In May of this year, Hospice of the East Bay received a phone call that both saddened us and gave us cause for joy. One of our longtime supporters, Erica Weingarten, who had recently become a Hospice patient, called to tell us that she knew she would not live much longer and was troubled about some of the details of her living trust. She had made our organization a beneficiary of her trust, but she was concerned that we would not receive her gift. It was because we were listed in the document under our former name, Hospice of Contra Costa County. Fortunately, we were able to provide her with the information needed to administer her estate.
Erica passed away on May 23rd, at 92 years old, just three weeks after notifying us of her generous intention. Although I wish I’d had more time to get to know her before her death, Erica did allow me to visit with her and her daughter Toni in her home. When I met her, I was struck by how much she was at peace and by the feeling of generosity I felt in her presence. Again and again, she told me how much others had helped her, and that she felt it was her responsibility to help others in turn.
Although my visit was short, Erica shared the story of her amazing journey through life. Born in Berlin in 1918, she came of age during a time of growing anti-Jewish sentiment. In spite of her athletic talent in high and long jump, she was not allowed to try out for the German Olympic Team in 1936.
Sensing the impending turbulence, her family immigrated to England. Erica was able to join them in London, arriving only two days before the English borders were closed. Her family eventually came to New York and later settled in Beverly Hills among a large community of European immigrants. A stranger provided an affidavit for Erica (who was considered an enemy alien), to enable her to stay in the United States, and sent her $80 each month until she was able to support herself.
It was in Los Angeles that Erica met her future husband, Max Weingarten. Max himself had narrowly escaped Polish pogroms as a baby, and later left Austria because of the Nazi rise to power. They married just before he shipped off to Europe with the U.S. Army. While Max was gone, Erica earned her graduate degree in psychology from U.C. Berkeley. After Max returned from the war, Erica completed her doctorate while he studied law. They settled in Oakland and soon had a daughter, Toni, followed by their son Leonard. As the children grew, Erica taught them to enjoy outdoor activities like skiing and hiking.
Erica’s career as a psychologist included positions with the U.C. Berkeley Counseling Center and the City of Berkeley Mental Health Program. She also practiced privately until the age of 79.
In 2001, Erica and Max moved to Rossmoor, where Max died in 2003. Erica was active in Grandmothers for Peace, the French Club, a book club, and continued to participate in water aerobics classes until age 91.
Erica’s commitment to philanthropy led her to support many organizations in addition to Hospice of the East Bay. For many years, she encouraged and sponsored young people to achieve their educational and professional goals as a way of honoring the generosity of the people who helped her when she arrived in America.
We at Hospice of the East are very grateful for the generous legacy of giving that Erica Weingarten created, both during her life, and after her death.