s Services of the East Bay, Jewish Community Center of the East Bay, and The Parkinson’s Institute in Sunnyvale.
Harry treasured his family and friends, and his wide circle of interests and acquaintances guaranteed that his introductions led to delightful discoveries as people realized their connections through him. Some who thought they were determined adversaries found themselves pleasantly sharing a meal at his dining table. His annual New Year’s Day parties were legendary. More than one successful long-term pairing occurred after an encounter at a “Harry” gathering. He was also masterful at orchestrating unique outings and trips, both locally and globally, for friends and family to come together and share an experience of a lifetime.
Harry was born in the Carpathian Mountains, a region in the Ukraine that has at various times been in Austria, Romania, and Moldavia. He emigrated to the U.S. with his parents in 1950. They initially settled in Chicago, and in 1963, Harry moved to Berkeley where he lived for the next 47 years.He is survived by his daughters, Carmi Weininger of Oakland and Nehama Weininger of Oakland and Greece; granddaughter Aria Rose Fisilani of Oakland and Greece; partner Yvette Vloeberghs of Berkeley; cousin Jean Weininger of Berkeley; and cat Melchior, also of Berkeley.
Private services have already been held. A memorial service will take place in the near future – contact the family for details. If desired, donations in his name may be made to the charity of the donor’s choice.