Ira Ruskin, a former state Assembly member and Redwood City mayor, died peacefully at home Thursday after a three-year battle with brain cancer. He was 70.
Funeral services will be held Wednesday at 10 a.m. at Temple Beth Jacob in Redwood City. Ruskin is survived by Cheryl Perman, his wife of 40 years, his sister and several friends; the couple did not have any children.
"He had a deep lovely voice, an enormous sense of humor, great decency, humility and gentleness," read an obituary posted by family friends. "He was a lifelong Yankees fan. He loved Beethoven, warm beaches, his cat Precious, single malt scotch, a good cigar occasionally and Tuolumne meadows in Yosemite."
Ruskin was born Nov. 12, 1943, in New York City and moved to Miami when he was 13. He headed West to study at UC Berkeley, where he was involved in the Free Speech Movement and became an advocate for civil rights, women's rights and environmental causes.
He graduated from UC Berkeley in 1968 and went on to earn a master's degree in communications from Stanford in 1983. He worked as a marketing and communications consultant before entering politics. His death before the holiday weekend saddened many.
"As a UC Berkeley undergrad, Ira took part in the Free Speech Movement and responded when Cesar Chavez asked students to give the Delano grape strikers their lunch money in October 1966 during a rally at Sproul Plaza," wrote the United Farm Workers on their Facebook page. "His commitment to good causes never wavered."
From 1995 to 2004, Ruskin served as a member of the Redwood City Council, serving as mayor from 1999 to 2001. He became known for his efforts to improve downtown, build a fire station in Redwood Shores and strengthen relationships between the city and local schools.
In 2004, Ruskin, a Democrat, was elected to the California Assembly after beating out Republican candidate Steve Poizner, who spent approximately $6 million of his own money on the general election.
Ruskin served three terms until being termed out in 2010 and considered running for state senate but withdrew to focus on his health.
"As a member of the Assembly and as mayor and City Councilmember of Redwood City, Ira Ruskin was known as the consummate public servant," said Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins in a statement. "His loss is not only a loss for his family and many friends but for the entire state of California. In the Assembly, Ira Ruskin was a leader on consumer issues, energy independence and protecting our coast. The leadership, intelligence and compassion Ira Ruskin brought to public service will be sorely missed. My Assembly colleagues and I send our thoughts and prayers to his wife, Cheryl, and to all their family and friends."
Contact Dana Hull at 408-920-2706. Follow her at Twitter.com/danahull.
Where: Temple Beth Jacob
Address: 1550 Alameda De Las Pulgas
City: Redwood City
When: 10 a.m. Wednesday
In lieu of flowers, please consider donations to Sempervirens Fund, 419 S. San Antonio Road, Suite 211, Los Altos CA 94022.