Sher was a witty and ingenious artist who preferred to call
himself a “wire worker” rather than a sculptor,
but in fact he often created large works in plate steel,
as well as small wire pieces such as fruit baskets and throne
He was best known perhaps for outdoor and indoor menorahs
that grace many Bay Area homes and gardens. One of his finest
is on the grounds of the Judah L. Magnus Museum in Berkeley.
was born in 1912 in Odessa, Russia, where there was a large
Jewish community. His father died when he was 6 and he and
his younger sister were placed for a time in an orphanage.
After the revolution of 1917, it became difficult to leave
the Soviet Union, but Mr. Sher’s mother, thanks to
her courage and persistence, convinced the authorities that
the family was not Russian but Polish, and the Shers were
allowed to leave in 1926.
they embarked on an international odyssey, helped by relatives
in the United States, and spent a year and a half in Mexico.
Finally in 1928, they were admitted to the United States
under the Mexican quota and a year later, via Cuba and Key
West, FL, they joined family members in Chicago.
the 1930s, Mr. Sher worked at industrial jobs and changed
his name from Yitzak to Emil. Friends and family continued
to call him Izzy. He received citizenship papers in 1941
after a stint as a merchant seaman and was inducted in the
ensued was another saga of travel, as well as almost constant
fighting in the 1st Infantry division – The Big Red
One – in virtually every campaign in North Africa
and Western Europe. The division fought in Tunisia, Sicily,
Normandy, Northern France, the Ardennes, the Rhineland,
and Central Europe.
and slender, Mr. Sher was a radio operator who carried 100
pounds of cumbersome equipment under fire, often over difficult
terrain and in terrible weather. He was shot three times
and was later decorated with the Silver Star and Purple
Heart with two Oak Leaf clusters.
the war, he led a somewhat bohemian life in lower Manhattan
where he met Edith Marie Thompson, a Chicagoan, who went
west with him to Los Angeles and then to Big Sur. They married
in Monterey in 1952 and settled in Berkeley.
several years, his studio on Bonita street – The Wire
Shop – was a lively place in downtown Berkeley. Its
chief fixture was a large saxophone.