• Deirdre McCrohan

Belvedere ex-mayor, WWII vet Charles Auerbach was active in civic life


Former Belvedere Mayor Charles Auerbach, a World War II veteran who was named the city’s Citizen of the Year in 1985, died Sept. 28 at his home in San Rafael. He was 99.


Born March 30, 1921, in San Francisco, Mr. Auerbach attended Roosevelt Junior High School and Lowell High School. He earned his bachelor’s degree in chemistry at the University of California at Berkeley before enlisting in the U.S. Army ahead of World War II.


He served in the 90th Division’s 537th anti-aircraft artillery unit during the war, landing with his unit on the French coastline eight days after D-Day in June 1944. Fifty years later, in 1994, Mr. Auerbach joined a huge group of American servicemen and dignitaries who went to France for ceremonies and celebrations.


After his discharge, Mr. Auerbach earned his master’s in chemical engineering at the California Institute of Technology. He spent his career with Chevron Oil Co., mostly in San Francisco and Richmond, with one stint in London for several years. He lived overseas with his wife, Marianne; the couple met on Labor Day 1949 at Lafayette Park in San Francisco, while both were waiting for their turn to play tennis on the public courts. They were married the following April.


The couple’s daughter, Darby, was born in London.


Locally, the Auerbachs first lived on Belvedere Island and later relocated to the Belvedere Lagoon. When the family’s two dachshunds had puppies, Mr. Auerbach was tapped by then-Belvedere Mayor Tom Price to head up the city’s Dog Committee; that activity drew him into Belvedere civic affairs.


He served on the Parks and Recreation Committee before being appointed to the Belvedere Planning Commission. In 1974, he was elected to the Belvedere City Council, where he would eventually serve eight years, doing two one-year stints as mayor in 1976 and 1980.


Over the years, he served on the Belvedere-Tiburon Joint Disaster Advisory Council, Belvedere Housing Advisory Committee and the Marin Parks and Open Space Fund.


Mr. Auerbach was a longtime volunteer for the Belvedere-Tiburon Library, and from 1987 to 1993 served on the steering committee that directed planning and fundraising for the existing 10,500-square-foot library, which is currently undergoing an expansion. He served on the newly formed Belvedere-Tiburon Library Agency board of trustees from 1995 to 1998, and he served on the board of the library’s fundraising arm, then known as the Peninsula Library Foundation and now called the Belvedere-Tiburon Library Foundation, for about 10 years, according to Library Director Deborah Mazzolini.


In more hands-on fashion, he was one of a handful of volunteers who sorted book donations to decide whether to sell them online or at the library’s Corner Books used bookstore or to donate them to the Salvation Army. His dedication to the task earned him the affectionate nickname “Shed King,” after the shed where the donated books were stored.


His commitment to serving Belvedere earned him several accolades over the years, including being named Citizen of the Year in 1985. In a 2012 resolution, the Library Agency board and the foundation board jointly adopted a resolution of appreciation in honor of Mr. Auerbach’s “commitment to all that is right and good, and for his thoughtful consideration of the important matters that make our world a better place to live.”


A longtime member of the local Great Books reading group, which was founded in 1960 and met at the community center, Mr. Auerbach also served as its moderator after the death of Rex Fink, the group’s founder. From 1997 to 2004, he wrote a monthly “SkyBeat” astronomy column for The Ark.


He also served on the Marin General Hospital board of directors and worked hard to defeat candidates for the Marin Healthcare District board of directors who were critical of Sutter Health, which then owned the hospital. Sutter has since divested itself of the hospital, which has been renamed MarinHealth Medical Center.


Mr. Auerbach volunteered for Marin Villages, which aims to help seniors age in place, well into his 90s. In years past he enjoyed woodworking in his free time, and in more recent years worked on crossword puzzles. He was interested in genealogy and even hired a professional to research his German and Dutch roots. Before relocating from Belvedere to San Rafael, he would work out at Tiburon Physical Therapy Center twice a week.


In addition to daughter Darby Auerbach-Morris of San Francisco, Mr. Auerbach is survived by three grown grandchildren, Melissa, John and Stacey.


His wife, Marianne Auerbach, died in 2012.


Auerbach-Morris is planning a poppy-planting event near Blackie’s Pasture for March 30, what would have been Mr. Auerbach’s 100th birthday; she said all are welcome to attend.


Reach Tiburon reporter Deirdre McCrohan at 415-944-4634.

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