It is with heavy hearts the family of longtime Palisades resident Harry Sondheim, loving husband, father of two, father-in-law and grandfather of four, announces the sad news of his passing on January 16.
Harry was born on October 17, 1935, in Giesen, Germany, to Karl and Hilda Sondheim. He immigrated to Chicago in 1938 at the age of 2 1/2. He enrolled in the University of Chicago at the young age of 16 and graduated in 1954, at which point he began pursuing his law degree.
Harry passed the CA Bar in 1957 and moved to San Francisco to work in the California State Attorney General’s Office. He married his college sweetheart (Branka) on March 30, 1958, in Chicago.
Returning to California, they settled in Pacific Palisades in 1960 and raised two children, Daniel (wife Chalon Bridges) and Rebecca (husband Robert Martin). They were married for 46 wonderful years.
Harry began working in the Appellate Division of the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office where he moved up the ranks to Head Deputy District Attorney. He remained a loyal and dedicated employee for 34 years until he retired in 1994 to be a full-time grandfather.
For many years, Harry was the chair of the State Bar’s Commission for the Revision of the Rules of Professional Conduct Association’s ethics committee. An award was established in 2010 to recognize a member’s outstanding long-term contribution to the advancement of attorney professional responsibility standards in California. Harry was the inaugural recipient of the “Harry B. Sondheim Professional Responsibility Award.”
Harry also formed the Professional Responsibility Unit at the District Attorney’s Office. He gave thousands of hours of his time to the California District Attorneys Association. Harry was chair of that organization’s Appellate Section, which assisted in important cases by providing amicus briefs.
He also chaired the Legislative Committee of the California District Attorneys Association where he supervised and wrote proposed criminal legislation. Harry brought order and reason to disputes over searches and seizures by law enforcement. He wrote and promoted the landmark legislation creating a rational set of procedures for litigating search and seizure issues known to all criminal practitioners as Penal Code section 1538.5.
Harry was an active member of the Pacific Palisades Community Council, Palisades Library Association, University of Chicago Alumni Association and was a past president of Kehillat Israel. He was described by co-workers as “painstakingly detail oriented.”
His hobbies included collecting pre-1920’s books depicting Jewish customs and ceremonies, collecting numbered plate block U.S. stamps, coin collecting, traveling, playing ping-pong and reading. He traveled all over the world with Branka and always returned with a memento in the form of a mushroom, painting, piece of jewelry or some other trinket. He devoted many hours a week going to the theatre, opera, movies and concerts.
Despite his busy schedule, his first priority was his family and participating in birthdays, holidays, graduations and all of life’s celebrations. After Branka passed away in 2004, Harry married Ellen Drebin with whom he continued traveling and attending theatrical and cultural events for the rest of his life.
Harry was preceded in death by his mother, Hilda, his father, Karl, his first wife, Branka. He is survived by his wife, children and grandchildren, Noah, Rachel, Sam and Lucy. They remain grateful for his patience and consistent love of family.
A celebration of his life will be held at a date close to his birthday in October at Kehillat Israel. There will be a private graveside service for family.
Harry was passionate about supporting the arts and education. He spent much of his life enjoying theater, music and reading. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be sent to the following institutions: Palisades Library: friendsofpalilibrary.org/library-Gifts.htm, Palisades Theatre: theatrepalisades.org or Jazz Bakery: jazzbakery.org/support-us.
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