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Memorial for Les Finkelstein

Memorial Image
Graveside: Private Service
Shiva: 5:45 PM - 8:00 PM Saturday, November 18th, 2023
Daughters' Home
San Francisco, CA 94122
Shiva: 10:30 AM - 1:00 PM Sunday, November 19th, 2023
Daughters' Home
San Francisco, CA 94122
Memorial Contribution: Sinai Memorial Chapel Chevra Kadisha
P. O. Box 15579
San Francisco, CA 94115
(415) 921-3636
Memorial Contribution: San Francisco City Guides
100 Larkin Street c/o SF Public Library
San Francisco, CA 94102
(415) 375-0468
Memorial Contribution: ADL
(415) 981-3500

Leslie Allen Finkelstein did not pass away due to wet socks, sitting in a draft, or having wet hair. Rather, he died peacefully, surrounded by family after a years-long battle with Alzheimer's.

Les was born on September 4, 1941, in St. Louis, Missouri and grew up pumping gas at his dad's Sinclair station.

In high school, he was the class clown. His principal laughed when he handed him a diploma - never thinking he'd graduate because he was busy pulling so many pranks. But he always managed to squeak through. After high school, he worked as an actual clown at Adam's Dairy, helping promote buttermilk at local grocery stores.

He went on to become a cook in the US Army, and fondly told his family stories of hot dog fights in the kitchen, and killing cockroaches that climbed the walls by throwing lemons, limes and other assorted fruit. Notwithstanding the fruit and hot dogs, the army taught him discipline, and helped him lose the extra 50 pounds put on during childhood by an immigrant mother obsessed with always getting enough nourishment.

He spent nine years driving through small towns in the midwest as a traveling salesman, and personally sold garments to Sam Walton, who at the time was running three small retail stores in Arkansas.

One of his proudest accomplishments was sneaking into a press conference with a Brownie camera, and spending the day photographing the Beatles during their first US tour in 1962.

He met his wife-to-be of 54 years, Ruth Marchick, at the Hillel House at Washington University. Tired of driving 50,000 miles a year, he settled down in St. Louis and started Sunshine Drapery & Interior Fashions, which he ran for over 40 years. He expanded and opened furniture stores in four states, and later opened a chain of Discount Decorating outlet stores. He also started an eCommerce store selling wallpaper online, which was later sold to Home Depot.

During the process of running his retail stores, Les fell in love with commercial real estate. He purchased a small, run-down strip shopping center in O'Fallon, Illinois and worked tirelessly to improve it with non-traditional tenants. He gave many small business owners a chance to achieve success, with below market prices for leases and generous mentoring.

Les loved his three children, Jeffrey, Daniel and Lisa, and talked to them at least every day. On the weekends, he spent endless time with them, building a two story treehouse that spanned three trees and had a fireman's pole and mini-blinds.

He loved reading stories to his two grandchildren, Sadie and Jay, when they were little, taking them on Disney princess vacations and always making them smile.

When it was time to retire, they moved to San Francisco to be closer to Ruth's family. Les couldn't stop talking - he always had a story or a joke at the tip of his tongue - so he decided to become a licensed City Guide, and gave walking tours of the neighborhoods of San Francisco.

Les Finkelstein profoundly affected the lives of people around him. Les grew up very poor, and always wanted to help others. He hated injustice, and proudly served on the board of the Anti-Defamation League - even after being threatened by neo-Nazis. He marched for gay rights, served on the board of Hillel at Washington University, helped dozens of fresh immigrants get settled in the United States, and mentored hundreds of people in business.