Coit Tower News - February 2014

With great sadness, this month we mark the passing of one of the true Coit Tower heroes:  Masha Zakheim.
Masha and her sister Ruth are the daughters of Coit Tower muralist Bernard Zakheim.  For over 25 years, Masha served as a docent at Coit Tower, enlightening thousands of visitors from around the world about the artists and stories behind the Coit Tower murals.  Masha interviewed many of the Coit Tower artists and was the author of the Coit Tower “bible”, Coit Tower San Francisco:  Its History and Art, that has informed and inspired all of San Francisco to step up and work harder to celebrate, honor, respect and protect Coit Tower, its history and art.  From all of us who love Coit Tower now more than ever, thank you Masha.
In August, there will be a San Francisco gathering to celebrate Masha’s life and contribution to Coit Tower, art, and history.  We will be sure to announce the details when they are set.
Following Masha’s passing, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors adjourned its Feb. 25th meeting in her honor at the request of Supervisor John Avalos.  Supervisor Avalos read a message about Masha’s life and contributions to San Francisco as a longtime teacher at City College and her dedication to preserving the Diego Rivera mural “Pan American Unity” located at San Francisco City College, as well as her tireless work for the Coit Tower murals.
State Senator Mark Leno authored a California State Senate Proclamation honoring the life and work of Masha and her great contributions to art and history in California.  Senator Leno’s Proclamation is being sent to Masha’s daughters, Bethany and Leah.
To read an obituary written by Masha’s daughters, published in the February 23, 2014 Chronicle, and to sign the online Guest Book, visit this link:
San Francisco Chronicle reporter Carl Nolte also wrote a thoughtful obituary for Masha that was printed on the Sunday Chronicle on February 16, 2014.  It is reprinted below.
Sunday, February 16, 2014
Masha Zakheim, Coit Tower and Diego Rivera mural expert
By Carl Nolte
Masha Zakheim, an expert on San Francisco's Coit Tower and its famous murals, died Wednesday after a long illness at the home of one of her daughters in Los Angeles. Ms. Zakheim was 82.
She was the daughter of Bernard Zakheim, a noted San Francisco muralist and one of the artists who worked the noted Coit Tower murals.  Ms. Zakheim was also an expert of the work of Diego Rivera, the famed Mexican muralist, and helped to preserve the work he did in San Francisco in the 1930s.
She wrote two books on public art in San Francisco, one a widely praised book on Coit Tower and its murals and the other on Rivera, his friends and his work in San Francisco.  Ms. Zakheim was particularly devoted to Coit Tower. She spent more than 25 years as a volunteer docent at the tower and trained other docents and local tour guides in its history and significance.
"What a gift Masha gave to every San Franciscan by writing what has become the Coit Tower 'bible' that we have all learned so much from. She will be deeply missed,' said Jon Golinger, chair of Protect Coit Tower, a preservationist organization.
Ms. Zakheim was born in San Francisco in 1931 and held a bachelor's degree from San Francisco State College and a master's from UC Berkeley.
She taught English and humanities at the City College of San Francisco for 25 years, and when she retired in 1991, the college's academic senate passed a resolution praising her academic work and especially her efforts to help the public understand the Rivera murals on campus.
She is survived by two daughters, Bethany Start of Los Angeles and Leah Royall of London; a sister, Ruth Gottstein of Volcano (Amador County); and three grandchildren.  A memorial service will be held later this year.


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