Norman Schneider. Courtesy: Family of Norman Schneider

It is with heavy hearts that we announce the passing of Norman Schneider.

A loving father, husband, teacher, and friend, Norm was 91 when he passed away on Jan. 23 at home following a stroke. His beloved wife of 53 years, Cecile Isaacs, was by his side.

Norm was born in Montreal, Canada, to Isidore Schneider and Rose Wiseman, both immigrants from Lipkany, Moldova. The youngest of four children, Norm had three older sisters who preceded him in death: Beulah Perlman, Ruth Levitch, and Evelyn Vedro. Norm’s family moved to the Bronx, where he grew up in The Amalgamated Housing Cooperative. In New York City, Norm frequented museums and Broadway theaters paid for by his jobs as a soda jerk (which begat a lifelong love of ice cream), a busboy during summers in the Catskills, and a skating instructor at Wollman Rink in Central Park. After graduating from Dewitt Clinton High School, Norm attended Brooklyn College, graduating in 1953.  He enlisted in the Army and was stationed at Niagara Falls, where he was a recipient of the National Defense Service Medal for service during the Korean War.

A beneficiary of the GI Bill, Norm moved to California to earn a Ph.D. in economics from UC Berkeley in 1955. While at Berkeley he met his first wife, Mary (Sanford) Gordon, the mother of his two daughters. Norm taught at both Williams College and UC Davis, but ultimately, he and Mary moved back to Berkeley when he accepted a position with San Francisco State University, where he remained as a professor of urban studies for 33 years.

In 1970, after he and Mary divorced, Norm met Cecile at the Berkeley Co-op. With a combined family of six kids (stepdaughter Debbie Richerson passed away in 2017), adventure was always around the corner. Many summers were spent camping in a VW bus, traveling up the Northwestern coast to Quadra Island in British Columbia. Always athletic, Norm played basketball, hiked, fished and even had a small sailboat for a few years. 

At San Francisco State University, Norm was a highly regarded professor of urban studies and economics, where he eventually developed a focus on nonprofit arts organizations. His years at SFSU included many student protests and civic events, and he was always impressed and energized by the passion of his students and took his responsibilities as a teacher very seriously.

Norman Schneider. Courtesy: Family of Norman Schneider

Norm took several sabbaticals to Europe, where the family fully embraced the local lifestyles. Norm made friends easily and kept them forever. He was happiest at a table of engaged conversationalists discussing politics, art, literature, academia or current events. He had an amazing memory, a sharp wit, and deep intellect. He was intently curious, a thoughtful listener, and a natural teacher. An avid reader, Norm read the New York Times every day, especially Paul Krugman’s column, and the New York Review of Books.

Some 20 years ago, Cecile and Norm bought a rugged tract of land at the peak of a ridge just outside of Healdsburg, California. “The Land,” as the family referred to it, was a focal point of their lives as they planted orchards, built a stunning patio for entertaining and respite, and engaged themselves in the community. After Norm’s retirement in 2001 they planned and built their dream house on the property where they lived until August 2020, when their home was sadly destroyed in the Walbridge fire. They moved into their rebuilt home in December 2022, only a week before his stroke. 

Norm leaves behind daughters Lisa Sanford (David Long) and Margaret Schneider as well as stepchildren Susie Somers (Scott Somers), Alyx Fier (Sally Ketchum) and Brenda Ogburn (Matthew Ogburn) and grandchildren Ava Wallace, Dustin and Dylan Jamner, Andrea and Kristin Richerson, Megan and Hanna Ogburn, Tessa and Elsa Fier, and Kyle and Jamie Somers. Norm was the patriarch of a large, blended, loving family, and while we mourn his absence, we are grateful for the many years he spent among us.

The family wishes to thank the medical staff at Healdsburg Hospital and the Sutter Health Hospice staff in Oakland and Moya and Nora Garcia for their attentive and compassionate care. There will be a remembrance later this year.