Remembering Jae Scharlin, activist, childbirth educator, private investigator

She was active with Jewish Voice for Peace, the Middle East Children’s Alliance, Berkeley Citizen’s Action, and other progressive organizations.

Jae Scharlin. Courtesy: the Scharlin family

Jae Plotkin Scharlin passed on Nov. 15, 2021, three weeks before her 86th birthday. She endured a long struggle with Parkinson’s disease and died peacefully at home, surrounded by her three daughters.  

Jae was born to Loretta and Joe Plotkin on Dec. 6, 1935, in Denver, Colorado. She and her brother Sheldon were raised in a Reform Jewish household. Though nine years older, Sheldon was Jae’s closest friend and remained “the very best brother in the whole world” throughout her life. 

Jae was confirmed at Temple Emanuel and attended East High School. The day after she graduated from high school, Jae joined Sheldon at UC Berkeley. She married Dan Scharlin in 1955 (div. 1976) after Sheldon’s wife and Dan’s sister introduced them. Jae attended UC Berkeley for two semesters before transferring to UCLA, where she graduated with a degree in early childhood education.  

Jae and Dan had three daughters before moving to the Bay Area in 1964, eventually choosing to settle in Berkeley for its progressive politics and excellent public schools. They took their children to civil rights marches and anti-war demonstrations, and introduced them to classical music, musical theater, and ballet. Jae was an excellent cook and baker. She chauffeured her daughters to music and ballet lessons and was proud that she had “never sent a shirt to the dry cleaners.”  She often sewed clothes for the whole family, including matching mother-daughter dresses.  She made unique birthday party favors and birthday cakes.

When her girls were older, Jae worked part-time as a substitute nursery schoolteacher, childbirth educator, and eventually became a full-time private investigator.

She enjoyed entertaining friends, hosting political fund raisers, and gardening. Jae continued to climb out of a second-story window to clean the gutters of her Elmwood home when she was well into her sixties.  

Jae was active with Jewish Voice for Peace, the Middle East Children’s Alliance, Berkeley Citizen’s Action, and other progressive organizations. In the 1970s, Jae’s interest in prison reform led her to meet Earl Gibson, whom she married in 1978 (div.1998). She continued to work for social justice throughout her life. 

We will always have the deepest gratitude for Jae’s loving caregivers, Fe and Virgie, as well as her hospice nurse, Daisy, for providing love and compassion during her final days. Jae is survived by her three daughters, Margo, (Tom), Mindy (Ira), Marcy (Franco), and her six grandchildren, Sam and Lena, Hannah and Sophie, and Rachel and Emma. “Gramma Jae” will always be remembered for her love, determination, boundless energy, and compassion. 

A memorial service will be held via Zoom at 6 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 28. If interested in attending, please email JaeScharlinMemorial@gmail.com for details.