• Deirdre McCrohan

Tiburon's Eleanor 'Ellie' Bloch advocated for seniors as member of state senior legislat


Longtime Tiburon resident Eleanor "Ellie" Stutman Salesky Spater Bloch of Tiburon, an elected member of the California Senior Legislature who tirelessly advocated for seniors, children and other vulnerable populations, died Jan. 15 from complications of a heart attack suffered the week before. She was 83.

Mrs. Bloch was a 40-something housewife whose children had just grown up and were off starting their lives in 1978 when she audited the Stanford University class “Alternatives for the Educated Woman,” offered through the university’s Sloan Fellows Program.

After completing the class, she walked into the office of Joan Brown, then volunteer coordinator for the county of Marin, and sought her advice on how to start an employment agency for women. Brown introduced her to Betty Times, then director of the county’s Citizens Service Office, who persuaded Mrs. Bloch to instead help her organize a mediation unit for the county.

After getting training from federal and state mediators, Mrs. Bloch and a friend, Jody Becker, founded Marin Mediation Services with a grant from the San Francisco Foundation. Over the next 25 years, operating under the auspices of the Marin District Attorney’s Office, the two women managed a team of volunteer lawyers and others who mediated landlord-tenant, neighborhood and tree disputes and other conflicts, even divorces.

Mrs. Bloch’s role in Marin Mediation Services ended when the Marin Board of Supervisors slashed its funding. The program was reinstated within a few years, but Mrs. Bloch moved on to other commitments.

In 2004, the Marin Commission on Aging elected Mrs. Bloch to the California Senior Legislature, which writes and votes on bills important to seniors, then lobbies the state Assembly to enact them. She spent a few days each month in Sacramento as one of the vice chairs of the senior legislature’s Joint Rules Committee, a position she held from 2013 to 2015, and served on the Housing and Transportation Committee.

In 2017, she was awarded the senior legislature’s Moira Jackson Award for distinguished service.

One of her most successful recent efforts was a bill, signed by then-Gov. Jerry Brown, to require emergency plans show how seniors and those with disabilities would be evacuated in case of a disaster.

“She was a perpetual-motion machine,” said Joe Salesky, one of her three sons from her first marriage. “She didn’t talk about problems. She started figuring out how to do something about it. She was action-oriented.”

Tiburon resident Allan Bortel, who also serves on the California Senior Legislature, recalled a time a few years ago when it became unclear how the senior legislature would be able to keep funding itself.

“It wasn’t looking too good at all, and Ellie almost singlehandedly persuaded several legislators to get emergency funding and then to provide permanent funding,” he said.

He called the result of her effort “a huge accomplishment.”

“The organization is now 40 years old, and it only reached its 40th anniversary due to her work,” he said.

Because of her advocacy on behalf of seniors, Mrs. Bloch took a special interest in the Americans with Disabilities Act. Recently, she had undertaken an effort to get Caltrans to reconsider the widespread use of yellow-bump pads at intersection curb cuts and building entrances after receiving complaints that the bumpy yellow pads, meant as an aid to the visually impaired, were a tripping hazard for other mobility-challenged people. She wanted Caltrans to explore alternatives.

She also served on the Family Service Agency of Marin board of directors for 20 years and was involved in fundraising for United Way and Jewish Children and Family Services.

Mrs. Bloch had been a member of the Rotary Club of Tiburon Sunset for many years and served as club president in 2008. She was active in Rotary Readers, a group of Rotary volunteers who read to Marin City children. She also served on the advisory board for the Estuary & Ocean Science Center at the Romberg Tiburon Campus from 2010 to 2018.

For more than a decade, she was a member of the advisory board of the Marin City Community Development Corporation, whose programs help Marin City residents, including those released from prison, find jobs. She chaired the board and led many of its fundraising activities. She also served on the Marin City Community Land Corporation advisory board, which oversees development of affordable housing.

“I have never met someone who was so dedicated to helping others and advocating for the rights of seniors,” Carol Simon Mills, an aide to state Sen. Mike McGuire, D-Healdsburg, wrote in a Facebook post announcing Mrs. Bloch’s death. “She was absolutely tireless in her efforts and fearless in facing opposition. Ellie was also incredibly kind, caring and a loyal friend to too many people to count.”

In her post, Joan Lubamersky, a district field representative for Assemblyman Marc Levine, D-San Rafael, called Mrs. Bloch a “force of nature.”

Mrs. Bloch was born May 14, 1936, in Boston, the daughter of Hymen Stutman and Nellie Wiener Stutman, and grew up in Brookline, Mass. She majored in music education at Boston University and eventually graduated from Susquehanna University in Pennsylvania.

She and her first husband, Harry Salesky, met at a college dance put on by her sorority, Alpha Epsilon Phi, and his fraternity at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. They were married in 1957 and, after her husband’s career as a business executive was launched, they moved to their house in Tiburon in 1972. Harry Salesky died in 1983.

Mrs. Bloch married Don Spater in 1985; he died in 1996.

She met her third husband, John Bloch of Tiburon, through mutual friends, and they married in 1999.

In her free time, Mrs. Bloch enjoyed art, music, spending time with family and friends and her yoga class. She was a life member of the Corinthian Yacht Club.

Mrs. Bloch is survived by her husband, John Bloch, and three sons, William Salesky, Joseph Salesky and Andrew Salesky, and stepchildren Julie Middlebrook, Jenni Hamilton, Andrew Bloch, Deborah Spater-Melnick, Cheryl Spater and Lori Munoz, as well as seven grandchildren, one step-grandson, four great-grandchildren and two step-great-grandchildren.

Her brother, cardiologist Leonard Stutman of Nyack, N.Y., predeceased her.

Mrs. Bloch was buried at Adath Jeshurun Cemetery in Roxbury, Mass. A memorial service will be held at 10:30 a.m. Feb. 9 at the Corinthian Yacht Club in Tiburon.

Donations in her memory may be made to the California Senior Legislature at 4csl.org or 1020 N St., Room 513, Sacramento, CA 95814.

Deirdre McCrohan has reported on Tiburon for more than 30 years. Reach her at 415-944-4634.

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