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June 20, 2006 > A habit of service

A habit of service

by Shirley Wein

Sensing the coming chaos that was Adolf Hilter, Herman and Lina Dessauer came to the United States in 1931. Herman was a butcher and Lina a homemaker. They settled in the Chicago area and began bringing other family members to join them. Lina's mother, Paula Schwab, brought five children around 1937 to join her four children who had already emigrated. Herman also brought his brother and two sisters.

Herman and Lina's daughter, Shirley, was born in Chicago in 1933. She attended Kozminski Elementary School and then graduated from Hyde Park High School in 1951. Her brother, Sidney, was born in 1936.

Max Wein met Shirley at a family gathering and they were married in November 1951. Soon after, they moved to Detroit where Max worked as a quality assurance representative for the federal government. Their first child, daughter Hope, was born in August 1952. The young family relocated to California in 1955 when Hope was 3 years old. They lived briefly in San Leandro before settling in Fremont, first on Southwood Drive, then Shoreham Park Court. Son, Alan, was born in December 1958.

The parents felt it was important for their children to have a religious education so they would understand their Jewish heritage. They joined with a few other Jewish families in the area and started a community center. At first they met in member's homes but in a few years bought a large piece of property with a home on Mission Boulevard in Niles. Members remodeled the house into classrooms for Sunday school and eventually a Hebrew School and made built a sanctuary in three-car garage. Shirley was one of the Sunday school teachers.

Eventually, Shirley helped the Temple Beth Torah and served on the board of directors for four years. They had no rabbi at first, but several members were skilled in leading services. Eventually the congregation outgrew the property and purchased a new site on Paseo Padre in the Mission San Jose area. They secured a full time rabbi and added senior groups, youth groups and a men's club.

With the kids making their own way, Shirley enrolled in real estate classes and went to work in Jack Pimentel's Pioneer Property office in Fremont in 1974. At first she specialized in selling condominiums, and then became office manager in charge of hiring, training and supervising real estate agents. Eventually, she learned property management.

In 1990, Shirley opened her own office, called Advantage Group, in the Murco Plaza building on Paseo Padre. She operated this successful business for 12 years before selling it.

Complementing her work with the temple, Shirley began volunteering at the Washington Township office of the Red Cross when it opened in Fremont. She says she held "about every kind of job in the Red Cross," including appointment as a public information representative for the Township. In 1974, she was elected to the board of directors, serving as chairwoman in 1977 and 1978. Additionally, she worked on several committees and projects and also worked as a staff aide chairwoman training new social welfare and office aides. She wrote a weekly column and gave talks on Red Cross programs, organized a speaker's bureau, trained speakers and presented her own television program focused on local service agencies.

Over the years, Shirley has been involved with many other booster groups, such as Mission San Jose Rotary Club; Festival of the Arts Committee; Oakland Museum Association; American Business Women's Association; and the Newark Chamber of Commerce. She was an instructor of real estate at Ohlone College. Capping all this work for the community, Shirley is a graduate of the city of Fremont's Citizens Police Academy.

Among many awards and recognitions, the Detroit native cites her Certificate of Award for Work on the Fair Housing and Education Committee; Outstanding Equal Opportunities Member Awards and three consecutive awards from the Better Homes and Gardens Million Dollar Medallion Club.

While justifiably proud of her social, religious and business achievements, Shirley and Max are very proud of their family. Daughter Hope is a graduate of Irvington High School. With first husband, Archie, Hope produced two children, Jenna and Robyn. Jenna's son, Jesse made Shirley a great-grandmother. Hope later married Jose Isla, and they have a son, Justin.

Shirley and Max's son Alan also graduated from Irvington High School then became an Alameda County Deputy Sheriff. He is now a full-time investor.

Lifelong habits are hard to break. After all her efforts through the years, Shirley still does volunteer work for several organizations including the Hers Breast Cancer Foundation, where she is vice-chair of the board. This is one great-grandma who's not quite ready to sit on the porch all day long!

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