Professor Helped Fill Void After Loss of Dad, Family

We had just begun ‘Wednesdays with the Professor ‘ when we lost Professor Letiche.  See transcripts


Professor Jack Letiche going over one of his books with wife Emily in background, circa 2000s


Professor Helped Fill Void After Loss of Dad,


September 7, 2017


When my dad passed away nearly five years ago, just short of his 98th birthday, it was important for me to continue our friendship with Professor Letiche, whom I had met through Dad and had gotten to know with the three of us going out for frequent lunches in later years prior to Dad’s passing.  Since Dad passed, Professor Letiche became another father figure, as well as a friend and teacher (though he never acted like one, often more interested in my well-being than his own.  )

Initially, when just the two of us started going out for lunch together I felt a little intimidated. Not that Professor was uncomfortable to be around but quite the opposite.  Here was this world reknown educator from U.C. Berkeley having lunch with little old me. How would I keep up with the conversation?  Could  I say the right things so as not to embarrass myself?  Without Dad I had the full ‘burden’ of carrying on the conversation alone.  But, I quickly learned that it was no burden whatsoever. Professor Letiche always made me feel most comfortable and even like an equal.  Even  though  I had but a fraction of his knowledge or life experience, Professor made me feel like my limited knowledge on economics and other subjects we discussed was just as important as his own.  This encouraged me to ‘bone up’ on topics of discussion so I could be well-versed as I learned and WAS eventually able to hold my own,  which made me feel like I DID have something to say – and our get-togethers became that much more interesting and enjoyable –for me, anyway, and hopefully for Professor.

Though Professor was quite well-spoken, he didn’t use big words to impress, but , rather spoke in everyman’s language we could all understand. I also found this to be true in his writings, such as his memoir, ‘Crisis and Compassion –from Russia to the Golden Gate,’  which was a wonderful read that provided Dad and me many hours of enjoyment reading it together; through this memoir  I gained  further insight into Professor Letiche, the man,  and  the  amazing, full life that he  led.



When Dad was alive, Professor Letiche was the only one who would call nearly every day to check up on him and when the two of us got together the first thing he would always ask  about  were my beloved cats –my lone remaining family members   .  Professor realized how important the cats were to me, especially after losing all my family members.  Few others showed me such a  caring nature.


It became a real treat  for me to go out with Professor Letiche for lunch at one of the finer restaurants in town, such as Skates on the Bay or Bette’s Oceanview Diner.  I would pick him up at his beautiful home in the Berkeley hills and we would venture out to one of a half dozen favorite restaurants we both seemed to equally enjoy.  With my advertising background, It was a pleasure – and challenge –  to help Professor ‘market’ his memoir.  (I remember the wonderful discourse he gave at the University bookstore when the book first  came out as my Dad , still around at the time, and I listened in awe.) The book was a   true Five Star gem with great reviews one can still see on Amazon or at the the book website

Professor would continue to write articles and had   working on yet another book  that , I believe , dealt with the historical relationship between  unemployment and  the economy, more specifically, trade in light of the possible dissolving of NAFTA .  This was also the topic of one of our last discussions, which  I found very interesting .

After Professor Letiche had a major setback  earlier this year , and was hospitalized for several weeks , he bounced   back, so to speak , and was working on the new book.  However, now he was on oxygen full time and our lunches were at Professor’s house.  Yet, he proclaimed it would only be a matter of time until he got stronger and we could go out to restaurants again.  And I believed him.  Much like my own Dad, Professor had the drive and will to go on.  I even watched as he did some light exercises at the table.   Now that Professor was  in a wheelchair , one day recently I   was in for an even bigger surprise when he asked me to help him stand , which I did, reluctantly at first, and with the help of Arthur  carrying the oxygen, he would walk all the way to his bedroom on his own, this only several weeks ago.  There, he would continue to do light exercises from the side of his bed while I read him the day’s news from the New York Times. (Professor’s eyesight had deteriorated and enjoyed hearing the news – as did I enjoy learning the latest from none other than the New York Times.)

And to everyone’s surprise – maybe not – Professor DID get stronger and  we would continue our now weekly Wednesday afternoon discussions at his dining room table.  Elvie, Professor’s wonderful caregiver, would whip up food that was better than the restaurants’, and I would bring  dessert.   So, I didn’t miss going out to the restaurants , what with Elvie’s restaurant (I was not surprised to learn that she is a noted cook who had planned to open her own restaurant; hopefully one day she still will) and the beautiful view overlooking  the Bay from the Letiche dining room table.  We would now have even better discussions on economics, politics or the topic du jour in this nice, quiet environment. What an enjoyable experience it was for me getting together with Professor, Elvie and Arthur each week.

I already miss Professor Letiche very much. Yesterday was the first Wednesday in some time we didn’t meet. But, I am lucky to have been able to be in his presence a full five years after Dad’s passing. I admired everything about Professor Letiche   – especially his optimism . good nature and  common sense.   Without it , he might not have lived as long as he did.  I remember on one occasion months back he told me about when he wasn’t feeling well. It was a Friday and he couldn’t get into his doctor’s office until Wednesday.  Professor Letiche checked himself into emergency that weekend and it’s a good thing he did, because  the doctors there told him he had a major health issue and if he hadn’t come right in he wouldn’t have made it through the weekend.

Unlike my Dad, Professor was able to live out his live in his beloved home of over 50 years. Though he had outlived most of his contemporaries,  he still had many who cared about him , like Linda   , a former  neighbor who dropped by  during one of our afternoon discussions and it was fun to have her participate. Then there was Cheryl (sp), Professor’s long time next door neighbor , who I had met at Professor’s wife’s remembrance some years ago;  she was good enough to call me that Tuesday morning , September 5, 2017 at five in morning to share with me our loss of Professor.  It was good to have someone to talk to – and then Elvie would call me later.  I’m sure these good friends helped Professor keep going   many more years after losing his beloved wife, Emily.   And,  there were so many others , including Professor’s son, Hugo and his extended family , from whom members would always be coming out from the Netherlands to visit Professor , some as recently as two weeks ago.

Just as when I lost Dad, there will be another big void in my life with the passing of Professor Letiche. But, this time there is nobody left like Professor to help fill the void. I really thought he might just keep on keeping on, but we can’t be greedy. Ninety-eight years isn’t bad, and, again it’s interesting how he made it to almost the exact age as Dad.   I am grateful for having known Professor Letiche, who helped keep me going , so kind and compassionate himself after the loss of my last family member.

Thanks so much to Professor for everything as well as the ‘supporting cast’ in his life who made things work so well for all of us.

With cares and prayers, in living tribute,



Letiche Memorial

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One Response to Professor Helped Fill Void After Loss of Dad, Family

  1. helen wilkinson says:

    Thank you for writing this lovely tribute to a relationship that was so meaningful to both of you and also in your father’s memory. I’m so sorry for your loss and I know how you must miss your Wednesdays with the Professor. It is a loss to us all to lose such a n accomplished and kind man. Many blessings to you, Burt as you go through yet another deep loss. Wishing you the very best and always your friend, Helen

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