They Made a Brighter Future
To usher out 2017, we’re bidding a final farewell to East Bay luminaries who made the future brighter.
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David Torrence, 31. Former Cal track star and Olympic athlete. A dedicated athlete known as much for his commitment to the truth as his commitment to his sport, Torrence was never shy about sharing his opinions, whether he was giving advice to younger runners or standing against performance-enhancing drugs. He won three straight USATF Road Mile titles, as well as silver medals at the 2014 IAAF World Relay Championships and the 2015 Pan American Games. At the Summer Games in Rio, Torrence earned the Peruvian national record in the 800 meter and 5,000 meter events. He also holds the American indoor record time for the 1,000 meters.
Lotfi Zadeh, 96. UC Berkeley professor emeritus of computer science and creator of fuzzy logic. Introducing the idea of “fuzzy logic” in a 1965 research paper, Zadeh hoped that the new theory would bridge the gap between the precise mathematical language of computers and the intuitive way that humans think. Zadeh’s theory was as controversial as it was revolutionary, but, in time, fuzzy logic has become an essential idea underpinning modern computer and robotics technology.
Meg Zweiback, 68. Child care guru. For more than 30 years, East Bay parents came to nurse practitioner Zweiback with their toughest childcare questions. Described as the East Bay’s own Dr. Spock, Zweiback had the deep clinical knowledge to walk them through the pitfalls of new parenthood, but she also possessed the tenderness and intuition to understand the concerns of children and parents alike. She penned a column for Parents’ Press and also wrote four books of parenting advice, all with her characteristic wit and warmth.
Iconic Operator of a Dream Diner
For 35 years, Bette Kroening, 71, owned and ran Bette’s Oceanview Diner in Berkeley. While her carefully crafted recipes and jovial nature turned her clientele into loyal customers, her warmth and boundless generosity inspired the same loyalty among staff. A fierce proponent of the $15 minimum wage, profit-sharing, paid vacations, and health benefits, Kroening believed in taking care of the people who helped to make her dream diner a success.
Kroening grew up in the kitchen, surrounded by her parents’ traditional Ashkenazi cooking, but she didn’t consider food as a career at first. She completed a master’s degree in social work from the University of Southern California and first moved to the Bay Area in 1971 to work at the Contra Costa County Department of Social Services and at Children’s Hospital in Oakland.
With encouragement from her husband, Manfred, she decided to pursue her childhood interest in food. She eventually worked her way to becoming the lunchtime kitchen manager for the famous Fourth Street Grill in Berkeley. When a developer mentioned that he was saving space in a building across the street from the Fourth Street Grill for an affordable, everyday eatery, Kroening knew she had found her chance to start her own restaurant. The space became Bette’s Oceanview Diner.
Kroening relished simple, unpretentious comfort food that she remembered from her childhood—thick sandwiches, fluffy pancakes, rich hearty scrapple—but she also eschewed the slapdash preparations and greasy shortcuts ubiquitous to the diner experience of the ’70s. Kroening’s commitment to quality drew crowds to the diner but also helped pave the way for a burgeoning revolution in California food. Years before the concept of “slow food” worked its way into Americans’ vocabulary, Kroening proved that even the hungriest diners would happily wait for a good meal cooked with wholesome local ingredients and served with a smile.