Robert Alexander David (Bob) Schwartz

Margot Schwartz
Friday February 24, 2017 - 04:05:00 PM

Robert Alexander David Schwartz (Bob) was unfortunately obliged to abandon his recently adopted ten-year plan as a result of a stroke, which ultimately claimed his life on February 18.

A dedicated swimmer and aficionado of Fenton’s Swiss Milk Chocolate shakes, he was born in 1925 in Chicago, Illinois. He attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in 1944, after which he served as a Lieutenant in the United States Navy at Pearl Harbor during World War II. In 1951 he moved to Oakland, where he lived the remainder of his full and dynamic 92 years. He earned a Doctor of Jurisprudence degree from Golden Gate University Law School, becoming a member of the California State Bar in 1974. 

Never too keen on taking orders from others, Bob was founder of three corporations: Schwartz and Lindheim, United Plastics, and most recently Key Source International, which has developed and patented award-winning technology that is revolutionizing the healthcare industry.  

Bob’s commitment to the City of Oakland led to his being named “Citizen of the Year” in 1996, receiving the Distinguished Lifetime Service Award sponsored by The Oakland Tribune and the Oakland Association of Realtors. He has served on the boards of the Oakland East Bay Symphony, Urban Strategies Council, New Oakland Committee, Peralta College District Vocational Advisory Committee, Oakland Chamber of Commerce, Oakland Economic Development Advisory Commission, and the East Bay Community Foundation.  

As Chairman of the Northern California Democratic Party, he worked tirelessly for the first campaign of Jerry Brown for Governor. Further political activism involved committee work for the campaigns of US Congressman Ron Dellums, US Congresswoman Barbara Lee, and California State Senator Nicholas Petris.  

In 1978 he founded the Robert A.D. Schwartz Foundation and the Peer Tutoring Institute, which at one point maintained over 40 programs in the Oakland Unified School District. His Foundation continues to seek meaningful ways to support teachers implementing peer tutoring into curricula all over the country, therefore encouraging what Bob considered to be two of the most essential elements of our students’ education: scholastic aptitude and good citizenship. 

An avid tenor saxophonist and clarinetist who played in a 15-piece band in his MIT days, Bob sold his instruments when he joined the Navy, giving up performing his beloved music. During the ensuing years he instead focused on being an enthusiastic music appreciator and supporter, devotedly attending and filming his children’s every violin performance as well as those his wife Debbra held for her private violin students. He played a major role as a member of Mayor Lionel Wilson’s task force in the resuscitation of the Oakland Symphony after their devastating musicians’ strike and subsequent bankruptcy in 1986, and was also immensely proud to have served on the committee which chose Michael Morgan as the Oakland East Bay Symphony’s Music Director in 1990.  

In 1999 serendipity arrived in the form of Ethiopian jazz pianist Elias Negash, who moved in next door, helping Bob to rekindle his love for the jazz standards. After 55 years, Bob picked up where he left off, playing with Elias every Saturday. They invited more musicians to join and eventually formed The Therapists, a band performing for seniors at local retirement homes.  

Swapping out his signature coat and bow tie for one of his many Aloha shirts to perform “Comeback Jazz” (“When Jazz comes back, it brings your memories along”), Bob was consistently inspired by the way these classic songs brought back deep and joyful memories for the residents. They danced and sang along, in some cases transcending the confines of very severe physical limitations.  

Poignantly, Bob recounted a recent audience member dancing in his wheelchair, reveling in the sounds he clearly cherished -- it was only later that Bob learned this man possessed neither of his legs. Hoping to foster enthusiasm for this project, The Therapists also produced two studio recordings which are available free of charge at for anyone interested in supporting their efforts or creating similar programs. 

On Robert A.D. Schwartz Day (December 14, 2016), Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf proclaimed, “Mr. Schwartz exemplifies what it means to love Oakland and its people, demonstrates through action his loyalty and devotion to our city, and epitomizes a life well-lived in service to others.” 

Bob is survived by brother Charles (Susan), sister Polly; wife Debbra Wood Schwartz, their children Margot and Noah; former wife Deanna Osterberg, their son David (Myla) and grandson Alexander; children Robert (Chan-Sook), Stevon, Paul (Pamela), and Donald (Elizabeth); grandchildren Shinyung, Yea-Eun, Aeri, Junghee, Jaegyun, Borami, Jaeman, Charles, Donald, and Samuel; as well as one great-grandson Alpha Buta.  

A Memorial Service will be scheduled at a later date. In lieu of flowers, please send donations to the Southern Poverty Law Center ( or the Peer Tutoring Resource Center (