Area Restaurateur, Wine Columnist and UC Berkeley Alumnus Dies at 94

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Former Bay Area restaurateur, wine columnist and UC Berkeley alumnus Hank Rubin, who died in his sleep in San Francisco Feb. 24, will return to what his wife called another home as his family disperses the ashes of the late writer and food guru in the UC Berkeley Botanical Garden. He was 94.

Rubin, a staunch supporter of social justice as well as an advocate for public health, was known by his family and friends as a "warm and loving and generous person," according to his wife Lillian Rubin.

Even as his cognitive functions gradually declined over the last 11 years of his life - eventually causing him to be moved to an assisted-living facility in San Francisco last April - Hank Rubin remained the same loving person, his wife said.

"He was kind and considerate, even when he didn't know what day it was," she said.

In the 1960s, Hank Rubin owned three restaurants in Berkeley, including the popular continental restaurant, the Pot Luck, which Lillian Rubin said often amassed huge lines, especially during his annual "best of the Monday night dinners" event when he sold the best Monday night dinner specials from the year.

Before entering the restaurant business in Berkeley, Rubin pursued his undergraduate degree at UCLA, served in both the Spanish Civil War with the Abraham Lincoln Brigade and World War II and earned his master's degree in public health at UC Berkeley.

He later began his writing career, becoming the first ever wine columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle - a gig that lasted 15 years. He also freelanced food and wine articles and edited magazines for wine connoisseurs and foodies.

Within the last 14 years, Hank Rubin authored two books, "Spain's Cause Was Mine," an account of his service abroad in the Spanish Civil War and "The Kitchen Answer Book: 5,000 Answers to All of Your Kitchen and Cooking Questions," which Lillian Rubin said many people treat as a "Bible."

During his work in the restaurant business, Hank Rubin never failed to value social justice. According to his daughter Marci Rubin, he owned the first top-rate restaurant in the Bay Area to integrate its staff in the 1960s.

"He understood his values, and he lived by them, and he didn't need external validation or people to tell him he was right," Marci Rubin said.

While flying from Kansas City, Mo. to San Francisco 36 years ago, Hank Rubin sat next to a 6-year-old girl who was travelling without her parents. Rubin, being the gentle person he was, agreed when she asked him to become her pen pal.

"The last letter that I sent arrived the day that he died," said Caitlin O'Halloran, now 42 years old. "We wrote letters all of my life from the time I was six years old."

O'Halloran and Hank Rubin developed a strong bond and friendship over letters and sporadic lunches throughout the years. Hank Rubin also attended her wedding and visited her shortly after the birth of her son Jess 12 years ago. At their final lunch together last year, O'Halloran said she brought her son along so he could have a "real, living memory of Hank."

He is survived by his wife, daughter, grandson and his wife and great-grandson.


Contact Katie Bender at [email protected]

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