Former UC Berkeley employee Erich Frisch dies at 59, remembered for sense of humor

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Erich Martin Frisch, a Berkeley native who died March 24 at the age of 59, is remembered by family and friends for his great sense of humor, insightful opinions and friendliness.

The son of Joseph Frisch, a UC Berkeley professor emeritus of mechanical engineering, Erich Frisch was born and raised in Berkeley. He began a career in cooking by working at well-known restaurants in the local community, such as the Shattuck Hotel, Giovanni’s Pizzeria — now known as Gio’s Pizza and Bocceand Walker’s Pie Shop. He later moved to Tucson, Arizona, and became an award-winning pastry chef at Janos, now known as Downtown Kitchen + Cocktails.

Erich Frisch returned to Berkeley in the early 1990s and accepted an administrative role at UC Berkeley after an industrial injury ended his cooking career, and for the next 24 years, he would continue to serve the campus community in various capacities. He worked as a chef in the sororities and dormitories, a front desk monitor in the dorms and an accounts payable clerk, before retiring in 2017.

“I think he touched a lot of students,” his brother Jonathan Frisch said. “He was a sympathetic ear that they could talk to when they were having a bad day. He was a little bit of joy and a little bit of funny that would make you feel better when you were slogging towards midterms.”

In addition to his love for cooking, Erich Frisch was passionate about reading, painting, gardening, music, travel and photography. As a prolific painter and photographer, he liked working with oil painting and black-and-white photography. According to his sister Teri Frisch, he created “phenomenal” collages and even managed to sell some of his paintings.

Erich Frisch combined his love for music and travel with annual trips on “music cruises,” said Geoff Lui, Erich Frisch’s childhood friend from seventh grade.

Among all his traits, Teri Frisch mostly misses his laughter and incredible wit.

“Because he read so much and really was engaged in so many different things, he would just shock you with different things that he had studied and come up with,” Teri Frisch said. “I think it’s the way he could turn any situation, anything you read, anything you saw into something funny.”

While Lui expressed shock over the news, he said he appreciates the memories he shared with Erich Frisch. His favorite memories include watching football games with Erich Frisch from “Tightwad Hill,” a hill above California Memorial Stadium from which football fans would watch games for free.

He saw the humor in life. He had a very polite sense of humor. He took pleasure in noting the foibles of people and the world around him,” Jonathan Frisch said. “You can rely on him for an ongoing commentary about what was going on the world around him, what was going on in Berkeley.”

Contact Jenny Weng at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @jennyweng1999.

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