Norm Savinar (1916-2010)

Norman Savinar was born in Portland, Oregon on June 16, 1916 to Jacob and Bessie (Abrams) Savinar, two years after their families had immigrated from Russia. His parents met in Portland. His father’s family was Orthodox and they established themselves in South Portland. His grandfather never learned English but he was as student of Torah, a love he passed on to his children. In contrast, his mother’s father, also from Russia, became Americanized and a deeply involved civic leader. 

Norm attended Irvington Elementary School, Grant High School and graduated from the University of California at Berkeley with a degree in philosophy. While at CAL he met and married Adele Silver of Los Angeles, his first wife of 37 years. In the Second World War, Norm served overseas and became a Major in the armed forces. His military service included coaching a GI basketball team, commanding an all-African American unit stateside, and serving in the Intelligence Corps in Western Europe, for which he received the Bronze Star. Norm returned to Portland with Adele and their first son, Tim. He followed his family’s interest in business: his father and uncle Harry were some of the first “commission merchants” in Portland, operating as the Savinar Company. Norm and his brother Richard went into business together running Portland Ice and Cold Storage and Norm began to purchase real estate. Their second son Tad was born in Portland.

He played golf at the Tualatin Country Club and was active at Congregation Beth Israel, serving as president when Rabbi Rose became the rabbi. He served on the board of Oregon Freeze Dry which eventually supplied the K-rations to American soldiers during the Vietnam War and then later served on the board of Fibertech - a Hood River company that recycled shipping pallets. 

Always proud of his heritage, Savinar has also felt comfortable in many different cultural communities and has consistently taken leadership positions in Portland: president of his class at Grant High School, manager of the Community Chest section of Portland State University, president of the Council of Christians and Jews, and president of Beth Israel. A year after Adele's death in 1978, Norm met Elaine Jaffe Weil and they were married in 1990. Norm died October 19, 2010.