• Deirdre McCrohan

Phil Ehrlich


After moving from Sausalito to Belvedere in 1963, Phil Ehrlich helped found the Belvedere Community Foundation, doing most of the legal work associated with getting the foundation off the ground and then serving on the foundation’s first board of directors.

Mr. Ehrlich was as strong leader, said Roger Felton, a Belvedere resident who also served on the foundation board at the time.

“He was not the shy type,” Felton said. “He spoke up. He knew what was right, what needed to be done, and went ahead and presented it.”

Mr. Ehrlich could sometimes appear gruff, said Sandy Donnell, a former Belvedere mayor who also worked with him at the foundation.

“But that was because he was a very serious person, I think, solid, solid, solid; a wonderful man, honest, loved by many,” Donnell said. “He was a true, true friend when he was friends with you.”

Mr. Ehrlich, a former Belvedere Citizen of the Year Emeritus, former Sausalito mayor and World War II veteran, died Oct. 20, 2018, at The Tamalpais of Marin, where he had lived for the past 17 years. He was 95.

Mr. Ehrlich loved Marin County, where he immersed himself in local politics, the outdoors and the communities of Sausalito and Belvedere.

In 1958, after serving on the Sausalito Planning Commission, Mr. Ehrlich was appointed to the Sausalito City Council to fill a midterm vacancy, and he was elected to a four-year term in 1960. He did two turns as mayor from 1960 to 1962.

While he was mayor, the city hosted the visiting French President Charles de Gaulle, and Mr. Ehrlich told people he considered it a highlight of his term.

He resigned from the council in 1963 when he and his family moved to Belvedere. The Ehrlichs moved into what had been the hay barn and then the carriage house for the Blanding Estate on Belvedere Avenue. Later, they moved to West Shore Road.

Mr. Ehrlich was born Nov. 23, 1922, the son of Philip S. Ehrlich and Frances H. Simon Ehrlich. He grew up in San Francisco and graduated from George Washington High School. He attended Stanford University before joining the U.S. Navy in 1943 at age 20. During the war years, he served as an ensign and then as a lieutenant on mine sweepers in the Aleutians, near Italy and in the Pacific.

He was at mine-warfare school near Williamsburg, Va., when he met the woman he considered the love of his life, Sheila Stewart. He courted her for seven years before the couple eloped to Las Vegas in 1952.

After the war, Mr. Ehrlich earned his law degree at Stanford Law School and, in the decades that followed, practiced law with his father in downtown San Francisco.

Throughout his life, Mr. Ehrlich took an active role in supporting nongovernmental organizations with his leadership as well, including Jewish Family and Children’s Services, where he served as board president.

He also served on the boards of the Belvedere-Tiburon Library Foundation, Marin Housing Authority, Marin County Redevelopment Agency, San Francisco Symphony and Schools of the Sacred Heart. He did not hop from board to board; when he joined a board, he often committed himself for several decades, such as the 36 years he served with the Zellerbach Family Foundation.

Former Belvedere Mayor George Gnoss met Mr. Ehrlich when Gnoss was a young lawyer and both were serving on county boards.

“Phil was extremely helpful in mentoring me in how to deal with public meetings and managing redevelopment matters,” Gnoss said. “He was a wonderful community leader. Not only that, he became a really good friend.”

Belvedere recognized Mr. Ehrlich for his lifetime of service by naming him the city’s Citizen of the Year Emeritus in 2000.

Mr. Ehrlich told family members he was most proud of his fundraising efforts for AIDS Walk San Francisco, in which he gathered pledges and walked at least 10 times between 1988 and 2002. He was often seen signing up pledges at The Boardwalk Shopping Center.

“I have not done the kind of thing that helps people like this before,” Mr. Ehrlich said in an 1997 article in The Ark. “I’ve been active in volunteer work and in politics, but I’ve never done something that really helps people in desperate need.”

Mr. Ehrlich loved exercise — especially swimming in open water, jogging, skiing at Lake Tahoe and playing tennis — as well as art, photography and travel.

From his 60s until well into his 80s, he and his wife traveled the world, where he visited every museum he could find.

He often voiced his “undeserved great fortune” in having lived a long, fulfilling life, and he valued the many close friends he made in his years at The Tamalpais, said his daughter, Emily Ehrlich Evans of Truckee.

In addition to Ehrlich Evans, Mr. Ehrlich is survived by his son, Joel Ehrlich of Tiburon; a brother, John Ehrlich of San Francisco; and two grandchildren, Conner and McKenzie Evans. His wife, Sheila, and his daughter Elizabeth Frey predeceased him.

Donations in his memory may be sent to KQED Membership Department, 2601 Mariposa St., San Francisco, CA 94110.

Deirdre McCrohan has reported on Tiburon local government and community issues for more than 30 years. Reach her at 415-944-4634.


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