By Sara Bloomberg
Hundreds of mourners filled a bright, yellow memorial hall in San Francisco on August 12 and as the pews filled up, dozens of people resorted to standing along walls and sitting on the floor for a chance to honor the life of Milton Marks.
Only three days earlier, City College Board member Milton Marks III died after suffering from a brain tumor for the past couple of years. He was 52 years old.
The service began with a traditional Jewish prayer, or Kaddish, and the sounds of English, Yiddish and Hebrew intermingled as Rabbi Micah Hyman reflected on Milton’s life.
“He was heroic. He was dignified. He was the mensch we all knew he was,” Hyman said.
More than a solemn service, it was a celebration punctuated with humor and fond memories as multiple speakers talked about his childlike curiosity, goofiness, unconditional loyalty and humble manner.
“Even at the end of his life,” Milton’s wife Abby said, “he was still joking around.”
She teared up as she spoke about their love, their life and their three young sons.
“He gave them (our boys) so much in such a short time,” she said, and recalled how Milton was devastated that they might grow up without him.
Other speakers that day included his brother, childhood friends, college classmates and professional colleagues.
“He was the nicest guy in politics,” said John Rizzo, president of the City College Board. “But he was tough” and would fight for everything he believed in.
A native San Franciscan, Milton served on the college’s board for nearly twelve years and came from a family that was active in law and politics — his father was a California assemblyman and his grandfather was a judge.
Elected to the board in 2000, Milton served as president for two years until he had a seizure in December 2010 that revealed he suffered from a brain tumor.
But even illness couldn’t stop him and he went right back to work as soon as possible.
He never pretended to have all the answers, Rizzo said to the packed memorial hall, but he always sought out solutions.
While some final prayers were said, the pallbearers escorted Milton’s coffin down the aisle and through the hall to a hearst waiting outside on Divisadero Street.
His friends, family and colleagues filtered outside, too, and consoled each other with hugs and their shared memories of a man who was an advocate for students, sustainability, transparency and love.