Al Wasserman (1930-2022)

February 17, 2023

Al Wasserman, 92, died under a blood moon in Oakland, California, on November 7, 2022, surrounded by Ann, his wife of more than 70 years, and his three children, Steve, Rena, and Sherry.

The son of Yiddish-speaking Polish-Jewish immigrants who came to New York City in the early 1920s, Al grew up and came of age in the radical secular world of Jewish progressives. His father was an organizer for the International Ladies Garment Workers Union. The family lived in the workers’ cooperative housing (the Coops) built in the late 1920s in the Bronx.

Al went to Cooper Union, studied civil engineering, and came to Oregon with his pregnant wife in 1952 to help build the road from Mt. Hood to Portland. In 1963, they settled in Berkeley, where Al worked for Bechtel’s hydroelectric division. Clean energy for the masses, he believed, was a project worth defending. In his early thirties, he convinced his employers to pay for night classes at the USF Law School, all the while helping Ann raise three young children. He didn’t believe his being was synonymous with the work he did. He joined the family every night for dinner.

A noble and principled man, Al was meticulous and responsible, decisive to a fault, and unencumbered by regrets. After earning his law degree, he was active in the National Lawyers Guild helping the Black Panther Party resist unprovoked attacks by police, and served as president of the Berkeley-Albany chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union. He was a longtime supporter of ALBA.

He died as he lived—unsentimental, humble, and modest, with an abiding dignity and self-possession, a deep attachment to what is beautiful and joyous about life, and a bottomless curiosity about the cosmos and how it works. An ardent advocate of a more just and equitable world, he embodied an unblinking devotion to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.