Remembering Ove Wittstock, store owner, Berkeley city commissioner, community activist

Ove Wittstock – Feb. 9, 1930 – Jan. 2, 2020

Ove Wittstock passed away peacefully on Jan. 2, 2020 surrounded by family. Ove lived the last portion of his life with pancreatic cancer, supported by hospice services.

Ove was born Feb. 9, 1930, in Zurich, Switzerland and lived there until his college years. Ove attended universities in Cambridge, England, and Zurich and Geneva, Switzerland. He received his BA in business administration and an MBA from the University of Pittsburgh, PA. He was also in the Swiss Cavalry for two years and was honorably discharged as an officer with the rank of First Lieutenant. Ove was married to Barbara Fasick (d. 2016), with whom he had four children.

In 1958, his Swiss employer, Bally Shoes, transferred him to San Francisco where he managed Frank Werner, a small chain of shoe stores. In 1963, he became a naturalized US citizen. In 1964 he bought Layton’s Shoes on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley. He was also the owner of Spectrum West, a women’s boutique store.

Having two businesses in the middle of Telegraph Avenue during the Free Speech Movement, Ove became involved in many organizations in order to deal with the social upheaval of those times. He was a huge believer in supporting his community. The City Council appointed him to the Telegraph Avenue Concerns Committee that was committed to finding solutions to the social unrest. He also co-founded Berkeley Free Church to minister the many young people who came to Berkeley during that time. Ove was elected Vice President of the Chamber of Commerce and President of the Sather Gate Merchants Association. He also became a board member of the Street Work Project.

In 1968, Ove Wittstock and four other merchants formed a not-for-profit corporation that built a 450-car garage on city land formerly known as the Sather Gate Garage, now known as the Telegraph-Channing Garage.

In the 1970s and early ’80s, Ove served on many Berkeley city commissions: Economic Development, Police Review, Human Relations, Budget Review and Personnel. He gained a reputation for being fair to all sides and balancing diverse viewpoints to create compromise and a working atmosphere. Ove was a true Swiss in that respect.

In 1983, at the request of the Chief of Police, Ron D. Nelson, Ove helped establish the Berkeley Boosters Association/Police Activities League to help bridge relationships between the community and the police. Ove served as the Executive Director of the Boosters and as Treasurer of the California Police Activities League. His work with these organizations touched the lives of many, including many disadvantaged youths.

Ove earned several Awards in his lifetime, including two-time winner of the Governor’s Crime Prevention Award, Certificate of Recognition by mayor Loni Hancock, Berkeley, Assembly Resolution by Tom Bates, 14th Assembly District, and the Community Service Award, Berkeley Chamber of Commerce.

Ove doted over his four children, spending countless hours taking them to early-morning swim practice and competitions. Ove also had a love for dogs, horses and the outdoors and organized family vacations at dude ranches where his children learned to ride horses, fish, and shoot a bow and arrow. Many weekends were spent on local excursions with the family dog. Ove taught his children about completing hard work before pleasure, as his four children often helped with garden chores before their weekly reward of an ice cream cone or a picnic.

Ove moved to Denia, Spain in 2003, and returned to Berkeley later last year to be with his family. Ove is survived by four children: Carol Wilson (Paul Wilson), Susan Wittstock (Morgan McBride), Steven Wittstock (Nardeli Ornelas) and Lynn Wittstock; six grandsons: Michael Bitter (Rebecca Wallworth), David Bitter (Jenny Nakata), Chris Bitter, Jon Hallsted, Ben Hallsted, and Michael Wittstock; four great-grandchildren, Chase, Jack, Emma and Charlie; and extended family in Switzerland.

A Celebration of Life will be held in Berkeley on Feb. 8, 2020.