When Rabbi Charles (Chuck) Mintz became seriously ill, his wife Adele felt hesitant about leaving him alone for any length of time. She wanted to be there in case he needed her. “Then, on the very first day that Chuck was admitted to Hospice of the East Bay, volunteer Diane Portnoff called to say that she would visit our home every Wednesday afternoon to provide me with a break. She told me that I could go out or stay in. It was up to me to decide what I wanted to do. So I went out!”
It was on one of these afternoons that Chuck asked Diane if she could show him Bruns House. He and Adele had heard about it but he wanted to see for himself, so Diane drove him to tour the house.
“He immediately felt at peace and remarked that, if necessary, this was the place he wanted to stay,” remarked Diane. Chuck ended up staying at Bruns House twice—once for a respite stay, which provided Adele with the opportunity to travel to her granddaughter’s wedding. “The second time was in the fall,” said Diane. “Adele could no longer manage Chuck’s symptoms at home. I remember it was a warm and lovely day that Chuck peacefully passed away at Bruns House with his family by his side.”
People who were lucky enough to have known Chuck remember him as wise, approachable, kind and caring— he was a certifiable “mensch” (a Yiddish word that means a person of integrity and honor).
He was a devoted and beloved husband, father, grandfather, mentor and friend. He was married for 50 years to the late Natalie Levine Mintz and they had three children. In 2002, he married Adele Hirsch Mintz and her three children became a part of the family.
In 1965, Rabbi Mintz joined clergy from diverse races and religions to march for five days and 54 miles alongside Martin Luther King, Jr. on the Freedom March. His participation was the inspiration for jazz great Dave Brubeck’s recording “The Gates of Justice,” a plea for brotherhood between blacks and Jews. The piece includes a Hebrew liturgical chant and the sound of the shofar (a horn used for Jewish religious purposes).
While serving a congregation in Texas, Chuck’s civil rights activism attracted the attention of President Lyndon Johnson. Their association grew into a bond so strong that Chuck would later say, “He was like a father to me.”
Chuck’s long career included being Senior Rabbi at temples in Pennsylvania, Minnesota and Texas, before settling in Northern California. Along with his wife Adele, he kept busy as the “cruise ship rabbi” for Holland America cruise line, conducting services, being available as a spiritual presence in cases of illness or death, but mostly enjoying the complimentary food and chance to see the world. Chuck often said, “It’s very difficult work, but some poor sop has to do it.”
Chuck appreciated his time at Bruns House. He loved his room, the garden, the nurses. “The Bruns House staff not only made him feel good, they made me feel good,” said Adele. “Bruns House is in my heart. I am so grateful that Chuck was able to stay there.”
- Category: Stories
- Published: June 27, 2013