In Memoriam: Allan Ghitterman, 1924-2018

Attorney Allan Ghitterman dedicated much of his life to fulfilling the precept of tikkun olam, or repairing the world.
Courtesy Photo

Allan Ghitterman passed away on a beautiful, sunny Monday morning, while resting comfortably in his bed, with his faithful dog, Toto, by his side. Allan was 93 years young and a vibrant inspiration for his family, his friends, and his community. Engaged, involved, passionate, and compassionate, he leaves a great legacy.

Allan was a knight errant, a true Don Quixote who sought to bring justice to the world. In his case, it was a quest to slay the forces that prevented workers from recovering from their injuries and providing for their families. His path there was the making of a Horatio Alger story.

Born in Winnipeg, Canada, in humble circumstances, Allan experienced many hardships as a child. At an early age, he sold Liberty magazine for a nickel and put his earnings into the family coffers. This entrepreneurial spirit followed him the rest of his life. Despite many disadvantages and struggles, Allan was able to eventually join the Royal Canadian Air Force. Too young to serve, he convinced the authorities that he was much older. After his service, he immigrated to the United States, settling in Los Angeles with his family.

Taking a variety of jobs, including working in a bank and driving a taxicab, Allan had two experiences that changed his life forever. While in an animated conversation with a passenger, she challenged him to return to school, just one semester; if that suited him, try another. He took her up on it.

The other incident was his younger brother’s death. Reeven was wearing Allan’s shoes when struck by a drunk driver. Reevie, as he was known, had wanted to be a lawyer. While Allan had always fancied going into business, he also felt the desire to honor his brother. He applied himself, graduated from night school at Hollywood High, and worked his way through undergraduate years and law school at UCLA.

By 1956, Allan was on his way to becoming a force to be reckoned with in the legal community. He began working at Rose, Klein & Marias, a well-known worker’s compensation firm in the Southland. The work suited his personality; he loved going up against insurance companies, demanding that they fulfill their obligations to injured workers.

Allan’s influence in the field spread from the Central Coast to the Central Valley to the State of California. More than 200 of his cases are filed with the appellate courts and Supreme Court. Whenever Allan thought his client had been denied rights by the trial court, he did not hesitate to pursue an appeal.

Allan embodied the mission statement of the law firm he formed, Ghitterman, Ghitterman & Feld: “Relentless commitment to protect our clients’ rights. Always.” No one had more dedication to the working man or woman than Allan.

And yet, Allan was so much more. He nurtured good and true friendships. Aside from weekly poker games, he helped organize a lunch group irreverently called TANSTAAFL — There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch. Discussions were wide-ranging, everything from politics and economics to the latest electronic gizmos. No subject was off limits, and if you didn’t speak up, you were left behind. Allan, at the front of the pack, led discussions, challenged assumptions, and, of course, provided his own unique opinions.

Allan was also involved in many community and legal organizations. He served as a pro bono judge in small claims court for decades. He was a representative to the regional board of the first California Coastal Commission and took pride that his name was on the landmark California Coastal Plan of 1975.

He gave to many causes but mostly those that improved our community’s basic human needs. He participated on local boards, including the American Civil Liberties Union, the Anti-Defamation League, Foodbank, and New Beginnings. He was a passionate supporter of Legal Aid, believing in everyone’s right to have access to competent legal representation. Throughout his life, he took great pride in being able to help others and viewed charity as his ethical obligation. In the Jewish faith, this is referred to as tikkun olam — helping to fix a broken world.

Allan valued education above all else. His law firm’s Allan S. Ghitterman Education Scholarship allows employees to further their education and professional development. Most recently, he helped endow a scholarship at UCLA Law School for those interested in pursuing social justice.

For all Allan accomplished, it was his family that provided him the greatest joy. He was there to lend a hand or cheer them on at sporting events, musical performances, graduations, or just a Sunday visit. Trips with his grandchildren were a favorite. He gave support and advice when asked (and sometimes when not), always with a loving heart. This deeply devoted family man, skilled attorney, and social justice activist, opinionated always, was an all-around mensch.

Allan lived the “impossible dream,” his favorite song, fortunate in a long and happy life, full of gratitude for his blessings. And we feel blessed for having known such a beacon of light. Allan, we thank you and say goodbye. You will live in many hearts forever, but especially your family’s: wife, Susan Rose; children, Jody Holmes (Ken), Russell Ghitterman (Julie Harris), Sharon Marks (David), Julie Weiner, and Carrie Pillar (Russ); eight grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.

Donations in Allan’s memory can be sent to Legal Aid Foundation of Santa Barbara County (301 E. Canon Perdido St., SB, CA 93101).


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