Death of Gert Thaler, 91, ends a San Diego Jewish era
SAN DIEGO — An era for the San Diego Jewish community came to an end Saturday morning with the passing of Gertrude (Gert) Shelley Thaler, who was pronounced dead of heart failure in the emergency room of Scripps Memorial Hospital.
Born to pioneer San Diegans, George and Anna Shelley, Thaler was a graduate of San Diego public schools, and attended college in Los Angeles. She returned home in 1941 to become a legal secretary and continued in that capacity working for some of the San Diego’s leading attorneys and judges until her marriage in 1946 to the late Morton Thaler.
Funeral services will be conducted by Rabbi Scott Meltzer at 12 noon Tuesday, April 17, at Ohr Shalom Synagogue, Third and Laurel Streets, with burial following at El Camino Memorial Park.
Thaler was acknowledged as being the longest running columnist in San Diego, as well as the most widely read Jewish community columnist. Her column was entitled “Heart to Heart.” She began her career at the age of 13 as an assistant with Southwestern Jewish Press which became the “Heritage” until it ceased publication in 2003, after which she transferred to The San Diego Jewish Times until it, too, went out of business.
Among the many causes she championed, Thaler is credited with establishing the organization of the Jewish National Fund (Keren Keyemet) in San Diego serving as its first president from 1974 to 1979. Her knowledge of people and places knew virtually no bounds, having enjoyed a successful professional life as a travel agent for 28 years. She was owner of a major travel agency.
Following in the footsteps of her community activist mother, Thaler served as president of the large San Diego chapter of Hadassah as well as a group president after that and ultimately as Southern Pacific Coast Regional vice president for the organization. She was one of the founders and served as president of Adat Ami Synagogue, now called Ohr Shalom Synagogue, as well as a founder of Beth Jacob Synagogue’s Sisterhood and its first president. Very active in the affairs of the United Jewish Federation, she was one of the founders of the UJF Community Relations Council and served on committees, including The Chairman’s Circle of The Anti-Defamation League (ADL).
In the general community, by appointment of the Mayor of San Diego, she served her city for 12 years on the International Affairs Board and in a number of capacities in various community organizations. On the national scene, Thaler was a national convention chairperson for the Women’s Association of the Alcoholic Beverage Industry and internationally on the Board of the Tel Aviv Foundation for which she was presented with the rare award of a key to that city.
A member of Ohr Shalom Synagogue, over the years, she was a member and supporter of a number of San Diego houses of worship, including Adat Yeshurun and Beth El Synagogues in La Jolla. She was a member of the board of the Lawrence Family Jewish Community Center’s Library Committee, active within The San Diego Jewish Book Fair and an underwriter of The San Diego Jewish Film Festival.
Actively involved as a strong supporter of the State of Israel, Thaler visited the country 83 times up to 2006. It was in 2001 that she decided to devote 99 percent of her volunteer efforts to the work of The Tel Aviv Foundation which exists under the patronage of that city’s Mayor, Ron Huldai. In that capacity, she coordinated events and encouraged participation in the varied Foundation programs to bring about improvements in that city’s recreational, educational and arts programs, with emphasis on projects for families in need.
Having attained the age of 91 years in December, 2011, she continued her interest in opera, theatre and movie attendance as well as opening new doors to new chapters in her life. She was a friend to presidents, mayors, governors, congressmen, generals and an extraordinarily avid people person.
Gert Thaler was married to Martin (Mort) Thaler for 51 years before his death in 1997 and continued to enjoy her San Diego life with her children, Linda (Harvey) Neiman of Rancho Santa Fe, and her son, Lawrence Thaler of Marina del Rey. She is also survived by her three grandchildren, Danny Neiman and wife Lauren of La Jolla, Shelley Neiman of South Mission Beach, and Aaron Thaler of Los Angeles, along with numerous nieces, nephews and cousins all of whom are San Diego natives.
Thaler will be deeply missed by her many friends and family around the world. She touched so many people in so many places and was a loving grandmother, mother, sister, aunt, best friend, confidant, tour guide, party planner, martini connoisseur and on-line shopper.
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