Susan Finch Bernheim
Susan Finch Bernheim passed away at home on November 28, 2021, surrounded by her family. Susan was born in Woodland, California, in 1932. She had two older brothers, Alfred and Jim Goss, who taught her to climb trees and skip rocks in the river. As a young girl, she loved to tap dance and later would tap dance for her children and husband to entertain and annoy them. At the urging of her grandmother, Susan entered the Yolo County beauty pageant and won the title of Miss Yolo County. She declined going to the Miss California pageant, but was photographed with actress Doris Day holding a bag of Spreckels sugar, thus generating a family joke that she was “Miss Sugar Beet.”
Susan was not only beautiful, she was a good student and attended UC Berkeley, UC Davis and UCLA, graduating summa cum laude with a degree in education as a certified teacher. She taught in the Reed Union School District in the 1960s, first at Reed School in Tiburon, California, and later at Belvedere School as the second-grade teacher and acting principal. Her philosophy for managing a classroom was to be extraordinarily strict the first week of school, resulting in a respectful classroom environment. The students nicknamed her “Funny Finch,” and, in some regards, this was also her parenting style — strict rules and structure along with a barrel of laughs and adventure.
Susan met Bob Bernheim at a parent-teacher conference for his daughter. She declined the original request to go out with Bob, stating, “I don’t date a parent of a student in my class.” However, upon the second-grade graduation at the end of the year, Bob reappeared with a canned martini and a reminder that his daughter was no longer her student. They began dating and married two years later, merging Bob’s two children and Susan’s two children into the “Bernheim Bunch.”
Following their marriage she became a stay-at-home domestic goddess, cooking being one of her many talents. Family dinners often included her children’s friends. Some mothers were grateful for Susan’s culinary talents, especially during their children’s teenage years. As her children grew up, Susan opened a cafe in downtown San Francisco specializing in homemade muffins. This grew into two locations with an additional wholesale bakery that supplied many of San Francisco’s cafes and restaurants. She may have been the muffin pioneer, eliciting the muffin-craze.
Bob and Susan had a romantic partnership that included exploring restaurants, museums, and cultural events. They prioritized spending time together. They loved to travel together and were fortunate to have visited nearly every continent. They also explored much of the United States with their four kids in a station wagon and sailed many of the islands of the Caribbean.
Susan filled her life with meaningful friendships and artistic passions. Known for her sense of color and design, she was an avid gardener. This translated into being part of a wonderful team of friends including Bonnie Hart, Greg Hart, and Joy Kuhn, who were chosen to be design participants in the annual de Young Museum “Bouquet to Art” exhibition for approximately 20 years. She was also an active member of the “Money Bags,” a female investment group, along with Bob’s sister Nancy Rogers and longtime friend Shirley Silvestri.
Susan loved becoming a grandmother and participating in her grandson Nicholas’ life. She was fun loving and supportive; from play “sword fighting” to rooting for Nick at his sporting events, Susan was always Nick’s champion and biggest fan.
Susan is survived by her loving husband, Robert Bernheim; her children Susie Finch, Brad Bernheim and Brenda BB Bernheim; son Walter Finch preceded her in death. She is also survived by her daughters-in-law Lauren Finch, Cynthia Bernheim and Sandra Cook; son-in-law Carl Straub; her grandson Nicholas Finch and his wife, Klaudia Finch; her loving nieces Susan Calcagni and Adele Goss; and nephews Jim Goss, Tim Goss, Kenneth Rogers, and Stephen Rogers. In lieu of flowers donations can be made to the Reed Union School District.