Local | Obituaries

Sherberg, supporter of Tucson Jewish community, fire foundation, dies

Esther Sherberg is the only civilian to be honored with transport toward her final resting place in The Last Alarm Foundation fire truck.
Esther Sherberg

Esther Sherberg, a longtime Tucson resident and Jewish community volunteer, died Jan. 9, 2020, at the age of 86. Services were held Jan. 10 at Evergreen Mortuary, with Rabbi Robert Eisen of Congregation Anshei Israel officiating. Interment was in St. Louis, Missouri.

Ms. Sherberg was born Oct. 1, 1933 in St. Louis to Bessie and Joseph Sherberg. She was preceded in death by her brothers, Ralph Sherberg and Manuel Sherberg.

Ms. Sherberg arrived in Tucson in 1975 to take an administrative position in a new department at the University of Arizona. Until her retirement in 1994, she held various posts there, including a year-on-loan to the Arizona Board of Regents to staff a task force studying how to prepare Arizona universities for the approaching new century.

Ms. Sherberg earned her bachelor’s degree from Washington University in St. Louis, and did graduate work at the University of Maryland. She worked previously at Washington University, Stanford University, and the University of Maryland. She was very active in the Tucson community, and was a life member of the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona, which honored her as Woman of the Year 1992.

“‘Queen Esther,’ as reflected in the email moniker she chose, effused kindness,” says Stuart Mellan, JFSA president and CEO. “She was such a sweet soul who touched the hearts of many. Her devotion to our Jewish community was resolute — as evidenced by the many trips to Israel we took together — several during the Intifada as an act of solidarity with the people of Israel. Her work with every department of the Federation and Foundation spanned many decades.”

Ms. Sherberg was president of Congregation Anshei Israel 1999-2001, and vice president of the Jewish Community Foundation. She served on the boards of the UArizona Hillel Foundation, Tucson Hebrew Academy, Jewish Education Tax Credit Organization, and the America-Israel Friendship League.

“She was truly my mentor, she shared her wisdom very generously,” says longtime friend Madeline Friedman. “She was also my shul buddy — she sat next to me in synagogue.

“Many of her philanthropic passions have become my passions,” adds Friedman, citing Congregation Anshei Israel, the Greater Tucson Fire Foundation Endowment Fund, the Jewish Community Foundation, and in general supporting the local Jewish community.

Ms. Sherberg’s favorite pastime was visiting Israel, and she was particularly interested in fostering the partnership between the Greater Tucson Fire Foundation’s “Firefighters Beyond Borders” program and Israeli first responders.

Friend and fellow fire foundation volunteer Patty Vallance arranged for Mark Cromey, a Tucson Fire Department bagpiper, to play outside Ms. Sherberg’s window while she was receiving home hospice care. “She had the biggest smile,” says Vallance. “It was so beautiful.”

Ms. Sherberg also was the only civilian honored by the Last Alarm Foundation with transportation toward her final resting place in a restored historic fire truck. This honor usually is reserved for retired firefighters or those killed in the line of duty.