Harry Bistrin - age: 83
(October 04, 1927 to May 19, 2011 )
Resident of Eureka, California
Harry Bistrin, a colorful and beloved presence at political and social functions and meetings in Mendocino County politics for more than two decades, died Thursday. He was 83.
“Harry had a whirlwind personality and a boundless curiosity that drew him into the hearts of many people,” said Barry Keene, a former state assemblyman and senator for whom Bistrin served as a local representative. The two met in 1970 in Eureka, where Bistrin was living and working in the family business, a chain of small department stores. Bistrin had organized a group of people to support Keene's campaign.
“Ever since that time, he became a major force both in my political and personal lives,” Keene said.
When Bistrin retired, he went to work for Keene and moved to Ukiah with his wife, Joan, in about 1990. When Keene left office, Bistrin continued on as the local face of former Assemblyman Dan Hauser; former Assemblywoman Virginia Strom-Martin and former Assemblywoman Patty Berg.
“Each one kind of handed him off to the next,” said Mendocino County Judge Dave Nelson, a close friend who also was active in local Democratic politics.
Bistrin also served for 33 years on the state Health Facilities Financing Authority.
He became a central figure in Democratic circles after he moved to Ukiah.
“He was the go-to guy for every elected democrat,” Nelson said.
Bistrin was recognized in 2010 as the local Democrat of the year.
Bistrin was passionate and serious about politics and social issues, but he also was charming and fun to be around. His charms included a mischievous smile and twinkle in his eye.
He loved to travel and socialize and was a supporter of the arts. He made others feel important, appreciated and attractive through flattery and a genuine interest in their lives.
“Women loved him. Men loved him,” Nelson said. “He got along with everybody.”
“I've never known anybody who loved people as much as Harry did. He was very non-judgmental, very good at seeing the best in everybody,” said Phyllis Curtis, his companion following the death of his third wife, Joan Telonicher.
Bistrin was born Oct. 4, 1927 in Oakland to Russian immigrant parents, Lily and Aaron Bistrin. When he was about six months old, the family moved to Eureka, where they started a retail clothing store that grew into a small Northern California chain.
Friends attribute his dapper attire to his early exposure to haberdashery.
Bistrin graduated from UC Berkeley and served in the U.S. Army.
In 1951, he married Katherine Marion Lowy, with whom he had four children. He married Anna Clay, then Joan Telonicher, a lifelong family friend.
Bistrin is survived by his brother, Herman Bistrin; daughters, Karen Bistrin, Tina Griffith, Katie Connor and Emil Bistrin; step-children Catherine Arnold and Brett Norberry and 12 grandchildren.
A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Tuesday, May 24 at Eversole Mortuary on Low Gap Road in Ukiah. A gathering will be held at Barra of Mendocino, 7051 N. State St., Redwood Valley, following the service.